(Part of California's Coastal Ranges.)
I'm a native Californian who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley within the shadows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I knew little of gold back then other than what I was taught in history class about the California Gold Rush and the significance the Sierras played in that epic period.
Needless to say, the richness of the Sierra Nevada Batholith and its 150-mile long and 75-mile wide gold belt overshadowed every other lode or placer gold strike in the once-Golden State. If you're a Californian and wondering why I use the term "once-Golden," e-mail me and I'll do my best to explain why. I just feel this blog post (or any others) is not the right place to discuss that assessment on my part and is best reserved for a one-on-one discussion or debate. So that's that.
Getting back on track, California's coastal mountain or peninsula ranges were never given the attention of would-be Argonauts during the Gold Rush or thereafter, for that matter. The Sierra Nevada's lodes and placers were far too rich in gold to ignore and after all, why settle for a fried baloney sandwich when caviar, steak, and lobster were so readily available in the foothills of the Sierras? Aside from an important cinnabar (mercury) mine in the coastal ranges that fed the gold amalgamation needs of the Motherlode's sluices and rocker boxes, prospectors and miners left California's coastal ranges to the settlers and ranchers who became an offshoot of the largest mass migration of people in American history. Gold or silver in the coastal ranges? Who the hell really cared? There were untold riches in gold awaiting just to the east. More gold, in fact, than had ever been seen or recovered at any given point in time.
Because the coastals were "neglected" in this regard, it's my contention that it wouldn't hurt a few savvy gold prospectors and small-scale miners to take a closer look at these mountains. The coastal or peninsula ranges extend near or along the California coast for nearly two-thirds the length of the state and are broken up by San Francisco Bay into the Southern and Northern Ranges. That's a lot of ground my friends, and some of it has the potential for producing both placer and lode gold. How do I know this? First, gold has been found in both forms at isolated locations in the coastal ranges and secondly, the underlying geology of localized areas of the ranges is conducive to gold (and silver) mineralization. Sure, you'll find lots of sedimentary rock structure in the coastals (not so good for precious metals in general) but you'll also find granite and serpentine (a sedimentary by the way), and metamorphics, among others.
Now guess what? Granite is the main geological component of the Sierra Nevada batholith and serpentine has emerged as the underlying bedrock in selected locations of that gold-rich area to the east known as the Motherlode Region. But most importantly, metamorphic rock structures are the single most prevalent bearers of precious metals in the American West, Motherlode batholith or no batholith. Starting to get the picture here? Now this doesn't mean the aforementioned rock structures are highly mineralized in every instance, or even in most instances. But I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that some of the coastal ranges contain localized areas where a fairly high level of mineralization took place and that workable gold seams or placers exist there. If, and it's a big "if," you can find them. The not yet found or untouched ones, anyway. After stating all this, I fully expect some geologist or mining engineer to tear my ass up because I'm not stating inarguable facts based on scientific study and overblown PhD. theses written in a dimly lit library or study hall. No, I'm basing my premises on 35-plus years of gold prospecting and small-scale mining expertise and what I'll simply term my "miner's intuition." Now just who are YOU going to believe? The "experts" or me? (Don't answer that!)
( Who ya gonna believe? Him or me?)
As an example of what I'm talking about here let's head north to Napa in the California wine country. I know I've mentioned gold and silver in this area before, but let me rehash a few facts for you. Both lode gold and silver were found in the Napa area's coastal range in the late 1800s and the mines that originated from these initial discoveries were worked right up into the 1950s. The most important of these were the Palisade (a.k.a "Grigsby") Mine ($2,000,000 recorded production at $35.00 USD per troy ounce) and the Silverado Mine. Small amounts of placer gold have been recovered (and still are recovered) from drainage streams in the Calistoga and St. Helena areas. I also know for a fact that fair amounts of placer gold have been recovered from various streams in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south of San Francisco.
Now here's the real kicker. I myself recovered placer gold back in the 1980s from a very small stream in the coastal ranges far south of Santa Cruz. No BS, my friends. Just plain fact. And here's a little addendum for you: please DON'T ask me to disclose locations because I won't. It's your job to do your own research, find potential gold locations in the coastal ranges, and come up with your own gold. There's a method to my madness here and if you can't understand it, that's on you...not me. I'm not being contrary here, but it's never a good idea to disclose where you get your gold unless it's common knowledge. Again, the first rule of gold mining and treasure hunting can be put quite succinctly. "Keep your big mouth shut!"
That out of the way, I think California's coastal ranges hold some decent hidden gold potential if you're willing to put in the time and effort to do your research and find that gold. Don't expect to come up with two or three of ounces a day, but anything's possible. Especially if you use your brain and your feet to locate a small untouched placer or vein. Virgin ground is virgin ground, my friends and in my humble view it's always better to be on unworked ground than it is reworking gold ground that's been hit countless times before you stumbled along. Even if you don't hit the "big one" in the coastal ranges, think of the high adventure you'll have looking for it. Just you and a "pard" perhaps, out there using your combined knowledge and experience to locate gold that you can truly call your own. I think that'd be pretty damn satisfying, don't you?
Best of luck out there.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com