Maricopa County consists of broad desert plains with scattered mountain ranges that, for the most part, are made up of pre-Cambrian schists and granites and Tertiary-age volcanic rocks.
This is also a very productive area for small-scale prospectors to search for gold. The arid climate in the area is highly suited for drywashing, metal detecting, and crevicing for gold nuggets in bedrock cracks.
The area around Wickenburg and Morristown are very productive.Vulture Mountains
The Vulture Mine was at the southern flank of the Vulture Mountains, about nine miles west of the Hassayampa River and 14 miles by road southwest from Wickenburg. A butte of quartz was discovered late in 1863 after prospecting upon the Hassayampa, where traces of gold were found after close examination.
Rich portions of the outcrop ore were processed with an arrastra at the river. The discovery of lode deposits caused much excitement in the area.
The outcrops of this remarkable lode rose 80 feet above the level of the mesa. The outcrops at the surface reportedly showed gold everywhere. This was grouped into four distinct quartz layers which were richer than the rest: The Red or Front vein; the Middle vein; the Blue vein; and, the Black vein. These veins were not mined, but quarried above the level of the mouth of the main shaft being taken down together.
The Sunrise Mine was in northwestern Maricopa County, about 18 miles west of Wickenburg and south of State Highway 60. The ore shoots appeared to occur where the vein flattened and intersected by transverse fractures. The main adit or 200-foot level included about 600 feet of drifts, and the 330-foot level about 150 feet of drifts.
Placers in the area occurred in the vicinity of the Vulture Mine, but were of little economic importance compared to the mine itself and received much less attention in historic literature. Most of the placer areas covered an area about three square miles in Red Top Basin and extended for a distance of two miles southeast of the Vulture Mine in Vulture Wash. The Red Top Basin is a pediment formed on pre-Cambrian aged schist and mantled by gold-bearing gravels.
Gold was coarse and angular and was generally concentrated on bedrock. Good coarse gold is still found in this area by metal detectorists.San Domingo Area
This rich area is in the southern flank of the Wickenburg Mountains, northeast of the Hassayampa River. The area is reached through jeep trails that lead to the low hills on the northern side of U.S. Highway 60-70-89 near San Domingo Wash, seven miles southeast of Wickenburg and three miles northwest of Morristown.
The San Domingo district has the largest recorded placer gold production in Maricopa County and has been a consistent producer. During the early 1960's gold was recovered as a byproduct of gravel operations and by large-scale operations of a mobile dry land dredge.
Nice sized gold nuggets were so plentiful during the early days that it was not uncommon to discover them right on the surface of the ground for many years. The area has since been prospected very hard by metal detectorists, but good gold can still be found here.
The placers in the San Domingo district were found in San Domingo Wash, its tributaries and adjacent washes, and on mesas between gulches. The placer area was southwest of a low range of hills that included the prominent San Domingo Peak.
Many washes were reported as scenes of active placer mining, but the topographic maps of the area located only the Little San Domingo Wash in the Red Picacho quadrangle and the San Domingo Wash, which drained to areas in the Wickenburg quadrangle northeast of the Hassayampa River. The gravels in the Hassayampa River contained gold for a few miles below San Domingo Wash.
Other washes mined for placers were the Old Woman Gulch, a southern tributary of San Domingo Wash; Rogers Wash, located northwest at the mouth of the San Domingo Wash; Spring Gulch or the Tub Spring Gulch, an upper reach tributary to San Domingo Wash; American Gulch, and Sanger Gulch.
As with so many of the placers in Arizona, many of the old workings were small and show little evidence today. Small diggings are scattered all throughout the Little San Domingo area.
The author personally knows several prospectors that successfully find many ounces of gold every year in this region. Despite the heavy amount of prospecting and mining over the years, it is still one of the most productive area to find gold in Arizona.
Also Read: The Mining History of Rich Hill, AZ
And: Prospecting near Quartzsite, AZ