The Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon hide a lot of gold, with most of the early mining taking place in the Rogue River drainage (including the Applegate & Illinois Rivers, along with their many tributaries.) Some of the states richest ground is the area just north of the California border.
Further north is another rich gold region; the Umpqua River. Of particular interest are the South Fork of the Umpqua River as well as the Cow Creek drainage. Both have produced tremendous amounts of gold since the 1850s, and dedicated prospectors can still recover some very good gold today in these same areas.
Restrictive regulations have become challenging in recent years, but there are still ways to recover some good gold from this areas.
Prospecting the South Fork Umpqua River
Once nice thing about this river is that it is very accessible and there are lots of areas to prospect. Between Roseburg and Canyonville it flows right along the freeway. There are quite a number of state owned lands along the river that are open to casual prospecting. I have never had issue dipping a pan anywhere that people have easy access to the river.
Finding a little bit of “color” is usually pretty simple too. The gold that I find here is almost always fine. Work the crevices in bedrock and you won’t have much trouble finding a pinch of fine gold at the bottom of your pan. I have also found skim bar placers of extremely fine gold that form on the top of gravel bars. As always, the key is to get out there and prospect.
I always enjoy reading the old accounts of early miners in an area. A few interesting quotes from the earliest days on the Umpqua River:
“Miners on South Umpqua are making 5 to 6 dollars per day, 6 miles above the Kenyon (Canyonville).” Oregon Weekly Times, 1852.
“…new and rich diggings have been discovered on the Umpqua River, about 20 miles north of the town of the same name. They were yielding, according to report, about $1 to the panful of dirt.” Albany Evening Journal, 1853.
Keep in mind that gold price at this time was $20.67 per troy ounce. So miners were likely recovering anywhere from 1/4 ounce up to several ounces of gold each day during the early years.
Cow Creek Tributary
There are many other waters in this area that are worth prospecting, but one of particular note would be Cow Creek, a major tributary to the Umpqua River near Roseburg. This was another major gold producer that was heavily mined during the early gold rush to the area.
Of course there is still plenty of gold left to find, and one area of interest would certainly be the Cow Creek Recreation Area. There is nearly 1/4 mile of creek access that is set aside for public access and open to miners. To get there from Riddle, follow the road southwest along Cow Creek for about 20 miles.
Douglas County Gold
This region is one of Oregon’s premier mining areas. The gold you will find in the Umpqua River is almost always fine textured, but you can get a good amount of it if you put in the work. Back in a simpler time when dredging was a viable option it wasn’t hard to find at least a few grams per day. Even just sniping the bedrock cracks and panning the heavies can result in some decent gold if you find the right spot.
A few other noteworthy locations include Myrtle Creek, Letitia Creek, Last Chance Creek and Quines Creek. All of these are good areas in Douglas County worth exploring.
Southern Oregon has a lot of hidden areas that a miner can find some very good gold. Even on the Umpqua River, which has been mined hard for 170 years, you can still find some nice color in your pan.