Mining in California's Coastal Mountains

California's coastal mountains have lots of potential for gold prospectors. Throughout history the mountains where overshadowed by the 150 miles long Sierra Nevada Batholith gold belt. In fact, little importance was given to any other placer or lode gold strike that wasn't on this 75-mile wide gold belt.

During the gold rush years, the placers and lodes discovered in Sierra Nevada valleys were way too rich for anyone to consider venturing into the California's coastal mountains. Because of this, only a small number of mines such as the Cinnabar Mine were established within the coastal ranges.

Mostly prospectors left the mountains for the ranchers and settlers who also formed the other group of large mass migrators in the United States at the time.

The California Coastal Mountains span about 400 miles from the Santa Barbara County in North all the way the Humboldt County in the South. The Northern end of the mountains overlaps the Klamath Mountain's southern end by about 80 miles on its west. The mountains then extend for about 400 miles to the Santa Barbara channel where it touches the Los Angeles Transverse Ranges. The mountains are made up of a wide range of rocks of varied geological ages. The rock formation is similar to those of other mountains in the west that also bear gold.


Mineralogy of the Coast Range

The geology and mineralization of the California's coastal mountains bear some resemblance to that of the Motherlode Region. Unlike the Motherlode which is made up of a large granite batholith, the coastal mountains are made up of a wide range of rocks including the Tertiary geologic epochs, Cretaceous and Jurassic among others. The Mountains also have a wide range of hot springs that are known to have deposited silica and a number of metallic minerals in veinlets.

In the past, the mountains were known for the production of high levels of mercury especially during the early days of gold mining in the Sierra Nevada when mercury was in high demand for the mining. The Cenozoic cinnabar and the Cache Creek Basin near the Clear Lake were some of the largest mercury producers in the mountains. The production was at its peak in 1877 but soon the mines were abandoned.

Gold has also been found in isolated places throughout the mountains although no major exploration has been conducted in the area. The presence of granite rocks, serpentine and metamorphics similar to those found in the Sierra Nevada is evidence enough for the presence of gold in the mountains.


The Top Gold Producers in the Coast Range

Despite being overshadowed by the motherlode the California coastal mountains have a number of successful gold mines over the years. Some of the top gold mines in the mountains include:


1. McLaughlin Mine

This was the largest and the most productive gold mine in the California coastal mountains. The mine was established in the late 1800s by the Homestake Mining Company and produced gold until 1996 when it closed down. Most of the mine deposit at the mine was in microscopic particles.


2. Palisades Mine

This mine was established in the 1870s following the discovery of gold and silver near the Calistoga. The gold at the mine was deposited from hot springs in the region. The mine was operational until the 1950s producing in excess of 50,000 ounces of gold and several hundred ounces of silver.


3. Mercury (Cinnabar) Mine

Gold was discovered at the site in 1865. A mine was established in the area producing gold for over 20 years before the mine was closed. Today the region around the mine and the surrounding areas such as the Wilbur Springs, the Cherry Hill, and the Manzanita mines still attract interest from miners although there have never been serious mining operations in the area for decades now.


Placer Gold in the California Coastal Mountains

The California Coastal Mountains have had its fair share of placer gold discovery over the years. Most of the placers discovered in the mountains were much smaller and not quite what commercial gold miners were looking for. But because of little exploration activity in the mountains and the focus on the lode mining, most of the placer gold in the mountains still contains a lot of gold to be mined. This makes exploring for placers in the mountains a great idea due to the apparent lack of competition.

Throughout history, placers have been discovered in many places all over the mountains. Some of the places known to have placer gold include:

*Big Austin Creek near the Cazadero
*Sulphur Creek in Colusa County
*Mitchell Canyon near Mount Diablo
*Cache Creek near Capay
*Klamath River in Siskiyou County
*Bear Creek close to Wilbur Springs in Colusa County
*Cottonwood Creek in Shasta County
*Napa River near Calistoga in Napa County
*Russian River both in Mendocino County and Sonoma County

Explore some of these rivers and creeks that haven't been prospected very hard in comparison with the Mother Lode region. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.