Don't Discount Baja's Gold Potential (Part 5)
(Recent gold mine operations at El Alamo.)
In this post I'll be giving you additional locations to prospect and mine for placer gold in Baja California, Mexico. Again, you would-be gold miners in Southern California are fairly close by, so you may want to take note.
Real de Castillo
The Real de Castillo placers are 30-40 miles to the northwest of the popular Baja tourist destination, Ensenada. It's interesting to note here that well-known geologist Waldemar Lindgren also visited the Real de Castillo area in his search for additional Tertiary gravels (other than those in the northern Motherlode region of California). Any location that Lindgren thought worth investigating for Tertiary gold is well worth your while to pursue. My view, anyway.
Most experts believe that the placer gold at Real de Castillo eroded out of numerous quartz veins in the vicinity that were housed in schist country rock for the most part. That said, Waldemar Lindgren probably housed some sort of theory in his keen mind that some of this gold was Tertiary in origin...otherwise I doubt he would've wasted much time at Real de Castillo. Lindgren's career focus was always fueled by his strong interest and research of Tertiary gravels and ancient rivers from that geologic epoch. Substantial proof of this assumption on my part is probably best found in his classic treatise, Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California. If you haven't read this work, you should.
Look for the gold at Real de Castillo in bench gravels as well as the usual streams, washes, and arroyos.
I personally made a number of prospecting and mining trips to the El Alamo placer area back in the mid-to-late 1980s. The placers themselves are bone dry so a dry washer is in order here. If there are water sources available for washing gold-bearing gravels at El Alamo I never found them. I did find huge volumes of trash of all sorts (including metal) which pretty much put the whammy on using a gold detector there, especially machines from that era which were nowhere close to the capabilities of modern metal detectors.
At the time I worked El Alamo there were a couple of very small communal placer operations headed up by teams of locals with rudimentary gear and equipment. These Mexican miners were digging large pits about six feet deep into a broad alluvial fan and removing the gravel for processing elsewhere I guess. Gravels in this fan were loosely consolidated and contained very coarse placer gold...not lots of it, but enough for some I guess. I was a bit dismayed by the amount of overburden at this particular location and I suspect the locals were barely eking out a living mining this fan. My advice is to avoid the alluvial fan(s) and prospect elsewhere. Look for drainage areas where there is shallower overburden or visible country rock.
Over 30 Troy Ounces
One thing to bear in mind here is that back in the 1800s when the placers at El Alamo (and nearby Santa Clara) were first discovered they were quite rich in nuggets and coarse gold. It wasn't uncommon for miners to recover as much as 6-8 troy ounces of placer gold a day in "Mexican Gulch" and also, get this, in "American Gulch." One account states that two Mexican women recovered over 30 troy ounces of placer gold by crevicing areas abandoned by the first wave of miners at El Alamo. That'd be over $40,000 in 48 hours with today's gold prices!
(Hillside in the El Alamo area. Notice the drainages and granitic country rock.)
On my first trip to El Alamo the locals were a bit wary a first, but turned out to be quite friendly once they got to know you. I speak decent Spanish so we were able to trade info and tips, which helped me out greatly at El Alamo in my search for gold. I was also invited to share in the wedding festivities at a nearby ranch where I had one hell of a good time! I also met the most beautiful Mexican woman I've ever seen anywhere, anytime on one trip to El Alamo. I had to throw this in because even after all these years, I still remember her quiet beauty and youthful grace. Sadly, nothing could come of our meeting since I was married and toeing the line (still am in both regards).
Comport Yourself Decently
You can reach El Alamo by taking Highway 3 southeast from Ensenada. It's about an 1.5-2 hour drive, if I disremember correctly. The main part of El Alamo is easily reached off Highway 3 and then via unpaved road that is easily traversed by two-wheel drive vehicle (I recommend 4-wheel drive in Baja in general, though). At least this was the case in the 1980s. As you've already surmised there's some decent gold at El Alamo (and in the Santa Clara mining area a short distance to the north). Finding it is the trick, as always.
If you get down El Alamo way comport yourself decently (which I'm sure you will) and you'll be treated decently. Act like an asshole and guess what? You might end up like the two drunk-ass American college kids I saw get the crap beaten out of them by a pair of armed Mexican sailors from the Ensenada Naval Base on one trip I made to El Alamo. I'd stopped at Ensenada for a bite to eat and witnessed the entire event with grim satisfaction. These two idiots were stumbling around like clowns early one weekend evening, insulting the locals and standing in an intersection screaming insults and flipping people the "bird." They got what they deserved in my book.
Anyway, El Alamo presents a very good introduction to Baja placer gold and is well worth the time and effort to visit.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2014
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org