The Dry Placer Mines of La Paz, Arizona

The Dry Placer Mines of La Paz, Arizona
In the heart of Arizona, La Paz was once a bustling mining town that fueled the Colorado River gold rush in the 1860s. Individuals from different racial backgrounds would flood the region to find the rumored La Paz Gold placers, but nature would decide this mining town's fate.

Towards the end of the 1870s, the gold deposits began to dwindle, and by 1886 the Colorado River changed its course leaving the town landlocked, shifting the mineral shipping business to a new river town, six miles south; Ehrenberg.

The few residents left eventually abandoned the region transforming La Paz into a ghost town by 1891, and by 1910, a flood destroyed whatever was left. Nothing is left of La Paz except crumbling structures, and a singular historical market, deserted and isolated La Paz now embodies its peaceful name.

This is the mining history of the ghost town of La Paz.


Colorado River Gold


It was the year 1862, Paul Walker, a mountain man, and trapper captain had befriended the natives who were first to know of gold along the Colorado river and handed him a few nuggets of gold.

With their guidance and an expedition team from Yuma, he headed out and excavated around $8000 of gold. On their return to Yuma, the news of their discoveries spread like wildfire, triggering a gold rush to the area.

Soon gold placers were identified in Arroyo La Paz tributaries such as Ferrar, Garcia, and Ravenna, which contained rich deposits of gold. Other rich placers were found in the nearby Polomosa Mountain and Dome Rock. Gold was plentiful in those early day, and it brought many men here to find their fortunes.


La Paz on the shores of the Colorado


The increased number of miners in the region led to the establishment of the town of La Paz along the banks of the Colorado River. The houses were constructed with adobe brick, and in 1864 the area had a population of 1500.

During the 1860s, the town became a shipping port supplying resources to nearby mines and produced approximately 50,000 troy ounces of gold per year.

Placer mining using traditional methods was exceedingly expensive. It required water priced at $5 a gallon that was transported to the placer locations. Undoubtedly, there were men who made more money transporting water to the miners than the miners made from gold.

By the time dry washing reached La Paz, miners had retrieved several regions with richer deposits. During that time, an ounce of gold was $16 to $14, and with placers that were valued at $14,705. La Paz's importance grew tremendously; it was a part of the county seat and a station for the Overland trail route, which began at San Bernardino to Ft. Whipple.


A Quick Boom and Bust


Since the discovery of gold in La Paz triggered such a quick response resulting in a rush, there was little data on the estimates of gold placers that resided in the region. Speculations rose on whether there was gold within the region.

Gold deposits in the region were uneven, resulting in the varying amount of gold mined. Unlike more consistent deposits that could be worked effectively for many years, the gold at La Paz was often sporadic, and could quickly “play out” just as quickly as it was found.

The town that held bustling dreams of shimmering gold didn’t last long. The gold deposits were largely worked out by 1863, and although some miners remained for the years that followed, it was primarily a shipping port. When the course of the Colorado River shifted course in 1866, it left little use for the town of La Paz.

By 1870, only a few hundred people remained. Over the next decade or so, the town was transformed into a peaceful ghost town.