We don’t often do videos on hydraulic mines and that is simply because there aren’t many of them... This is mostly due to hydraulic mines being enormous operations with few places where the conditions are right for them to have existed. They don’t end up on the environmentally friendly list of mining techniques either, but the process is interesting (at least to me) nevertheless.
My exploring buddy, Mr. McBride, (his YouTube channel is Adit Addicts) located this sluice tunnel on our first visit to this site a couple of years ago. At that time, we met the owner of the mine and accompanying ghost town (well, almost a ghost town) who invited us to look around. We weren’t properly equipped to explore the tunnel at that time and also had Mr. McBride’s daughters with us. So, we saved this one for another trip.
While I was editing the video, I realized that many are probably not very familiar with the history I’m discussing and the terms I’m throwing around. So, I’ll take a crack at explaining hydraulic mining as seen in this video: Many millions of years ago, large rivers ran through this area. These rivers ran through areas that contained rich gold deposits. As today, when erosion released the gold in the rocks, the gold would tumble down into the rivers or be washed into them. Gold – being heavy - would slowly sink down through the sand, gravel and mud in the river channel, accumulating on the bedrock beneath the river. Eventually, volcanic eruptions killed these ancient rivers, burying them deep under ash and lava flows. Millions of years later, after the early “Gold Rush” miners had picked the easy gold from California’s modern rivers and streams, they started trying to locate the source of the gold they had been finding. It wasn’t long before they started heading beneath the earth, soon encountering river gravel hundreds of feet underground. This fabulously rich gravel set off a stampede to locate all of the ancient river channels playing host to placer gold. Countless underground placer mines sprang into existence to bore their way into mountains, desperately seeking ancient river channels.
For those with the means, hydraulic mining offered access to the underground placers on a massive scale… Water was diverted from a source above the hydraulic mine into a series of pipes leading to the site that the miners wished to work. The water (flowing downhill) was run through an increasingly small series of pipes (building up pressure in the increasingly confined space) until it exited from a small nozzle known as a “monitor.” By this point, the water was practically exploding out of the nozzle as it was under tremendous pressure. This roaring jet of water smashed into the sides of hills and mountains like a giant hammer and swiftly washed away anything it hit. The process soon removed the overburden, exposing the ancient river channels the miners were after. With the volume of water flowing from the monitor, everything being knocked loose was washed down into ditches that then dropped into drain tunnels (as seen in this video). The sand, mud and gravel the gold is mixed in with came cascading into the series of large sluice boxes lining the tunnels. The riffles embedded in the sluice boxes would snag the heavy gold, which naturally sinks to the bottom, while the lighter mud, gravel and sand would simply flow over the riffles and out of the tunnel into the creeks and rivers below (there’s another story there). Periodically, the roaring water monitors would be switched off and the miners would then walk along the sluice boxes, scooping up the gold trapped behind the riffles (often with the assistance of mercury).
The hydraulic mines took a lot of work to set up and took a lot of capital to do so, but they took out a LOT of gold.
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 mines 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. I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!