Gold in San Diego County

I lived and worked in San Diego County for many years so I am quite familiar with the area and the gold locations within the county. Unfortunately for the small-scale or recreational miner, most of the county's gold production was in the form of lode or hard-rock gold, with little recorded placer gold production. Just the same, I am writing this post primarily with you, the San Diego County placer miner, in mind.

The Julian-Banner Gold Belt

The main gold mineralization belt in San Diego County lies in and around the Julian-Banner area. Beginning in 1869 nearly 225,000 ounces of gold were produced from lode mines in this area, much of that gold coming from the Jackson Mine. Hard-rock gold mining continued in the Julian-Banner area sporadically until the late 1950s, when mining activity finally came to a halt.

You can find some placer gold in the small creeks and washes in this area, including the upper reaches of the San Diego River, but be advised most of this area is private property and is probably not open to recreational mining. In the 1980s before the highway department ran us out for safety reasons (fearing our mining activities would undermine the roadbed or we'd get struck by some out-of-control driver), myself and others used to pan, sluice, and highbank the creek (Julian Creek? Banner Creek?) that parallels the Banner Grade Highway just beyond the town of Julian. I pulled two beautiful matching nuggets from this location as well as good fines and flake gold, so it was a disappointment to all of us when we were told we could no longer mine there. (I thought you should know this if you live in San Diego County, just in case you have some sort of "in" or connection in Julian.)

Other Small Placers

Other small gold placers can be found in and around Ramona and Wynola. I can't give you exact or detailed information on these areas but I do know that placer gold was recovered below the location of the old Spaulding Mine at Ramona, according to historical records. You may have to do a bit of research, however, to get an idea as to where the Spaulding Mine was located. Gold was recovered for a time in small placers in the Wynola area, and at one point in the early 1980s I was able to gain permission from a landowner there to check the gravels on his property, but I don't recall finding much. Perhaps you will have better luck. Either way, I suspect that both placer areas (Ramona and Wynola) were "gobbled up" in the San Diego County real estate boom of the last 25 years.

Escondido and Low-Grade Ores

Additionally, low-grade gold ores were found in and near the Escondido area in the late 1800s or early 1900s. At one point a lode gold mine was worked just north and east of downtown Escondido. I am reasonably certain this mine site no longer exists due to the inevitable real estate overdevelopment, or if it does, it resides on private property now. Back in the mid-to-late 1980s I hiked up some steep hillsides just northwest of Lake Hodges (on the north side of the highway above Del Dios Canyon) and found numerous abandoned gold prospect or test pits that had been dug there. The ore did not look promising to my eyes, and although it was heavily iron stained I was never able to recover any gold from crushed samples. Nor was there any evidence of real mining activity at this location. Just prospect pits. But check it out if you can still gain access to that area....who knows?

Buckman Springs Placers

One placer area I am familiar with though, is Buckman Springs. My old mining club had a couple of placer claims at Buckman Springs. Where? If you pull into the Buckman Springs Caltrans Rest Stop and look across the way, you will see the old two-lane highway that also runs east-west (Sunrise Highway or Buckman Springs Road?) and just beyond that, a steep, unpaved road that climbs to the top of the hills there. If you take that road all the way to the top (you should be able make it with a 2-wheel drive vehicle in good weather, no problem) and continue on a bit, you are within the Buckman Springs gold placer area.

Sorry, I have no idea what the status of this gold location is these days, so ask around or research it before making the attempt. Additionally, be forewarned that the placer gold at Buckman Springs is typically pretty small and fine, so don't expect nuggets and coarse pieces. One more thing. This location can be thick with rattlesnakes in warmer weather so watch where you step and more importantly, where you reach or place your hands.

Gold at Black Mountain

I also found a decent amount of placer gold at a location near Black Mountain in the early 1980s as well, but neither you nor I would be able to mine this area now. The site is now buried beneath tons of asphalt, housing subdivisions, condos, and mini-malls, sad to say. Regardless, I wish you well in your mining endeavors in San Diego County.

(In the earlier version of this post I deliberately withheld some information on gold in San Diego County from you, the reader, for personal reasons. However, I see no valid reason for holding back such information any longer. Sometimes secrets need to be kept, other times not. J.R.)

Be safe out there.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008


  1. awsome post thanks for the 411

  2. You're most welcome. Good luck out there. J.R.

  3. have you been around the poway/scripps poway parkway area snooping around?? I have recently been looking around there and am convinced that the entire area is an ancient river bed due to the immense volume of rounded river rock throughout the area. what type of soil were you digging near black mountain? was it alluvial deposits? Thanks JR for the posts ... most interesting.

  4. William: Never did much around Scripps or Poway (although the latter may have possibilities). The area I got the gold in at Black Mountain was on the WEST-FACING slopes in a small wash and in the alluvial fan below. As I've said before, the exact location where I recovered wire gold is now a housing development. But Black Mountain is highly mineralized. Jim (J.R.)

  5. Might I ask which Black Mountain? The little one west of the 15 near Rancho P? Of the Big BM in the Cleveland? I suspect the latter.

    I've been hiking all over the north face of the Little BM the last few weeks. Lots of mineralization...but no peg dikes and very little loose quartz. And no signs of gold. The mineral seem mostly orpiment & realgar... arsenic compounds. In the 1920's there was an arsenic mine and processing site located there. I was attracted to the location given some references in my range book to aresenopyrite in that area, and knowing it is commonly associated with trace gold. But after two days of getting scrapped up in the thick brush around the mine site, I could not come up with a single sample of arsenopyrite... but more than enough evidence that there was PLENTY of simpler arsenic ores around there that I'm confident that these miners likely didn't bother with ap, and as such, the references to this species may be inaccurate.

  6. It's the little Black Mountain just to the west of I-5 and Del Mar. The gold was on the west facing slopes in the alluvial fan at the base of Black Mountain. As I've said previously, this was wire gold that had not traveled far...the exact location of my recovery of that gold is now completely covered by a housing development. There is (or was) gold there...that much I know for certain because I'm the guy who found it and recovered it. Good luck out there! Jim (J.R.)

  7. what do you think of the san pasqual canyon? there is a deep canyon and water flows in the wet winters. many years a go i was hiking down there and came across a man whit a sleuth box. i didnt talk to him so i dodnt know if he got anything. also i clicked on your link to the beach gold and it doesnt work can you repost it? love to read it

  8. I think the Canyon is worth a try, but I never did any prospecting there. As far as the beach gold is concerned, I'm talking about recovering gold jewelry from beaches...if you're interested, I still have that info posted on "Treasure Trove Dreams" ( use the "Search" box in the right sidebar there. Best to you, J.R.

  9. Thanks for the info

  10. There was an Escondido gold mine is at the foot of the Lake Wohlford grade just off the road, there is some corrugated metal bent and twisted in a pile of dirt. That was an entrance, I think it followed a gold bearing quartz vein that gave out 100+ years ago.

  11. I found a newspaper clipping about a mine in El Cajon off Chase Ave in the small foot hills there. The article was from the 80's and the mine was on a private home's lot. The ownership of that home has surely changed as the man quoted in the article was in his later years at the time of the article.

  12. You're more than likely right about the property aspects of this old mine Steve.

  13. Hi Jim thanks for the info very interesting.Just wanting to ask u if u evee use a metal detector and if so which one do u suggest on a beginer buying ? Im hearing alot about minelabs.what do u think? Thanks

  14. It depends on what you're after Andrea as a beginner...for general hunting (beach, coins, artifacts) I'd recommend the Garrett AT Pro. For gold I'd say the Fisher Gold Bug 2 or Gold Bug Pro...Minelabs are great machines but are oriented for more experienced folks, especially when it comes to gold detecting. They are also very expensive.

  15. Great work done by author of this blog. I never seen such a beautiful and informative blog. Also the looks of the blog is awesome. Keep posting please.

    Buy And Sell Gold And Silver Coins In San Francisco

  16. Any luck in Poway Creek by Pomerado Rd? Ive heard stories of some placer gold in that creek.

    1. You could give it a try...I never tried it.


Post a Comment