This article is going to take a look at a few gold mining areas way down in the Southern California desert.
Of course, this area is generally overlooked and gets almost no attention in the history books. Perhaps that is for good reason. The gold strikes in Northern California certainly overshadowed these relatively small gold strikes.
Nonetheless, there are several areas in the harsh Southern California desert where people have discovered gold in the past. We have talked about the rich gold strikes in San Bernardino County in the past. Now let’s look at a few lesser-known areas down in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties.
Perhaps the largest and best-known mine in San Diego County are in Julian. That is because the Eagle Mine and High Peak Mine are open for public tours and a popular visitor destination. Most of the people that come here are not miners, but that isn’t to say there isn’t still some gold lurking in this area.
These are old hard rock mines that operated during the 1870s. High grade ores were pulled from the ground and crushed with a stamp mill to extract gold from quartz veins running through schist.
This is primarily a hard rock district. A little over 200,000 ounces were credited to the gold mines at Julian. Only about 700 ounces of gold were recovered from placer operations, most likely by drywashing during the 1930s.
There are scattered gold deposits throughout Riverside County, but none have been particularly rich from an economic perspective. Most of the gold sources are within the Chuckwalla Mountains. Two noteworthy mines are the Red Cloud Mine and Great Western Mine. These were gold mines with byproduct of silver, copper and lead.
A few miles southwest of Perris right along the highway is the Good Hope Mine. Auriferous quartz veins cutting through granite were worked extensively for a time during the prior to 1896. As much as $2 million in gold was credited to this mine.
There are quite a few scattered prospects in the mountains northwest of Indio, but be aware that the Joshua Tree National Park is off-limits to prospecting. It’s too bad, because there are quite a few old gold mines within the park. You can explore the area, but no gold prospecting allowed.
Significant mining has taken place around Yuma, Arizona. A few miles to the northwest in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains are several mines that are credited with several million dollars in gold production. The desert just northeast of Ogilby has many scattered gold deposits, with the epicenter of mining activity around Pasadena Peak. The American Girl Mine, Padre Madre Mine, Cargo Mine, and Guadalupe Mine were the major producers.
Although lode mining accounts for the vast majority of gold in this areas, a person can find gold nuggets by searching the dry gulleys throughout this area. In fact, the desert all around Yuma can be a very productive area for metal detecting. If you can locate the old mining areas you will see a lot of old drywash tailings.
California Desert Safety
I also want to note the importance of safety and preparation if you decide to venture out into the desert. Water is all but nonexistent in most areas, so go prepared with several days worth of water and food. Make sure your vehicle is capable of handling the desert. Let others know where you are going.
Depending on where you go, you should also use the proper precautions when you are close to the Mexico border. Many areas are still relatively safe, but there are certain areas known for smuggling activities that you should probably stay clear of. In most areas you will probably be just fine, but there are scattered gold deposits in isolated locations very close to the border. Always use caution.