Mining on Althouse Creek & the Illinois River

Althouse Creek and Illinois River, Oregon
Althouse Creek is located in the Siskiyou National Forest of Oregon and feeds the Illinois River which runs through Josephine County. Its headwaters start right at the California border and flow north. Nearly the entire reach contains rich placer gold deposits.

The town of Waldo is located about nine miles west of the creek which has produced more placer gold that virtually any other location in Oregon. From the early days when the gold was discovered here, prospectors combed the entire reach of Althouse Creek in search of the rich gold here.

Named after the first prospector to find gold in the area in 1852, a man named Althouse, the creek along with the Illinois River has produced an immense amount of gold. From the time it was first discovered, the area became heavily mined. Surrounding hillsides had been explored and many veins of lode gold have been found in the hills above Althouse Creek.

Browntown was the original mining center for the creek and many of the mines that were created surrounded the community. Soon, the community of Grass Flat was founded as the area quickly became swarmed with those prospecting for gold. In addition to the gold miners, a far share of farmers and ranchers lived in this areas as well due to the productive valley bottoms.

By the 20th century, the area was still being heavily mined for gold and new equipment was being brought in to really dig deep into the surrounding hillsides and dredge the creek itself. By 1936, power shovels and a new dragline excavator were brought into the region that could handle 6,000 cubic yards of gravel each day. These techniques helped to really pull the gold from the area.

The Briggs Pocket Mine was the richest pocket gold discovery in the Althouse Creek drainage. This discovery opened up even more areas to exploration, and many of Oregonís richest pocket gold discoveries were made in the mountains surrounding Althouse Creek and the Illinois River. In addition to the general placer mining on Althouse Creek and the Illinois River, there were cuts made into the gravel as well in order to bring out the gold and other mineral deposits. Miners used every method available to them to extract the gold out of the earth.

To this day, there are still placer gold deposits that remain to be found despite the heaving mining in the region. There is nothing but few cabins and structures left of Grass Flat while Browntown is completely gone. While the golden age of mining in the region has long passed, there is still gold to be found in the area. Just be aware that there is an abundance of mining claims in this area still today, and the lower elevations in the Illinois River Valley has a lot of private lands. Be sure to do your research before you leave home to make sure that you are in an area that is open to prospecting.

Additional Reading about Gold Mining in Oregon:

Mining in Eastern Oregon's Blue Mountains

Southern Oregon's Beach Placer Deposits

Gold Mining the Rogue River

The Gold Rush to Southwest Oregon

Get this Highly Recommended New Book:

The Gold Prospector's Field Guide:
A Modern Miner's Handbook for Successfully Finding Gold