California Gold Districts: Chuckwalla, Azusa-Tujunga, and Dulzura

(Terrain in the Tujunga Canyon area.)

It may come as no surprise to you that many of California's best-known and most extensive gold districts lie within the boundaries of the Motherlode Region. However, the Golden State has quite a few smaller, less-famous gold districts as well.

In this post I will cover three of those lesser-known districts, Chuckwalla; Azusa-Tujunga; and Dulzura.

Chuckwalla District

The Chuckwalla District is just south of the community of Desert Center in southeastern Riverside County. In earlier times the Chuckwalla District was called the Pacific Mining District but at some point the decision was made to name this district after the mountains that produced the lode and placer gold that brought miners to the region in the 1880s.

Most of the gold mining in the Chuckwallas was of the hard-rock or lode variety but a few localized dry placers were worked as well. Most of these can be found in alluvial fans or small washes or gullies that form the drainage for some of the better-known Chuckwalla District mines like the Red Cloud, Sterling, Lost Pony, Coffee, and Great Western.

The gold geology of the Chuckwallas is primarily formed in gold quartz veins that are often heavily pyritic (i.e., containing iron pyrites) and that transect the local country rock which is granite and gneiss. Historical accounts state that some rich pockets of both elluvial and alluvial gold were recovered in the early days of the District and the gold from these was described as "very coarse and orangish or reddish yellow" in color due to the gold's natural alloy with copper. Some silver was also recovered in the Chuckwalla region.

Cautionary Note

Miners interested in checking out the Chuckwalla District should be very wary of active claims, old mine shafts, "coyote" holes, and the extreme heat of southeastern California's summer months. Be smart, be prepared, and above all, be safe.

Azusa-Tujunga District

Yep, you heard right my friend. Placer gold has been recovered in many of the canyons and washes draining the western slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains directly adjacent to the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area's suburbs. One of the best areas to search for placer gold is near Azusa in San Gabriel Canyon and in Tujunga Canyon, a bit farther to the west.

Before you go racing out the door with your Minelab or Gold Bug 2 in hand intent on detecting nuggets please note that most of the placer gold recovered in the Azusa-Tujunga District was of the very fine or "flour" gold variety. Even today sand and gravel operations in these locales recover placer gold fines as a byproduct.

Most of the gold in the District is derived from small vein material eroding out and down slope from rocky (typically granitic) outcrops in the area. Although the Azusa-Tujunga District is not touted as a significant gold producer, small mines and placers in the area have been worked since the days of the early Spanish colonists.

(Tip: If you're interested in trying your hand at easing some better color than just fines from the District you might think about checking for terrace gravels or elluvial pockets working their way downward from higher above the canyon floors. J.R.)

Dulzura District

Located about 25 miles south and east from downtown San Diego and 11 miles north of the Mexican border, the Dulzura District is relatively small and had no significant gold production, especially when compared to some of California's other gold districts.

Although the gold in the District is mostly of the vein or lode variety, small placers were worked at one time in the area. The gold is derived from very narrow and shallow quartz veins locked, for the most part, in granitic country rock. I could not find any accounts of recorded gold production from the Dulzura District, but I suspect it was low.

Gold Pans

Back in the early 1980s I spent some time poking around the Dulzura District and found evidence of past mining efforts as well as decent geological indicators of gold mineralization. After much searching and effort I was able to recover a few small pieces of placer gold from a wash down slope from what appeared to be a small open-pit mining operation. So, gold is there.

So if you are in the area you may want to "poke around" a bit yourself. Be aware however, that San Diego County (like most of Southern California) has been overdeveloped and overpopulated. This may limit your accessibility in the Dulzura District.

Good luck out there!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Prehistoric Rivers of Gold (Part 5)"

(c) J.R. 2010

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