Gold in the West: Colorado, Part 2
In this second and last post about placer gold mining locations in the State of Colorado I'll start by listing mining areas in Lake County:
With a recorded placer gold recovery figure of 360,000 troy ounces of placer gold, Lake County figures prominently in Colorado's overall placer gold production. Prospectors discovered color along the upper reaches of the Arkansas River in 1859. Eventually they "struck it rich" in California Gulch not far from the present-day community of Leadville. Extensive placers were also worked in Lake, Corske, and Box Creeks as well as Iowa, Colorado, Two-Bit, Birdseye, Empire, Buckeye, East Tennessee, Thayer, and Little Fryingpan Gulches. Additionally, Cache Creek (near the Lake and Chaffee County lines) proved a significant gold producer as well (note: Lake County may present very good mining opportunities for small-scale or recreational gold miners because of the extensive nature of its placers).
La Plata County
Although La Plata County has never been a source of major placer gold production, several hundred troy ounces of gold have been recovered from Animas River gravels near Baker's Bridge, 16 miles north of Durango. Some placer gold can also be found in the La Plata River from Bedrock Creek downstream to Hesperus.
Miners in Moffat County have produced approximately 5,000 troy ounces of placer gold from streams along the Iron Springs Divide northwest of Graig. These include Timberlake Creek, Four-Mile Creek as well as Scandanavian, Dry, and Bighole Gulches. Along the more southern drainages, placer gold can be recovered from Lay, Blue Gravel, and Fortification Creeks.
Limited amounts of placer gold have been recovered in Montezuma County from locations along the upper reaches of the East Middle and West Mancos Rivers. You can also try your hand at recovering some color near the confluence of Tenderfoot Creek and the Dolores River (note: you can take County Road 44 to reach the Mancos River Placer District.)
About 3,000-4,000 troy ounces of placer gold have been recovered from the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers in Montrose County. The San Miguel River contains placer gold for almost 75 miles downstream from its source. Additionally, gold can be recovered from many locations near the confluence of Cottonwood Creek downstream to Naturita and on the Dolores River from the confluence of the San Miguel River downstream.
Park County is another big gold producer historically, with over 350,000 troy ounces of placer gold recovered. A very good area to prospect or mine is in the upper South Platte River drainage. The nearly 1 troy pound "Penn Hill" nugget, Colorado's largest placer gold nugget found to date, was recovered in this area (note: any location that has produced large nuggets like the "Penn Hill" is a good "prospect" for recreational miners and nugget shooters).
Rio Grande County
Rio Grande County was primarily a source of lode gold, with only 1,000 troy ounces of placer gold recovered. (note: most of this was found in the Summitville District).
Over 10,000 troy ounces of placer gold has been recovered in Routt County, most of this from Deep Creek and Ways Gulch on the southeast side of Hahns Peak.
San Juan County
Only an estimated 500 troy ounces of placer gold have been recovered in San Juan County, with the upper Animas River above Silverton the main placer location. A tributary of the Animas River, Cement Creek, once had limited but fairly rich placers, and should not be ignored if you're in the area.
San Miguel County
Very fine placer gold can be recovered in bench gravels and terraces along the San Miguel River in San Miguel County from the river's headwaters above Telluride downstream past Sawpit, Placerville, and Keystone. Historical records show that over 10,000 troy ounces of placer gold were produced in San Miguel County.
Summit is Colorado's most productive gold county, hands down. Well over 750,000 troy ounces of placer gold have been recovered from placer operations in the county, and some early miners panned and sluiced as much as 2 troy pounds of placer gold in a day! Recreational miners should look for color in the upper reaches of the Blue River and it's tributaries as well as in Georgia, American, French, and Humbug Gulches, and along the Blue and Swan Rivers (note: any placer location containing historically proven "rich ground" can provide good opportunities for small-scale or recreational miners).
So there you have it. Good placer gold values can be had in Colorado with a bit of research and hard work. As always, make sure you check the status of these locations for "open" areas and for valid claims before panning, sluicing, highbanking, or dredging.