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CCO provides a specialized service

Monday, December 02, 2013
Most people have never heard of an arrastra.
However, for the five men that make up the Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails Central Construction Office, they not only had to find out what one is, but what it does and then build one….that works. They did just that last summer.

For the record, according to Wikipedia “an arrastra is a primitive mill for grinding and pulverizing gold or silver ore. The simplest form of arrastra is two or more flat-bottomed drag stones place in a circular pit paved with flat stones, and connected to a center post with a long arm” powered by a horse or mule. The dragging action of the stones pulverizes the ore. Gold was recovered by adding mercury that would attach to the gold to form an amalgam which could be removed from the bottom of the pit.

Joe Ellis, superintendent of South Pass City, site of the historic Carissa Gold Mine, asked the CCO if they could build one to replace the structure that had been part of mining operations at the site in 1868.

The CCO’s arrastra wasn’t a simple version however; theirs was to be powered via a water wheel. The water wheel and two gears, made of wood, had to be constructed. The result is the only working arrastra in the country.

“When we started on the project we only had a couple pictures and a drawing to go on,” Mike Allen, manager of the CCO said. “We kind of had to figure things out as we went along.”

Currently made up of staff members Allen, Brad Handford, Doc Hughes, Andrew Skiba and Jerry Manzanares, for more than 30 years the CCO has not only built a variety of specialized projects like the arrastra, but has completed historic restoration projects at Wyoming Historic Sites. They also often take on smaller but necessary projects throughout the State Park and Historic Site system usually at a cost much less than if the project was contracted out. Most of these projects are funded through the Division’s Enterprise Account (provided by user fees) or grants when available.

Based in Shoshoni, the CCO travels to venues throughout the state to complete projects like cabins at Keyhole, an entrance sign at Curt Gowdy and picnic shelters at Seminoe. Additionally, as a cost saving measure while working in the field, the crew stays in camper trailers on site.

For instance last summer, the CCO replaced logs and flooring at the Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site visitor center, erected picnic shelters at Seminoe, built two log and rock kiosks at Guernsey, and then traveled to South Pass City to build the aforementioned arrastra.

The CCO also has done its share of work doing restoration work on the aging Civilian Conservation Corps built structure built during the 1930s at Guernsey State Park.

Work for these carpenters, fabricators and builders doesn’t end during the winter. Although the crew does spend most of the winter months in Shoshoni they still find plenty to do. This winter they’ll build log furniture for the new yurts, as well as two metal teepees for Sinks Canyon State Park, construct a log and rock kiosk for Guernsey, prefab a rock/log entrance sign for Medicine Lodge.

As an added indication of Allen’s dedication to the department, he also builds wooden, working clocks from scratch at his own expense that are presented to long –time division employees upon their retirement.

His talents have also been recognized by the Wyoming Arts Council and Wyoming State Museum. A wooden bowl made by Allen was selected for inclusion in the Governor’s Capitol Art Exhibition receiving a purchase award. It is now a part of the State Museum’s permanent collection.

Allen’s spent 34 years serving the state parks system and continues to keep serving the only Wyoming department he’s been employed by.

“It’s been a real privilege to work for the parks,” he said. “It’s been a good ride.”

Message added by SPCR at: 3:06:30 PM

Labels:
Arrastra Carpentry South Pass City State Parks

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Comments

Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Mike and his crew are awesome! You guys do such great work and are great to work with, too! I can't wait to see the arrastra up and running this summer! What a great addition to our system! Thanks for all you guys do!
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Mike Allen is so good, I hope he never retires!
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Congratulations to all involved! I love the water wheel system!


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