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Imperial County Gold Mining

Gold Mining in California Imperial County

Gold Mining in California – Imperial County

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 schist’s overlain by lava’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.

Gold in California Picacho Mine

Picacho Mine

California’s First Spanish Miners

California Gold Rush History – Spanish Miners

The Spanish played a significantpart in California gold rush history. Soldiers, settlers, and laborers, part of two mission colonies under the administration of Francisco Garces, mined placer gold in the southeastern Chocolate Mountains in 1780 and 1781. Their mining methods were simple. Placer gold was recovered by winnowing (tossing the lighter materials away by gently shaking a blanket in the wind). Dry washers may also have been used. Their mining endeavors, almost recreational in nature (as they were not mining gold for a living) ended abruptly when the Yuma Indians attacked the two missions on July 17, 1781, killing at least 50 men and taking 67 women and children captive. Mining activity was resumed in this area only after the establishment of the Mexican Republic in 1823.

California Gold Rush History

An early image of Spanish Miners

Also worked in the 1780’s were the placer grounds of Jackson Gulch and the oxidized ores of Padre Madre Valley in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. The Padre y Madre Mine, located 13 miles northwest of Yuma and 3 miles northwest of Ogilby, was one of the most extensively developed early mines. The mine enjoyed a modest production from the 1780’s until 1894 with few interruptions. Even the name of the mountain range speaks of the early interest in mining in the area. Reportedly in the early 1800s, two young lads playing at prospecting in imitation of their fathers came into camp with their shirts loaded with gold ore. Their antics resulted in the name of Cargo Muchacho, for the mountains where they had made their find. Although it is difficult to estimate the area’s gold production during the Spanish and Mexican eras (1780-1848) it was probably not more than half a million dollars. William P. Blake, a geologist with Lt. Williamson’s Pacific Railroad exploration party, was the first Anglo- American to visit the southern portion of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains with an eye toward mining. In 1853 he reported seeing several quartz veins from three inches to a foot or two in thickness. His observations were recorded in official government reports, but no one acted upon this evidence of possible mineralization until the Southern Pacific Railroad between Yuma and the coast was completed. California gold rush history was forever altered by Spanish who took part in its adventure.