Southern California Placer Areas: E. Fork of the San Gabriel River
(E. Fork of the San Gabriel River.)
Get a Safety Kit and Stay Safe!
The San Gabriel Mountains and their associated watersheds, including the gold-bearing East Fork of San Gabriel River, lie but a short distance in a northerly direction from Los Angeles, one of the major metropolitan areas in the entire western United States.
Gold in Stream and Bench Gravels
Placer gold was discovered in the San Gabriel Mountains in the 1840s and was followed by sporadic periods of mining and production, both from stream gravels as well as bench gravels that were left high and dry above the modern-day water courses. The East Fork of the San Gabriel River was the primary gold producer in the area and in the old days many nuggets over one troy ounce in weight were recovered here, as well as abundant flakes and fine-grained gold. It's estimated that the East Fork's placers have produced well in excess of $2,000,000.00 in gold over the years.
The lower reaches of the East Fork are accessible by 2-wheel drive vehicle. This accessibility in conjunction with its proximity to the extremely large population in the Los Angeles area means that the easy-to-get-to locations along the East Fork have been pounded pretty hard over the years by recreational or small-scale placer miners. And this is not the only problem. Along with the hobbyist placer miners, many hikers, swimmers, picnic goers, and assorted "hangers on" crowd the lower reaches of the East Fork on the warmer weekends, so be prepared if you decide to try and work the easy access areas.
Better Gold Values Higher Up
However, for those placer miners willing to put forth the effort to reach the less accessible upper reaches of the East Fork, greater opportunities may exist. For one thing, bedrock is definitely more abundant. Lower down the river the overburden is quite extensive and workable bedrock is rarely encountered. Small nuggets and flakes of placer gold can still be recovered on the East Fork, as well as the usual fine or "flour" gold, but don't expect abundant returns for your efforts when working common areas. Yet, the East Fork may hold a pleasant surprise for the miner who is willing to "step outside the box" and try those harder-to-reach areas.
So, for those of you would-be placer miners in the Los Angeles metro area or suburbs, the East Fork may provide a good spot to apply your new-found gold mining knowledge and provide a chance to develop some needed skills in the process. Perhaps you can also try out some simple pieces of placer mining equipment like a rocker or a sluice box. And, if you run into an "old timer" or two along the East Fork, ask them if they'll show you some of the ropes. You'll be surprised at how much you can learn.
(UPDATE: I've added some very interesting additional information about placer gold in the East Fork in a newer post titled, "Gold in the E. Fork of the San Gabriel River: Additional Information."
(c) J.R. 2008
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