Specific Areas of Interest in Southern California's Transverse Ranges (Part 1)

Since my last two posts were about some of the oddities concerning gold in Southern California's Transverse Ranges I thought it might be helpful if I listed each area of potential interest and provided a bit of specific information on each. Again, my thanks to Randy S. for providing the bulk of this info to me and also, by default, to you.

Acton District

This area is also known as the Cedar District and lies in central Los Angeles County in the San Gabriel Mountains about 20 miles north of the City of Angels (a misnomer for sure in my opinion!). The gold in the Acton area was derived from pyritic (FeS2)  in quartz veins and stringers with diorite and schist as the main types of host rock. Some of the vein material in this area goes to depths of 1,000 feet or more and historical production records state that over $2,000,000 (USD) was recovered from both placer and lode mines in the district from the 1830s right on through the Depression Era of the 1930s. That's a lot of gold, especially when you remind yourself that gold ranged in price from $16.00-$35.00 a troy ounce during this time period. At today's gold prices the amount of gold taken from the Acton area would be astronomical from a monetary standpoint.

(Parker Mountain in the Acton District.)


The Azuza-Irwindale area is 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, which places it quite near the Acton District. Although the only mining done here was for sand and gravel, finely grained placer gold was a byproduct of these more mundane commercial operations. The gold in the sands here is extremely small (flour or microdot), widely disseminated, and is part of a huge alluvial fan formed by the San Gabriel River. Most of the commercial sand and gravel operations in this district took place during the 1930s right through the 1950s. I suspect that much of this alluvial fan has been developed in the decades since, however.

Baldwin Lake District

This district is in the northern part of the San Bernardino Mountains about five miles east of Big Bear City, a popular snow skiing and outdoor recreation area. The placer and lode gold here was derived primarily from sulfide quartz-calcite veins, but some gold in the Baldwin Lake District also eroded out of vein material in schist, quartzite, limestone, and granite host rock. Much of the gold here was lode-oriented, but small placers were also worked over time. Estimated production in the district approach the $800,000 mark, so the Baldwin Lake area was no slouch when it came to the monetary value of the gold recovered there. Placer mining began here sometime between 1830-1840 and lode operations started around 1860. There was a resurgence of both placer and lode mining in the Baldwin Lake District in the early 1900s and again during the Depression Era.

(Old mine workings in the Baldwin Lake District.)

Black Hawk  District

A times this district has also been called the Silver Reef District. The Black Hawk area lies, like the Baldwin Lake District, in the northern part of the San Bernardinos some 15 miles from Lucerne Valley. The gold here came from "zones" of breccia containing sulfides and hematite in schist, granite, and gneiss host rock. At least $300,000 in gold was taken out of the district according to historical production records, which is nothing to sneer at when considered in the context of today's gold prices. Unlike the previous districts mentioned, mining didn't begin in the Black Hawk District until the 1870s.

 (Remnants of the past in the Black Hawk District.)

Frazier Mountain District

This district was another big gold producer with at least $1,000,000 worth of gold recovered and smelted. The district lies in Ventura County about 8-10 miles west of Gorman and old Fort Tejon, locations you'll surely pass if you take Interstate 5 north from Los Angeles over the notorious "Grapevine." Lode gold geology here includes gold in quartz veins in pyritic schist, gneiss, hornfels, and granite. There are also stream or wash placers and gold-bearing terraces in the Frazier Mountain District. Placer mining first took place in the district back in the 1840s and was followed up by hard-rock mining in 1865. Most mining activity in the district petered out by the late 1890s, however. Be advised that Fort Tejon is a California State Park and no treasure hunting or prospecting/mining activities are allowed in state parks. This may limit access to some gold areas close in to Fort Tejon and the inescapable private property and over-development issues may prove a limiting factor for small-scale miners as well.

(Frazier Mountain District. Note the sign says "Arrasta Trail.")

Holcomb Valley District

This district is located in the northern San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear City but the area was not as rich in gold as its immediate counterpart, the Baldwin Lake District. Most of the gold taken here was from shallow placers but there was some lode work done on the numerous but narrow gold-in-quartz veins nearby. Larger-scale placer operations were conducted in Holcomb Valley during the 1930s and the average take per cubic yard was around 38 cents when gold was in the $22.00-$35.00 per troy ounce range. Mining first began in the area in the 1860s and continued on for a couple of decades before dying out. There was a resurgence in mining in Holcomb Valley during the Depression years, but since then no major mining activities have been conducted. Over the past 40 years since I've been a small-scale gold miner, the Holcomb Valley District has been a favorite target of prospecting clubs and other small-scale guys and gals.

 (Old timers working a lode seam in the Holcomb Valley District.)

There's more to come...

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com