Apparently a lot of flour gold had come down the Okanogan and Methow rivers and entered into the Columbia River. Coarse gold was deposited in the upper parts of the river beds, and what continued downstream into the Columbia was fine flour gold, the popular name being “gold dust.” As it was too fine for the average prospector to bother with, miners wanted the coarser gold which was easier to find and more plentiful. The Chinese discovered that in many of these gravel bars fine flour gold was quite plentiful. It would drift in the high water and catch on these bars (rock outcroppings), eventually settling down into the sand and gravels.
In order for the Chinese placer miners to recover the flour gold they would build a “Long Tom.” A Long Tom was a piece of flume (wood) hewn from ten-to-sixteen-feet long lumber that the Chinese formed using a whipsaw. Such boards were sawn from ordinary logs, possibly a drift log or one cut from the edge of a shore.
The flume was from eight-to-twelve-inches wide, the narrow flume being preferred, because it wouldn’t take as much water to wash the concentrates through the riffles in the sluice which contained the flour gold. The Long Tom would be set up at the water’s edge at a significant slope, then, a couple of men could carry water from the river, pouring it into the Long Tom, thus creating a continual trickle of water through the flume.
This flume contained what was called “riffles.” These consisted of one-inch by one-inch pieces of wood placed crossways in the flume against the water’s flow, causing the water to create a backflow, thus allowing the gold to drop out and onto the backside of the artificial riffles. Riffles were often placed from six-inches to one-foot apart, catching the flour gold. Mercury would be added, thus clinging to the flour gold.
Chinese miners dug feverishly with picks and shovels at the sand and gravel bars of the Columbia River below the Methow rapids. The river’s depth was so low in February of 1883 that the quiet eddy flowing over the bar was only ankle-deep.
The Chinese had gold fever, and no wonder. It was said that a man could filter $20 to $60 worth of gold per day out of the area. It was later to be named the “China Gold Bar”. It was called a “treasure house of gold.” The gold was the fine flour gold which had to be carefully worked from out of the sand and gravels.
However, time was short. The river usually swirled much higher around the gold bar. When the water rose, no one would be able to reach the bar. The Chinese always knew that their gold digging was over for the winter whenever the river engulfed Look-see Rock, which lay on the bar. For two weeks in February 1883, the Chinese were at their gold bar before the first glimmer of dawn, and would never quit their frantic gold digging until the shadows of dusk had turned to complete darkness. But the river soon began to rise rapidly.
One day the Chinese went down to the river bank and “Look-see Rock” was completely submerged. Patiently, they began their long wait until the next season when they could return to see if the river would drop below the big boulder.
Upon return the Chinese were disappointed. The river was much too high the next winter. Again, they patiently waited until February of 1885. But no one could catch even a glimpse of Look-see Rock. The following year the gold bar was also deep under water, and the next year, too.
For several years the Chinese kept a patient vigil. Disappointed, they almost gave up. In 1891 most of them decided to end their vigil. Besides the long wait, the U.S. government ordered the Chinese to apply for citizenship. The cost was a blistering $10.00. Those Chinese who refused to pay the money and complete citizenship papers were deported.
However, an old Chinese man named “Queo” was more patient than the others. He took out his citizenship papers, and continued to wait confidently year-after-year in Pateros for the river to recede to its former low level.
Each winter he would scramble down to the bank of the Columbia river and anxiously stretch his neck for a glimpse of the reappearance of the tip of Look-see Rock. Even today, one can still see only an angry boil of water rushing over the spot where the rock still rests.
In February 1900, the old man came excitedly entered the home of Dan Gamble in Brewster. He was ecstatic. The river was barley rippling over the top of Look-see Rock. He was convinced that the water level was about to go much lower! Queo blurted out, “You catchee lots horses, plows, scalpers. When time come, Queo tell you. We go China Gold Bar. Mebbe you catchee big light. Catchee men. Work all time, day, night. Makee big pile gold dirt high on river bank. Then Queo washee all summer.”
Unfortunately, the water level did not drop any lower that winter. Queo was completely disheartened. He was tired of waiting to dig out the valuable gold hiding in the elusive gold bar sand and gravels.
In the spring of 1903, after waiting 20 years to dig up hid gold treasure, he had lost all patience. He boarded the Steamboat City of Ellensburg, floated down the Columbia River, and was never seen in North Central Washington again.
Since the days of the Chinese gold fever, several dams have been built on the Columbia River and the Look-see Rock is now submerged under very deep water. The Look-see Rock and its rich gold bar have been swallowed and long-forgotten with the passage of time.