Southern California Placer Areas: Randsburg
Randsburg Gold District
The Rand or Randsburg gold district lies along the Kern County-San Bernardino County line near the tiny mining town of Randsburg, approximately 40 miles Northeast of Mojave and about 30 miles due north of Kramer (Kramer Junction). I am very familiar with the area since I once belonged to a mining group that worked two 20-acre placer claims at Randsburg.
Placer gold was discovered at Goler Wash in the El Paso Mountains (about 15 miles west of Randsburg) in 1893. This discovery triggered a mini-gold rush in the area and soon prospectors and miners began fanning out throughout the area in their search for new diggings. This led them to new placer gold discoveries in the broad, alluvial fan that sits below the present-day town of Randsburg. Soon, hundreds of would-be placer miners were running these gold-bearing gravels through their "puffer" type dry washers.
Over $20,000,000 in Gold
The placer gold discoveries at Randsburg were quickly followed up to their source in the mountains above town, where hard-rock mines like the Yellow Aster, Black Hawk, Buckboard and many others contributed to an estimated gold output of more than $20,000,000. That's a lot of zeroes, especially when much of the district's production occurred when gold was fixed at $35.00 per troy ounce or less.
The Randsburg placers are very easily accessed by just about any vehicle but keep your eye out for claim markers and notices, as well as No Trespassing signs. You may want to check with a few of the locals in the town of Randsburg first, to get a drift on what areas may be open to recreational mining. This district is essentially a high desert area that is bone dry, so you will have to work the gravels first with a dry washer and then pan the concentrates with water you bring along for that purpose. I've not heard of Randsburg as an electronic nugget hunter's paradise, but this may be due to the tremendous amount of small metallic trash in the area.
I suggest you do some good sampling before setting up and running any equipment. Like most desert placers, the gold at Randsburg is erratically distributed throughout the low-lying drainages of the large alluvial fan below the town. The placer gold here is quite coarse and ranges in size from fines to small flakes or nuggets. In some instances it may show traces of copper (more orange in color) or conversely, silver (paler gold color).
Red Mountain and Johannesburg
Also nearby are the old mining communities of Red Mountain and Johannesburg ("JoBurg"), which you will drive through if you take the road north from Kramer to Randsburg. Most of the mining here is of the hard-rock variety so you will see lots of old mining headframes and equipment lying around. I drove through this area last June (on my way to the North Yuba River) and was surprised to see at least one active lode mine working at Red Mountain. However, I have never heard much about placer gold in the Red Mountain district so I suspect it probably was not as extensive as the placers around Randsburg (although there are some workable placers at Joburg).
Mind the Heat (and the Cold)
Do to the excessive daytime temperatures, you want to avoid this general area at the height of summer, of course. It's a great place to mine in the Fall, Winter, or Spring, although in the winter it can get quite cold during the nighttime and early morning hours. It can even snow in this area. So be advised and make sure you bring the appropriate clothing, camping gear, and so on with you. Oh, and one last thing. Bring plenty of water.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2008