Community Gems: Salmon, Settlers, and back to Salmon

Salmon Ceremony Signpost in Gold Hill

Long before Gold Hill became an incorporated city in 1895, the area around Ti’lomikh Falls was home to the Takelma Indian Tribe. With the river to provide salmon, trout, and crawfish, and abundant oak trees to provide building materials and acorns, Gold Hill was a perfect spot to live. After the Rogue River Wars of 1851-1856, the Takelma were forced out and settlers moved to the small town of Dardanelles—which sat on the opposite side of the river in comparison to present-day Gold Hill. According to local historians, the first steam quartz stamp mill in Southern Oregon was brought to Dardanelles in 1860. However, Dardanelles wasn’t destined to last for long.

What do you do when you realize the property you’re living on is a gold lode? If you’re Thomas Chavner, you obviously use your newfound forty-million to buy 1,600 acres of land—and plot out the town of Gold Hill. Chavner and his wife sold the right-of-way through their land to the Oregon & California railroad, and deeded the streets and alleys to the public. Bringing the railroad to Gold Hill was a fateful day for the nearby towns of Rock Point and Dardanelles. They were forgotten and died away, while Gold Hill grew to nearly 1,300 by the early 1900’s. However, as the gold and industry in the town began to fade, so did most of the population. After the closure of the Ideal Cement Company, in 1968, Gold Hill lost most of its remaining business. Today though, the city’s beautiful landscape has increased the population back to what it was at the turn of the twentieth century. Tourists come for outdoor recreation, and retirees put down their roots among the scenic hills the area has to offer.

If you’re visiting Gold Hill and are up for an adventure, the city is home to not only Ti’lomikh Falls, and a growing sports park, but also the Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery, as well as Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventure, and numerous rafting opportunities. With the Gold Hill Whitewater Center’s plans to “create the best natural whitewater park in Oregon and perhaps host the whitewater events for the 2028 Olympics,” you can be sure you’ll find a thrill on any of the popular rafting runs.

In addition, Gold Hill recently held a revival of the Salmon Ceremony, which honored the Takelma Indians who were forced out of their homes after the Rogue River Wars in the 1850’s. The Gold Hill Whitewater Center has plans to construct a monument for the Salmon Ceremony and for all Indigenous Peoples. Grandma Agnes Baker Pilgrim, the last Takelma native, for whom the ‘Grandma’s Run’ rafting course was named after, spent a lifetime working to become a worldwide spokesperson for “the voiceless.” She was the head of the 2012 Salmon Ceremony, which involves catching salmon from the Story Chair and telling the Takelma’s story of the Great Dragonfly. A riparian trail system, along the Rogue River, has plans to include interpretive signage explaining the history of the Takelma tribe and how they lived off of the river and the forests. “There was history here prior to the settlers,” said Rob Lowe, a former Gold Hill city manager. “We want to remember that.”

Additional Sources:

City of Gold Hill (2019). History of Gold Hill. Website:

Gold Hill Whitewater Center. (2019). Website:

Powers, Dennis (2018). City of Gold Hill. Oregon Encyclopedia. Website:


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