Gold Prospecting in the Bohemia Area - Willamette NF

Gold Prospecting in the Bohemia Area - Willamette NF
The Bohemia mining district is situated within the Willamette National Forest. The area is around 9 square miles located in Oregonís Cascade Range. It sits about 25 miles west of Cottage Grove.

The mining history of Bohemia is one that should be given its due credit because this district was once considered the most productive mining area in the Western Cascades. Abandoned buildings now sit where the mines ones operated, but there is still gold in the area that can still be found even today.

 

How did the mining start?

 

There were few discoveries that led to the formation of the place now known as the Bohemia mining district. The most famous discoveries include the one at Sharps Creek where miners from California found placer gold in 1858.

The other important discovery is a surprising one it was made by an outlaw named Bohemia Johnson and he was hiding from the law for killing an Indian in Roseburg. But surprisingly while he was there he found gold in quartz in a stream on the south side of Mount Bohemia. The gold quartz was found in a creek today known as City Creek.

Hearing about this discovery, people made their way towards the creek in the summer of 1864. All kinds of people poured into the Mount Bohemia area. The gravels of Sharps Creek produced good gold for placer mining, and just over the ridge additional deposits were found at Brice Creek.

Further discoveries led to the establishment of the Bohemia Gold and Silver Mining District in 1867. This eventually led to the addition of several mines to the district including some of the most productive mines like Brice Creek, Champion, Helena, Musick, and Noonday.

 

The Town

 

The Bohemia mining district established its post office in 1893 which was around for 30 years and then shut down in 1922. The first postman appointed there was John B. McGee. The area surrounding the mining district was known as Bohemia City. The city had various houses, saloons, and a hotel, all depending on provisions from Cottage Grove.



 

Geography

 

The mining district has an abundance of gold, silver, and other valuable metals which are found in a strip 25 to 30 miles wide where the Western Cascades, is to the west of and parallel to the younger volcanic peaks of the high Cascades.

Getting up to the Bohemia ghost town is not easy task, even today. One approach is to drive up Brice Creek. Heading south you climb up toward Bohemia Mountain. Itís a long bumpy road to get there. You can also get there by climbing the grade from the Sharps Creek side. This way has countless switchbacks as you gain elevation. The road is a little better, but either way it is a long grind to get up to Bohemia.

 

Sharps Creek

 

There was another miner, James Johnson who influenced the "Bohemia" in Sharp's nickname. He was also the one who is 1863 found lode gold deposits on the mountain. Some earlier prospectors around 1858 had also found placer gold deposits in the creek.

Johnson was nicknamed "Bohemia" because he had been brought up in Bohemia in Eastern Europe. He and some other miners laid the foundations for Bohemia Gold and Silver Mining District in 1867. Which as we know today as the Bohemia mining district.

The Sharps Creek Wayside is a good place for the modern day prospector to do a little bit of panning. There is some good public access were you can get to the creek and pan the gravel for small flakes of gold. It has been mined hard over the years, but a diligent panner can still recover a few bits of gold with some effort.

 

Brice Creek

 

There is still some decent gold all throughout Brice Creek. Trouble is that most of the creek is covered with active mining claims and public access is limited. However, there are 3 different sites where a person can prospect for gold at Brice Creek without worrying about mining claims. They are Hobo Camp campground, Cedar Creek campground, and Lund Park campground.

 

Exploring

 

Beyond the known areas, there are some more inaccessible areas that might be worth searching for gold. The country surrounding Bohemia Mountain is steep and rugged, with thick underbrush that is difficult to traverse. There are many small drainages coming off of the mountain that are likely to have some decent gold.

Additionally, the old prospects and tailing piles from the lode mines could likely contain some valuable ores. It may be worth inspecting ore samples from the area to determine if any are gold-bearing. Just be aware of the active claims in some areas.