Gold placers were worked in Los Angeles County between 1834 and 1838 by Mexican and Spanish miners, and by 1858 more than 6,000 miners were working placer deposits 35 miles northwest of the Los Angeles city hall. Most of the county’s total production of gold through 1959 was 1,109,200 ounces which came from lode deposits, but small yields of placer gold are garnered every year by amateur gold hunters from many places, especially from sand and gravel pits and from the streams of the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa. Mt. Gleason District & Cedar District In the north central part of Los Angeles County, you will find Acton, it is located in the Cedar and Mt. Gleason district, the area had many area mines and prospect pits, notably the Governor Mine, which had a total production of at least 50,000 ounces of lode gold. San Gabriel District If you go north up San Gabriel Canyon, you will find Azusa, which is located in the San Gabriel district which had a total production, 1848-1957, of about 165,000 ounces of gold. In the San Gabriel range gravels, worked 1848-80 for estimated 120,000 ounces of placer gold and still productive of colors and nuggets to weekend panners and dredgers. There were also several area lode mines in an area which contained gold quartz veins cutting igneous and metamorphic rocks. In the East Fork of the San Gabriel range, the old site of Eldoradoville which was a gold camp of the early 1860s and favorite amateur gold hunting area today, in area watercourse and bench gravels you can find placer gold with some sizable nuggets. Antelope Valley District North along the Kern County line and south of Neenach, you will fin Lancaster, which is in the Antelope Valley district. Gold was discovered in 1934 in the Antelope Valley district. It had a total production through 1946 of 9,700 ounces. There are many area claims and prospects, and the River Mining Company Claims are the most productive for placer and lode gold. In Placerita Canyon State Park near Newhall, it is the area of original productive placer operations, in present gravel deposits you can still find placer gold. Northeast of San Fernando by 12 miles, in Pacoima Canyon, the headwater and area gravels and slope wash deposits contain placer gold. If you go 12 miles up the canyon from its mouth, you will find the Denver Mining and Milling Property which was a rich lode gold producer. In Tujunga located in Tujunga Canyon, the area gravel deposits contain colors and small nuggets.
A total of 1,777,000 ounces of gold came from Kern County between 1851 and 1959. Amalie District is located between the south summit of the Piute Mountains and Caliente Creek in township 30S. range 33E and 34E, it had a total production of 30,000 ounces of lode gold. The Amalie Mine was a major producer, but there were several other area mines that produced lode gold. Green Mountain District If you head southeast by dirt road to Bodfish, the Green Mountain district located on the west slope of the Piute Mountains and the edge of Kelsey Valley on the east side of mountains, you will find the Bright Star Mine, which had production around, 34,000 ounces of lode gold. 7 miles northwest of Piute, in township 29S and range 33E, you will find the Joe Walker Mine which produced about 100,000 ounces of lode gold. Cove District In Kernville, located in township 25S. range 33E, the Cove district had a total production, 262,800 ounces, primarily from the Big Blue Mine. It produced free gold, associated with arsenopyrite. Keyes District West in the Greenhorn Mountains at Lake Isabella along Greenhorn Gulch, extensive placers produced rich gold deposits. Also in area quartz mines, there was some lode gold. West in township 26S. range 32E and 33E, the Keyes district had a total production, 39,600 ounces through 1959. There were numerous area Mines that produced lode gold. Rosamond-Mohave District In Mohave in township 11N and range 15W, you will find the Pine Tree Mine, which produced 75,000 ounces of lode gold. If you go southwest by 4 miles in township 10N and 11N and range 11W, 12W, and 13W, you will find the Rosamond-Mohave district, that had total production, 278,250 ounces of gold plus silver. West of Rosamond several miles, you will find the Tropico Mine, it was a major producer into 1950s. Many other area mines around adjacent Wheeler Springs produced lode gold. If you go to the northeast 25 miles in the El Paso Mountains, all regional gravels contain Placer gold, This is a rich area. There are major mines in the area. The Cudahy Camp, Owens Camp, Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel, Colorado Camp, etc. all were rich in lode gold. Rand District If you go to Randsburg, in the heart of the Rand district, which lies along the Kern County, San Bernardino County line, produced nearly all of the 836,300 ounces of gold is from the Kern County half, with silver as a by product. The Yellow Aster Mine was the largest producer, and many other area mines produced lode gold. If you go northwest 9 miles, in Goler Gulch, the placer deposits were worked 1893-94. The GPAA has a claim at Goler Gulch.
The Mojave nugget, which weighs 156 ounces was unearthed near Randsburg using a metal detector in Kern County.
Colors can be found by the dry wash method in Goler Wash located approximately 3 miles north east of Garlock Ghost town. Some of the area is owned by a prospect club out of Barstow. They are really friendly and encourage site tours and membership. The down side to this area is that it is open to off highway vehicles and the dirt road traffic gets heavy and noisy at times. There are no toilets or water or organized camping of any kind. The nearest formal camping is at Red Rock Canyon about 15 miles away. If you go to 16 miles south of Weldon, in township 28S. range 35E, you will find the St. Johns Mine, which was a rich lode gold producer.
Inyo County produced 496,000 ounces of gold between 1880 and 1959, primarily from lode mines scattered throughout the county, with a considerable percentage as the byproduct from lead, silver, copper, and tungsten ores.
In the Inyo Mountain Range, the Russ district opened in 1861) had many area mines that produced lode gold. On the west and east slopes of the Inyo Range in Mazurka Canyon and Marble canyon, there were many small scale placer workings.
South Park District and Sherman District
At Ballarat, in the South Park District, in the south-central part of the county, there was a total production of over 100,000 ounces. There are many area old mine dumps that show gold traces. The Ratcliff Mine was a chief producer of lode gold. Southwest of Ballarat 10~15 miles, in township 23S. range 42E and 43E, in the Argus Range, the Sherman district had a total production, 1939-41, of 14,184 ounces of lode gold. There are also many area leads, silver mines that had a by product of gold. The Arondo Mine was a rich producer of free gold. The Ruth Mine was also a rich producer of free gold, with pyrite.
Willshire-Bishop Creek District
West of Bishop by 17 miles, the Willshire-Bishop Creek district, on the east front of the Sierra Nevada Range and in the Tungsten Hills; had a total production, 75,000-100,000 ounces of by product gold, from lead, silver mines. The Bishop Creek Mine and, at the head of Bishop Creek and the Willshire Mine were large lode gold producers. The Pine Creek Mine was once the largest domestic tungsten mine also had a by product of gold. The Cardinal Gold Mining Company Mine only produced lode gold.
Chloride Cliff District
At Death Valley National Monument on the slope of the Funeral Range, you will find The Chloride Cliff district which had a total production of 60,000 ounces. Also the site of the Keane Wonder Mine which is now in ruins, but once a large lode gold producer.
East of Lone Pine in the Inyo Mountains in north central part of the county, you will find the Union district, that had a total production,1860s-1959, between 10,000 and 50,000 ounces of lode gold. The Reward and Brown Monster mines were major producers of lode gold. In area canyon and gulch gravels, slopes and drainage channels, Placer gold can still be found.
Resting Springs District and Wild Rose District
In the southeast corner of the county, you will find Tecopa. If you go east 5-10 miles, you will find the Resting Springs district, that had a total production through 1959 of 15,000 ounces of lode gold from lead, silver ores, from the Shoshone Group of mines.
If you go west in the Panamint Mountains you will find Wild Rose district, a ranger station is located in Monument, west in the Panamint Range, had a total production of about 73,000 ounces of lode gold from the Skidoo Mine.
Gold occurs throughout Imperial County in its arid mountain ranges. Here is where the classic pick, pan, shovel and burro prospector of the nineteenth century crisscrossed the desert between water holes. A minimum estimate of 235,000 ounces of lode and placer gold have come from this county.
Cargo Muchacho District
Northwest of Yuma, Arizona, in the southeast part of the county you will find Ogilby site of the Cargo Muchacho district, it had many old mines worked since Mexican times with a total production about 193,000 ounces. Gold can be found in all regional arroyo bottoms, benches, terraces. This is dry wash placers with abundant gold. There are many abandoned area lode mines that produced gold. Most of the gold is fine, grain, wire, nuggets, often with copper.
On the Colorado River due north of Yuma, Arizona you will find Picacho Camp in the extreme southeast corner of the county. The Chocolate Mountains area placer and lode claims produce considerable gold. In the southwest, you will find the Picacho Mountains that had many gold bearing veins in gneisses and schistâ€™s overlain by lavaâ€™s, tufts, and conglomerates. The Paymaster district, minor lode gold production to the South by 5 miles the Picacho Mine, Bluejacket Mine, and others produced some lode gold. A ghost town named Tumco was also a good producer from several area mines.
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER
California gold can be found in the placer gravels along the San Joaquin River and produced 121,000 ounces between 1880 and 1959 when it was part of Madera County. All sand and gravel operations along the San Joaquin River between Friant and Herndon had rich placer gold operations. At the Friant Dam, the gravel excavated for use in building the dam produced $196,977 in placer gold between 1940-42.
After Placer gold was discovered in 1849, rich lode veins were opened in 1850 above the placer workings. Placer gold production is estimated at 2,415,000 ounces and lode gold at 2,045,700 ounces
The Calaveras River channel and all tributaries contain rich placer mines. In the Table Mountain area, placer material was also very rich. Located at township 3N and Range 10E, along with the Calaveras River, you will find the Jenny Lind District which had large scale dredge and dragline operations, with an estimated production of over 1,000,000 ounces of placer gold.
Camanche district, in NW part of the county, had a total production estimated at 1,000,000 ounces, along with the Mokelumne River there were huge bucket type dredge operations with rich placer gold. Campo Seco district, located at township 4N and 5N and range 10E, in the northwest part of the county, had a total production around 70,000 ounces. All the area tributary stream gravels contain rich placer deposits. You will also find the Pern Mine, it was primarily a copper mine with a rich by-product of gold. Mokelumne Hill district located at township 5N range 11E. South of the Mokelumne Hill 2 miles you will find the Eclipse Mine, Infernal Mine, and other mines that were large producers of lode gold.
Angeles Camp had many area mines. The Keystone Mine, Lancha Plana Mine, and Union Mine were gold mines with a by product of copper. The Utica Mine and Gold Cliff Mine were major producers of lode gold. Melone’s gold mining district contained over 800 lode mines. Carson Hill was the most productive area and contained many mines with rich lode gold deposits. The Sheep Ranch Mine was a huge producer of lode gold. The Royal Mine was also a large producer of lode gold, with over 10,000 ounces of production.
HAMILTON Gold was first discovered in Butte County California by John Bidwell in the now ghost town known as Hamilton in 1848, and that made Hamilton the first county seat of Butte County. John Bidwell was a local and national figure of that time and the founder of Chico, California and several other towns. He has an outstanding resume as he was among many things, a Brigadier General, served in the California Senate, a Freemason who later left and called the organization “pointless”, and even ran for the election of the presidency of the United States; just to name a few.
Hamilton, where the gold was first discovered in Butte county, was located on the west side of the river 15 miles downstream of the Feather River from Oroville. Hamilton had a very short duration as a town because they moved the county seat to Bidwells Bar (near Oroville), where they promised to build a new courthouse and jail. The only visible remains of the town of Hamilton is an overgrown cemetery and the remains of an old bridge that once stood there. The post office was closed in 1865. The town of Bidwells Bar is now submerged under the waters of Lake Oroville.
OROVILLE In the old days Oroville was known as Ophir City. Thousands of miners flocked to Oroville in the beginning. It was not the site of a big gold strike, rather it was an important supply point for the miner’s at the now submerged Bidwell’s Bar, but close enough to the historical gold site, that you might find some gold if you prospect around the area. MAGALIA ( 54 Pound “Dogtown” Gold Nugget) Established in 1849, Magalia was a mining camp known as Butte Mills. It was also called Dogtown at one time, according to historical maps. It is found in the north-central part of Butte County. The exciting part about this historical site is a 54-pound nugget was unearthed here, at the Willard claim, a hydraulic mine in the Feather River Canyon northeast of the camp. It was the largest gold nugget ever discovered in the world at that time on April 12, 1859. It was named the “Dogtown nugget”. The female residences hated the name Dogtown and renamed it in 1862 to Magalia. Near Magalia, is Butte Creek and Little Butte Creek where in 1932 – 1959 15,976 ounces of placer gold was reported to have found. The Perschbaker Gold Mine found on Little Butte Creek was a major producer of lode gold. The tertiary gravel deposits of Little Butte Creek also have placer gold.
FEATHER RIVER Of coarse, the Feather River is known to have gold, as many of the locations above were found along the gravel bars and banks of the river. Thompson’s Flat was one of those known locations that had access to gold. Cherokee Flat had placer gold operations. The area around Cherokee City, or anywhere along the Feather River for that matter, has gold. The Yankee Hill district, located at 21N range 4E and 5E, had a total production of 5,154 ounces of placer gold and 34,427 ounces of lode gold. In all, it is reported that Butte County, had a production of 3,200,000 ounces of placer gold and 104,000 ounces of lode gold. The Surcease Mine in township 21N range 4E was a good producer of lode gold.
California has been known for the gold rush which started in 1848 when John Sutter found gold at his timber mill on the American River. The gold rush resulted in massive growth of the mining industry around California and as it became more prominent, the exploration expanded across the county using methods like hydraulic and drift mining. One of the most prominent gold mining areas is the El Dorado County were several gold mining companies were created. Below is the list of some of them:
It is where it all began in 1848. The gold strike at John Sutter’s timber mill on the American River brought thousands of Americans out west and many Chinese from the orient for adventure and for riches. See my article on California’s first Gold Discovery for more depth on that subject. Three years after the initial gold strike Placer County was formed from parts of Sutter and Yuma Counties. So much gold was taken from this county that there is no way it can be measured. Many of the gold districts in Placer County can be accessed by Highway 80.
Near the city of Auburn, you will find the Auburn district also known as the Ophir district, depending on who you ask. There are placer deposits all along the stretches of the American River. Hard-rock mines in the area produced an overwhelming amount of gold in this district, producing over a million and a half ounces of gold.
Iowa Hill District
East of Auburn on HWY 80, is Colfax where you will find the Iowa Hill district. For thirty-five years, the area of extensively mined. Hydraulic mining operations ran day and night in the search for California Gold. The operations were brought to a halt, because of the environmental impact it was having. Modern day operations are much more responsible than in those older days. Many places were scared by hydraulic operations throughout the west. The Morning Star mine was a major producer.
Dutch Flat / Gold Run District
The Dutch Flat district and Gold Run district is along the northern boundary lines of Placer County on the system of Tertiary channel deposits that extends south from Nevada County.
Placer mining began in 1849, and by 1857 hydraulic and drift mines were producing on a fairly large scale. Though early records are almost nonexistent, it was estimated that the district produced about 479,000 ounces of gold to 1935. In recent years, because of high costs and restrictive legislation, production has decreased to less than 1,000 ounces per year. Total production through 1959 was about 492,000 ounces. Dutch Flat is one the better-preserved mining areas and can be accessed by HWY 80.
The Emigrant Gap district includes the area of Blue Canyon. The gold is found in quartz veins, occurring in slate and schist. Emigrant Gap can also be accessed by HWY 80.
You can find some very coarse gold in the Duncan Peak District. Check the south side of Duncan Peak in the gravels to find rich diggings. There are deposits that can be found in Duncan Canyon.
Placer gold can be found in streams and channels in the Damascus District. This district is located south of Monte Vista just off of HWY 80.
The Foresthill district is in south-central Placer County. Foresthill Divide is a complex system of Tertiary channels capped by lavas. The gravel has been extensively worked by drift mines which reached their peak of productivity in the 1860’s. Before 1868 the Independence, New Jersey, and Jenny Lind mines produced $2,400,000 in gold. Estimates of production of individual mines given give a minimum total for the district of about 338,000 ounces of gold. In recent years, the district has been virtually dormant. Total gold production through 1959 was about 344,000 ounces.
Michigan Bluff District
The Michigan Bluff district is in southern Placer County, about 5 miles east of Foresthill.
From 1853 to 1880 considerable hydraulic and drift mining was done in the Tertiary channel gravels that underlie the eastern part of Foresthill Divide at Michigan Bluff. An area of 40 acres yielded $5 million in gold. The Big Gun mine with an output of about $1 million to 1882 was the largest individual producer of the hydraulic mines, and the Hidden Treasure mine was the most productive of all the drift mines in the Tertiary gravels in the State, with a total of about $4 million in gold. Several gold lode mines were important gold producers, such as the Pioneer, with $900,000 in gold, and the Rawhide, with $300,000, was the most productive.
The total gold production of the district through 1959 was about 300,000 ounces. In recent years activity has slackened, and during 1942-59 less than 100 ounces per year was reported.
Amador County was the most productive of “The Mother Lode” counties. This county produced approximately 6,500,000 ounces of placer gold and 7,700,000 ounces of lode gold. Mining continues today. The richest area in this county is about 1 mile wide across the west central part of the county from the south to the north. The Old Eureka Mine had the deepest shaft in America at 1,3500 feet deep and it was the largest producer in the mother lode in the early days. The Kennedy Mine, Argonaut Gold Mine, and Keystone Mines were also large gold mines in the same area. Nowadays, Amador County is famous for it wineries.
BIG INDIAN CREEK: Sizable dredging and drift operations between 1850 – 1950 produced about 100,000 ounces of placer gold near Fiddletown along Indian Gulch which goes into Big Indian Creek. Big Indian Creek is said to contain Placer gold in large quantities. Around the Plymouth area is said to be rich.
DRY CREEK: Off of the beaten path is Dry Creek. It might be worth the hike in. Dry Creek is known for pickers and chunky sized gold.
COSUMNES RIVER: Close to the town of Plymouth, in the west central part of the county there were many placer operations that produced tens of thousands of ounces of placer gold. The Loafer Hill mine, near Oleta, had several small gravel deposits that produced well.
JACKSON CREEK: Near the town of Jackson, you will find the Gwin Mine, it produced lode gold in masses of crystallized arsenopyrite. These are great specimens. Jackson Creek reportedly contains placer gold.
MIDDLE FORK OF THE MOKELUMNE RIVER: Hydraulic operations were located on this river that produced considerable placer gold.
NORTH FORK OF THE MOKELUMNE RIVER: Hydraulic operations were located on this river that produced considerable placer gold. Near Volcano, in the west central part of the county around Jackson Gulch and Ranchero Gulch, there were some very rich placer deposits.