By Steve Herschbach
Placer Gold Deposits of Nevada by Maureen G. Johnson (USGS)
1973 USGS Bulletin 1356, 2.93 MB pdf file, 122 pages
A catalog of location, geology, and production with lists of annotated references pertaining to the placer districts of Nevada.
Gold Panning, Sluicing, Dredging, Drywashing Forum
By Steve Herschbach
From Placer Gold Deposits of Nevada, USGS Bulletin 1356, By Maureen G. Johnson 1973
HISTORY OF PLACER MINING IN NEVADA
The first authenticated discovery of placer gold in Nevada was made in 1849 by Abner Blackburn, a member of an emigrant train to California, at the junction of Gold Canyon and the Carson River at the present site of Dayton, Lyon County (De Quille, 1891; Vanderburg, 1936a). Parties of men worked the gravels in Gold Canyon and nearby Six Mile Canyon, Storey County, for 8 years before the source of the placers, the Ophir silver lode, was discovered by Peter O'Reiley and Patrick McLaughlin in 1857 while digging a small water hole for placer mining in Six Mile Canyon (De Quille, 1891). Other lode discoveries in the immediate area followed, and soon the whole world knew of the Comstock lode in Nevada. Although placer mining continued on a small scale in Gold Canyon and Six Mile Canyon, and other placers were discovered elsewhere in the State, the richness and fame of the Comstock lode far overshadowed the importance of placer production and new placer discoveries.
Following the discovery of placers at Gold Canyon, placer discoveries in Nevada were broadly in three periods: the 1860's to 1880's, when many small deposits throughout the State were discovered and sporadically worked and several large placers were discovered and extensively worked; the short period between 1906 and 1910, when very rich placers were discovered at Lynn, Battle Mountain, Manhattan, and Round Mountain; the early 1930's, when economic conditions created by the depression caused a renewed interest in placer mining, and many individuals sought, and a few discovered, new placer areas throughout the State. The location of the placers described in this report is shown on plate 1.
Very little factual information can be found about the early periods of placer mining in Nevada. For many placers, the only reports available are hearsay estimates of production and speculations about the extent of the placer ground based on remnants of placer pits, shafts, and other workings. Many of the placers said to have had a high production between 1860 and 1890 were worked by Chinese miners who came to Nevada during the building of the railroads and stayed on to work at mining and other activities. The Chinese were reputed to be secretive with their earnings from the placers and did not ship the gold to the mint by Wells Fargo or other shippers. They worked the gravels very thoroughly in areas where American miners did not wish to expend great labor to win the gold. The placers in the Sierra and Spring Valley districts, Pershing County, were worked by Chinese miners; they have a very high estimated production before 1900 and a comparatively low known production since that time.
One reason for the lack of information about early placer-mining activity in Nevada was the great attention given to the rich silver-lode districts such as the Comstock, Eureka, and Reese River districts. Whereas in many other States, the discovery of gold placers stimulated the search for lode-gold deposits and other gold placers, in Nevada early attention was devoted to searching for rich silver lodes not necessarily associated with derived placers.
The comparatively late discovery of some of the richest placers in the State has afforded a very clear picture of the development of placer mining during the 1900's. The discovery of rich silver ores at Tonopah in 1900 and rich gold ores at Goldfield in 1902 stimulated great activity in mining exploration throughout Nevada. Many placers discovered during the 1906–10 period were found by men looking for ores similar to ores at Tonopah and Goldfield. Placer mining at Manhattan and Round Mountain districts, Nye County, and Battle Mountain district, Lander County, began with numerous small drywash operations in the gravels, then expanded as water supplies were developed for sluicing and hydraulic methods of mining. Late in the history of these districts, but long after many other placer districts were inactive, large-scale dredging operations began. The success of the dredge operations in these semiarid districts is unique in the history of placer mining in the Southwestern States.
Placer mining history in the other districts is typical of desert placer mining throughout the southwest. Most production resulted from the relatively intense period of prospecting immediately following discovery; a decline in placer-mining activity followed, then a small revival during the early 1930's. The economic depression of the early 1930's stimulated investigations of many Nevada placer districts for the purpose of developing large-scale placer-mining operations. By the late 1930's, many mining companies had investigated many placer areas and had formulated plans to develop certain areas. The placer activity of the 1930's was abruptly halted by the beginning of World War II and the passage of War Board Order L–208, which restricted gold mining throughout the country. The dredge operation at Manhattan was given special permission to continue operations, although on a reduced scale, and, as a result, placer gold production after 1942 did not decline as markedly in Nevada as in other States.
Most of the placer mining was done by the basic methods of drywashing, sluicing, and rarely, small-scale hydraulic mining. In addition to the large dredge operations at Manhattan, Round Mountain, and Battle Mountain, other dredges operated in different districts, notably Silver City, Lyon County; Spring Valley, Pershing County; Van Duzer, Elko County; and Bullion, Lander County. Since the completion of the Round Mountain dredge operation in 1959, placer mining in Nevada has progressively diminished in importance.
GOLD PRODUCTION FROM PLACER DEPOSITS
The U.S. Bureau of Mines (1967, p.15) cites 1,900,000 troy ounces of placer gold produced in Nevada from 1792 to 1964. I estimate a total production of 1, 700,000 ounces of placer gold for the State from the first placer discovery to 1968. The U.S. Bureau of Mines estimate includes some unauthenticated reports of very high placer gold production from some districts worked before 1900.
The most productive placer districts in Nevada are the Battle Mountain district, Lander County; Silver City district, Lyon County; Manhattan and Round Mountain districts, Nye County; Spring Valley and Sierra districts, Pershing County; and Osceola district, White Pine County.
Most of the gold recovered before 1900, an estimated 905,850 ounces, was recovered by many individuals using drywashers or small sluices to work gravels brought to the surface from shafts or pits. In the major districts (Silver City, Spring Valley, Sierra, and Osceola) worked intensely between 1849 and 1890, the miners dug numerous shafts, tunnels, and adits in the gravels. At Osceola, large banks of gravel were hydraulicked, leaving sheer cliffs of unworked gravels exposed today.
After 1900, drywashers, small sluices, and small concentrating machines continued tp be used in placers throughout the State, but, except for the very productive first few years of drywashing at Manhattan, Round Mountain, and Battle Mountain (1906-15), the greatest part of the placer gold was recovered by large dredging operations. Figure 1 is a graphic representation of the total amount of placer gold recovered yearly in Nevada (1900-68) and the contributors to the major production peaks.
Dredge mining in Nevada started in 1911, when the Federal Mining Co. used a small wooden dredge to work gravels in Spring Valley Canyon (Pershing County). The operation was only moderately successful, but it encouraged other companies to consider desert dredge mining. During the periods 1920-23, 1940-42, and 1946-47, dredges worked in the relatively well-watered Carson River at Gold Canyon (Dayton, Lyon County). Small dredges worked gravels in a number of districts throughout the State (such as the Bullion district, Lander County; the Willow Creek district, Pershing County; and the Olinghouse district, Washoe County), but in many of these operations, the water was not sufficient for the use of floating dredges, and other conveyances were used to transport the gravels to the dredge, which acted as a central washing plant. The era of major large-scale desert dredge operations began in 1939, when a floating bucketline dredge was brought to Manhattan Gulch (Nye County). When operations ceased in 1946, this same dredge was transported to Battle Mountain (Lander County) to work the placers in the Copper Canyon fan from 1947 to 1955. In the 1950's, a non-floating dredge was used at Round Mountain (Nye County) to recover large amounts of placer gold from a deep pit.
Since cessation of dredge operations at Round Mountain in 1959, placer gold production in Nevada has returned to small-scale sporadic or part time operations by individuals.
Placer gold has been found in 115 mining districts in Nevada. Many of these districts have produced, or are said to have produced, only a few ounces of placer gold. Thirteen districts have produced more than 10,000 ounces. Although placer gold has been recovered from each of the 17 counties in Nevada, most of the placers are in the western part of the State (see pl. 1) in the area termed the "Western Metallogenic Province," which is characterized by the dominance of precious metal ores (Roberts, 1946a). A few placers (all of minor importance except the Osceola district) are found in the eastern part of the State in the area termed the "Eastern Metallogenic Province," which is characterized by the dominance of base-metal ores.
Most of the placer gold found in Nevada has been derived from veins and replacement deposits that have been successfully worked for the gold and silver content of the ores. In the few districts where source of the gold is unknown, it is presumed to be small scattered veins in the adjacent bedrock.
In most of the very productive lode mining districts, only small amounts of placer gold have been recovered, whereas in the very productive placer districts, lode-gold production is close to, and sometimes less than, placer gold production. An exception is the Silver City district (Lyon County) , which has yielded a high production of placer gold derived from ores of the Comstock lode (Lyon and Storey Counties), the largest silver producing district in the State.
By Steve Herschbach
"Some stories are worthy of being told more than once. There are countless stories about lost or buried treasure in Nevada history. Most of these are legends that might or might not have any basis in fact. The following story, however, is one of the rare cases where a real treasure was found, when there was no previous knowledge it even existed."
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Hello everyone. I haven't really gotten out to use my detector since buying it last year spring time (Garrett AT Gold). I'm not sure exactly how to use it and would love some pointers or would be very happy to get with someone local and teach me some pointers. I am a GPAA member and I am thinking about going to the claim they have out by Rye Patch next Tuesday Dec 04. I have never been out to that area so any info on that would be appreciated as well. Thank you very much and have a great week.
I got permission to hunt some private property on the Nevada Utah border from a guy that owns 60 acres down in the bottom of a ravine, I think the area may also have flowing water. The area has gold mining history with a hard rock mine nearby although I know very little about the area except some deposits were discovered as late as the 1980’s and the gold reports I’ve found are very incomplete of numbers as the activity seems to have been limited. it’s a long drive, but I think I have 4x4 access into his property and may just have to drive up and put boots on the ground and look around. From google earth the area is very volcanic as is most of the desert and other minerals have been mined as well from what I’ve read, zink, copper, silver other than gold. I’ve been researching the diggins , land matters and my n Nevada mines guide, Anyone have a any idea about the detectable nature of gold from that part of N Nevada?