Nugget Wranglers
Quartzsite, Arizona

GOLD PLACERS IN WESTERN ARIZONA

Jane Alene Boyles

The placer districts we are going to discuss are in one of the most arid parts of southwest Arizona.  There is little water outside of the Colorado River.  Quartzsite at an elevation of 800 feet has an average rainfall of 6 inches which often come in a flash flood during the monsoon season.  Summers are challenging for any outside activity, unless you are one of the creative prospectors who drywashes at night with a generator and lights.  Let’s explore the placers within thirty five miles of Quartzsite.   It is no secret that the desert around Quartzsite has produced gold.  Every now and then a large nugget is found in the washes with a metal detector or dry washer. Some nuggets have been found by people walking down the trails. Winters are a great time to explore the hills in the area.  The Middle Camp, Oro Fino and LaCholla placers on the southern flank of the Dome Rock Mountains have all been productive.

Previously printed in Desert Messenger

MIDDLE CAMP PLACERS

Jane Alene Boyles

The placer districts we are going to discuss are in one of the most arid parts of southwest Arizona.  There is little water outside of the Colorado River.  Quartzsite, at an elevation of 800 feet has an average rainfall of 6 inches which often comes in a flash flood during the monsoon season.  

Summers are challenging for any outside activity, unless you are one of the creative prospectors who drywashes at night with a generator and lights.  Let’s explore the placers within thirty five miles of Quartzsite.   It is no secret that the desert around Quartzsite has produced gold.  Every now and then a large nugget is found in the washes with a metal detector or dry washer. Some nuggets have been found by people walking down the trails. Winters are a great time to explore the hills in the area.  The Middle Camp, Oro Fino and LaCholla placers on the southern flank of the Dome Rock Mountains have all been productive with both nuggets and fine gold still being found.

The Middle Camp placers cover an area about five miles long by a mile wide on the southern flank of Middle Camp Mountain.  It was reported to have rich seams of gravel on bedrock.  One mining company set up a 31/2 yard drag line operation with 100 feet of sluice boxes and settling tanks for water recovery.  Water was hauled from Quartzsite but the operation lasted only a few weeks. There are many active claims in this area at present, including several claims owned by local prospecting clubs.

ORO FINO GOLD PLACERS

Jane Alene Boyles 

The Oro Fino Placers south and east of the Middle Camp Placers, were actively mined with gold bearing cemented rock debris up to eighteen feet deep.  Many test holes up to 30 feet deep were dug by the Catalina Gold Mining Company.   

The La Posa Development Company was a large scale operation at the Arizona Drift Mine during the late 1930’s.  Work was done in a channel six feet deep and 50-150 feet wide.  This area is included as part of the Plomosa district.

The Plomosa Placers at the eastern edge of the La Posa Plain and the western foot of the Plomosa Mountains are about seven miles directly east of Quartzite. It is thought that the schists which contain gold bearing quartz veins were probably the the original source of the Plomosa placers. Getting close to the mountain bases would take you closer to the source of the gold.
Photo:
Oro Fino Placers with S.H. Mountain in the distance across the La Posa Plain.

LAPAZ DISTRICT GOLD PLACERS

Jane Alene Boyles

The LaPaz  placers are on the western flank of the Dome Rock Mountains six miles east of the Colorado River.  Part of this is the Colorado Indian Reservation. Placers in the LaPaz district are found in Goodman Arroyo, LaPaz and Gonzales Wash, which is the wash containing the I10.

Our old friend Pauline Weaver discovered these placers in 1862 when he panned for gold in El Arollo de la Tenaja in the Dome Mountains. He returned to Yuma and told about his discovery.  Upon his return he brought other prospectors with him, discovering good gold areas.  One man Jose Redondo recovered a nugget weighing more then two ounces and the rest is history.  About a million dollars in gold was recovered the first year. The LaPaz district is known for the large nuggets it has produced. The largest nugget recovered from the LaPaz placers was 65 ounces.  The gold found in the placers is attributed to erosion of the metamorphic rocks in the area.

The prospectors settled the original town of LaPaz which grew to a population of 1500 and was an Overland Trail stage stop between Ft Whipple (Prescott) and San Bernardino.  This land was later included in the CRIT (Colorado River Indian Tribe lands and restricted greatly the prospecting.  In later years this land was excluded from the   Indians.  The Dome Rock Mountains in this area consist largely of metamorphic rock and granite.  For a short distance at the base of the range, the bedrock is exposed.  The thinking is that the gold particles came from erosion of the gold bearing veins in the Dome Rock Mountains.

One must be careful when in the Quartzsite area not to trespass on the Marine Proving Grounds extensive land operations along Highway 95 which are totally off limits, the Indian Reservation which requires written permission from the Chief and the KOFA Wildlife Range through which you can hike but cannot prospect.

LA CHOLLA GOLD PLACERS

Jane Alene Boyles

The La Cholla Placers border the eastern flank of the Dome Rock Mountains south of I 10.  The area is defined by the upheaval of the mountains tilted to the west with a blue gray slate color. The gravels containing gold are found at bedrock and mostly cemented together with lime carbonate. The bedrock can be of a depth up to 84 feet.  The area was active in 1933 with a pay streak struck at 42 feet.  In this time frame a rich vein was discovered with 300 feet of drifts and stopes.  The rich gold bearing gravel was at bedrock and concentrated where boulders were present.

Obvious geological upheaval of the hill near the Gold Eye Mine in the La Cholla Placer area.

THE PLOMOSA DISTRICT

Jane Alene Boyles

The Plomosa District includes the Plomosa Mountains, Bouse Hills, Black Mesa, Bear Hills and Livingston Hills.  The major gold placers deposits were in washes caused by erosion of quartz veins in metamorphic rocks, according to the State of Arizona Bureau of Mines.  This probably is the original source of the placer gold. These areas have been worked to a depth of seventy feet.  Spotty copper, gold, lead, zinc, iron and manganese oxides appear in irregular fault and fractured veins.  About 18,000 ounces of gold and 127 ounces of silver were removed from the placer operations.  These areas have been worked since the 1860’s. Placer gold has also been found in the hills west of Bouse.
These placers are on the eastern edge of the Plomosa Plain, east and south of Quartzsite. The placer gold is cemented in lime carbonate and ranges from a thickness of a few inches to several feet, resting on grayish schistose bedrock. Near the mountains, the gold is coarser but less prolific.  According to a professional report by John A. Church, miles of the great deposit extends westward with gold throughout the cemented gravels.

Ramsey Mine—accessible from Brenda-south of the freeway.  Produced spotty silver, lead, zinc copper and gold.  Discovered in 1921 and worked periodically until 1969.

Numerous small lode operations occurred throughout the district with about 7000 ounces of gold and 127,000 ounces of silver removed according to the official records.  The Gold Nugget Mine off its namesake road was one of the few primary gold producers.  It was a shaft operation worked in the early 1900’s with minor production and again from 1935 to 1951 with an average of one ounce of gold per ton, producing about 100 ton of ore.

Very few of the lode claims produced gold as a primary mineral.  The primary production was manganese, lead barite and silver.  



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