In the early days of California’s Gold Rush, the focus was on finding gold and not on keeping records. As such, I could uncover no specific information at all on the Italian miners that were here first to turn over the gravel and rocks in search of placer gold. The scant records I could locate on the lode mine were from more than a century ago and they only made a passing reference to it – no details at all were shared on matters such as production, equipment, the size of the mine, the number of miners, the history of the mine, etc. The one exception was a report that stated assays had revealed an average gold content of .22 troy ounces per ton of ore from this mine with an estimate of 50,000 tons of ore remaining. That’s 11,000 ounces of gold for those of you that don’t feel like doing the math. Other than that sliver of information, we are left with what we can observe for ourselves. However, with the knowledgeable audience I have, I’m sure we’ll be able to put a lot of pieces together on this one with the collective knowledge available.
The wooden ore carts were popular in remote settings such as this mine because the metal frame and wheels could be transported in pieces and then assembled once the miners arrived at the site. The wooden components – essentially the “box” of the ore cart – could usually be sourced right around the mine itself by chopping a tree down. So, it was a relatively simple way to get ore carts into operation at a mine. The wooden ore carts are, obviously, not as durable as the metal ore carts. However, they can take a surprising amount of abuse and, aside from being much lighter to transport, they are much cheaper too. So, it isn’t a surprise that we find the metal bits and pieces from the remains of wooden ore carts all over the place in the regions of the Sierra Nevada where historic mining operations were. This was the first (and only) time I have ever seen an intact frame for a wooden ore cart in California. And I have only ever seen one fully intact wooden ore cart at a mine, which was preserved by the dry deserts of Nevada.
I was quite intrigued by that mine up the side of the canyon with what I assume was an air shaft. The mines with dirt around them rather than hard rock erode shut very quickly. So, I wasn’t optimistic about getting into that one via the adit when I saw that waste rock pile from above. However, with ropes and technical gear, one could possibly drop down into the mine via the air shaft. I would imagine that no one has been in that mine for a very long time – more than 150 years if it dates to around the time of California’s Gold Rush. Imagine what could be in an untouched mine like that! Ha, probably nothing, but you never know…
There was an old rock crusher in the river below the stamp mill, but the video of this was lost.
This was a long, steep hike down and back out – especially when carrying fifty pounds of mine exploring gear on my back! The section I showed in the video with the national anthem of Italy playing in the background was just a tiny percentage of the hike and didn’t include the steepest parts. The flies and mosquitoes on the way back were absolutely awful too. So, in other words, I hope this video is enjoyed...
All of these videos are uploaded in HD, so adjust those settings to ramp up the quality! It really does make a difference.
You can see the gear that I use for mine exploring here: https://bit.ly/2wqcBDD
You can click here for my full playlist of abandoned mines: https://goo.gl/TEKq9L
Thanks for watching!
Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that colorful niche of our history is gone forever. But, you know what? We enjoy doing it! This is exploring history firsthand – bushwhacking down steep canyons and over rough mountains, figuring out the techniques the miners used and the equipment they worked with, seeing the innovations they came up with, discovering lost mines that no one has been in for a century, wandering through ghost towns where the only sound is the wind... These journeys allow a feeling of connection to a time when the world was a very different place. And I’d love to think that in some small way we are paying tribute to those hardy miners that worked these mines before we were even born.
So, yes, in short, we are adit addicts… I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!