Digging Gems and Gold at Quartzville Creek Rec Area

Digging Gems and Gold at Quartzville Creek Rec Area
If there was an award for a mineral thatís a definite mover and shaker, gold would most definitely top that list. Gold rushes across the world have resulted in desolate lands cropping up with bustling settlements almost overnight. While the California gold rush is one of the most famous in history, less people know that the Beaver State is chock full of the rich mineral as well.

In the 1850s, Southwest Oregon experienced its own gold rush with large deposits found across the many rivers including the Rogue, Applegate, Illinois and Umpqua. Gold mining activity then spread to the southern and eastern areas and continued well into the next few decades.

Because the discoveries coincided with rich finds in neighboring grounds, Oregon arguably does not get as much recognition despite being such a consistent producer of gold through the years. For the interested miner, panning and prospecting activities continue today with numerous sites for recreational mining.

One such location is just outside Sweet Home, called the Quartzville Creek Recreation Area. The serene Quartzville Creek runs through the site, with camping areas flanked by some of the largest trees in the state. This mining district is in eastern Linn County, and can be reached by a major access road that departs from US-20 around six miles east of Sweet Home. A relatively short distance from Salem and Eugene, this area runs from the Rocky Top Bridge to Galena Creek and includes several popular campgrounds like the Dogwood day-use area and Yellowbottom Campground near Yellowstone Creek falls.

The Quartzville mining district contains both lode gold and placer gold, and has seen both hard-rock and placer mining activity through the years. The first major claims were staked in 1863, and the district was organized a year thereafter. Basalt, andesite and rhyolite flow rock characterize much of the Quartzville mining districtís bedrock, with inter-bedded tuffs, volcanic breccias and scattered dacite, diorite and basaltic intrusives.

Quartville Creek and its tributaries drain the entire district, with a series of terraces and alluvial fills all the way from the mouth of Canal Creek to Dry Gulch. It should be noted that the lower 2 miles of Dry Gulch do not see much in the way of exposed bedrock, and so prospecting activity in this area is generally less in comparison.

The gravel bars along the Quartzville Creek drainage and portions of the Middle Fork of the Santiam River were the site of initial placer deposits in the early days of gold activity in Oregon. Though the panners of the 1900s had documented finds that were equivalent to a dayís wages, the rivers no longer lead to that level of production. Still, mining activity continues to persist with its charm. In the early 2000s, the Quartzville Creek experienced some remarkable finds of one-ounce nuggets within the area. Because of the continued activity, well-established campgrounds that are regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have flourished to this day.

Gold panning is popular here, along with fishing and hiking due to the expansive and stunning terrain. The geology of the area has also led to rockhounding or amateur rock-collection becoming a popular pastime for visitors. Quartzville creek is well known for its rich quartz deposits (hence the name) but other finds like pyrite, jasper, agates and petrified wood are also available for eager collectors. These can be found in similar locations along the Creek campgrounds where gold can be prospected. Keep an eye out while exploring the gravel bars along the creek.


The Dogwood Recreation Site is another area of note, which was the site of placer mining operations from the 1890s and well into the early 1930s. This site is open for day-use and has toilets and picnic facilities available to visitors. Within its vicinity is the well-established Yellowbottom Recreation Site, which is drained by the Yellowstone Creek and known to have pyrite and some tourmaline occurrences, apart from gold.

Though majority of the recreational sites are open to the public, there are still some private claims located in the area and it would be prudent to check the guidelines as implemented by the BLM before heading out. Regardless, for any rockhounders or prospectors looking to feel the flair of the Oregon gold rush, the Quartzville Creek Recreation Area certainly has much to offer!