Gold in the West: Colorado, Part 1

The State of Colorado has a long and proud mining tradition and figures prominently in Western precious metals mining history. Significant amounts of lode and placer gold have been recovered in the state, and no small amount of silver as well. So, for those of you looking to do a bit of placer gold mining amid the scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado may be just what the doctor ordered.

Boulder County

There is placer gold in Gold Run, Four Mile Creek, and North Beaver Creek (tributaries of Middle Boulder Creek) as well as at the confluence of North Beaver Creek and South Boulder Creek, near the Gilpin County line. This latter area was one of Colorado's first substantial placer gold strikes.

Chaffee County

Nearly 100,000 troy ounces of gold have been recovered from Chaffee County placers with the majority of this gold coming from the Cache Creek Park area near Granite. Today Cache Creek Park and the Arkansas River channel are popular panning and recreational mining sites. There is some placer gold in the Arkansas River for some distance below Granite but production has been spotty.

Clear Creek County 

Nearly 150,000 ounces of gold has been taken from placers in Clear Creek County over the years. The county ranks fourth overall in Colorado placer gold production with most of the gold recovered in Clear Creek and its tributary streams. These placers were extremely rich at one time and early miners often washed out as much as 7-15 troy ounces a day! Placer gold can also be found in upper Chicago Creek, Fall River, and Mill Creek, as well as the entire length of Clear Creek (note: placers that were once this rich will still contain good gold values.)

Costilla County
Costilla County has produced small amounts of placer gold over the years, most of this recovered at locations along Grayback Gulch, Placer Creek, and Spanish Gulch. These placers can be found east of Fort Garland and north of Russell.

Denver County
Small amounts of very fine placer gold have been panned in the South Platte River from the confluence of Big Dry Creek in Littleton all the way north to the 6th Avenue bridge in Denver (note: at various times you may even come across people panning near the 6th Avenue bridge...go figure!)

Dolores County

Very small amounts of placer gold were produced in Dolores County as a byproduct of lode gold mining. You may want to check for color in the Dolores River near Rico.

Douglas County

Douglas County has the honor of being the easternmost Colorado county to produce placer gold. Gold placers were once worked in Russellville Gulch, Ronk Gulch, and Gold Creek which are in the southeastern part of the county near the Elbert County line. These placers never came close to being "worked out" because erratic gold distribution and very deep overburden made it an extremely difficult area to placer mine (note: this area may hold potential if you are willing to work hard to overcome the obvious obstacles to getting the gold).

Gilpin County

The oldtimers recovered over 50,000 troy ounces of placer gold in Gilpin County, much of that coming from the upper reaches of Clear Creek's North Fork and South Boulder Creek. Historic accounts state that miners working Gregory, Nevada, and Russell Gulches recovered a minimum of 2 ounces of very coarse placer gold per day in these locations (note: coarse gold is a good sign that placer gold nuggets may be lurking about).
Grand County
Small placers near Willow Creek in Grand County were once worked briefly, although the total placer gold amounted to only about 100 troy ounces. Gold Run, Denver, Elk, Kauffman, and Stillwater Creeks are the best locations to try your hand panning for color.

Gunnison County

Over 10,000 troy ounces of placer gold were recovered in Gunnison County, most of that output from Washington Gulch near Crested Butte and the Taylor River headwaters near Tincup in Taylor Park. You can also find color in Gold Creek near the town of Ohio Creek. In the old days placer miners recovered 1/2 troy ounce-3 troy ounces of gold per pan, so this area held some rich ground at one time (note: again, any location where the oldtimers worked rich ground is still a good bet for finding decent gold values).

Jefferson County

Jefferson County's section of Clear Creek produced over 12,000 troy ounces of placer gold some 8 years before the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. The best placers were located near the confluence of Clear and Ralston Creeks.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008