Gold in the Northwest: Washington State (Part 1)
Half a Million Troy Ounces or More
Washington State has never been a major placer gold producer but there are at least 200 (or more) placer gold locations in the "Evergreen" state. Most of these were discovered before the turn of the 20th Century with the earliest placer gold discovery occurring in 1853 along the Yakima River.
Where to Find Placer Gold
Historical records give Washington's total placer gold production at over half a million troy ounces, but I suspect at least another quarter million troy ounces went unreported over the course of time. Lode gold production in Washington State is somewhere in the vicinity of 4-5 million troy ounces...so you can see that lode operations were responsible for the bulk of the state's gold production.
Here are some of the main placer areas or districts in Washington:
Swauk Gold District: The Swauk placers can be found near the community of Liberty (in fact, the placers in the area are often called the Liberty Placers) along Baker, Boulder, Swauk, and Williams Creeks. This area has been hit pretty hard from a mining standpoint and virtually every piece of mining gear you can imagine has been employed to recover gold here, including big equipment like draglines and bucket dredges. It's estimated that over 40,000 troy ounces of gold were taken from the Swauk District with some of the richer gravels containing over 2 troy ounces of gold per cubic yard of material. Much of this was in the form of coarse flakes and nuggets, by the way. Tip: If you are in the Swauk/Liberty area, keep an eye out for gravel layers with a bluish cast to them...these layers will hold the best gold in the form of paystreaks and pockets.
(Old timers "minding the store" in the Liberty Placers area.)
Blewett District: Very rich gold placers were discovered in 1860 in this area along Peshastin and Negro Creeks. The Blewitt District's placers were not found in the existing stream courses of the day, but in ancient, buried river channels left high and dry in many instances. Even today you'll probably find small-scale miners and medium-sized commercial mining operations at work in the Blewett District, so be aware of valid claims and don't claim jump. Tip: If you can get into an open area in one of the Blewett placers, expect to recover flakes and small nuggets if you hit one of the old stream channels.
Trommels, Dry Washers, Sluice Boxes
Pend Oreille River Placers: Numerous nuggets weighing over one troy ounce each were recovered early on from gravels in the lower Pend Oreille River area. Although the gold in this placer area is not widespread in terms of quantity, there is certainly a quality factor that shouldn't be ignored by you nugget shooters out there. Tip: Your best bet for recovering nice gold in the Pend Oreille River Placers is along Sullivan Creek, a tributary stream just east of Metaline Falls.
There's more to come on Washington State placer gold in my next post. Until then best of luck to you.
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Small-Scale Mining Success Stories (Part 2a)"
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org