California Gold Districts: Carson Hill/Melones

(Calaveras County, California.)

Treasure Hunting
Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

One of the Southern Motherlode's Richest Districts

As many of you probably already know, California’s Motherlode region is divided into 2 basic areas: the Southern Motherlode (sometimes called the southern mines) and the Northern Motherlode (or northern mines). Both parts of the Motherlode contain numerous gold districts which continue to produce respectable amounts of placer and hard rock gold for small-scale miners.

One of the richest gold districts in the Southern Motherlode was the Carson Hill/Melones District, located in southwestern Calaveras County. The District extends in a southeasterly direction from Carson Flat to the communities of Carson Hill and Melones, the latter of which is situated along the beautiful Stanislaus River.

Placer and Lode Gold Discoveries

Placer gold was first discovered in the District in 1848 by James Carson who found large quantities of the yellow metal in a creek that would later be named after him. Aspiring placer miners soon “rushed” Carson’s diggings and spread out through the surrounding foothills.

A little over 2 years later lode or vein gold in quartz was found near what would become the Morgan Mine. By 1851 the thriving mining boomtown of Melones supported a population in excess of 5,000 souls.

195 Troy Pounds of Gold

Melones (Spanish for melons) derived its name from the watermelon seed-shaped nuggets that were prevalent in many of the District's placers and which were recovered in staggering amounts from unbelievably rich surface pockets scattered throughout the area. To substantiate this statement, the largest gold mass or nugget ever recovered in California was unearthed at Carson Hill in 1854.

Get a Safety Kit and Stay Safe!

It's weight? A massive 195 troy pounds of gold! Unfortunately for posterity, this once-in-a-lifetime find was melted down into gold bullion and coins. Today we can only imagine what this spectacular find looked like, but its recovery underlines the richness of the Carson Hill/Melones District.

District Geology and Mines

The geology of the District includes the following rocks and ore bodies: free-milling, auriferous quartz veins and schists, serpentines (forming bedrock in many parts of the District), and mariposite. Refractory (i.e., chemically bound) ores in the District include calaverite, sylvanite, hessite, and petzite.

The Carson Hill (which produced nearly $27 million in gold), Calaveras, Finnegan, Melones, Morgan, and Reserve Mines, as well as the Stanislaus and Carson Creek placers, were all fantastic gold producers in their day. Other lesser known mines and placers (Santa Ana, Tulloch, Hardy, etc.) in the District were also good gold producers.

Check Things Out First

I've been through the Carson Hill/Melones District a number of times but never tried my hand at mining there. However, I know a few small-scale or recreational miners that have done quite well there in the past. So if you're in the area you may want to poke around a bit.

Bear in mind that there is a strong likelihood that most good areas in the District are either "claimed up" today (due to record-high gold prices) or are on private property. So check things out by talking with the locals before you break out your mining gear.

Good luck to all of you!

P&S Fishing Tackle

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "5 Useful Gold Mining Publication Links"

(c) J.R. 2009

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