Hey GPAA Gold Prospectors....
Time for another Trip Report from Colorado. My super wonderful wife Dee wanted to drive about 3 1/2 hours to the Southwest from Buena Vista to Ridgeway, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountains, to visit a long time girl friend flying into the state to visit her mother that lives in Ridgeway and stay/visit Ouray, Colorado, a high mountain mining/tourist town of about 1,000 people, about 10 miles further South.....so we did this past weekend.
I knew Ouray had some good mining and gold history, so after a little research on the internet, my Topo map and several of my gold maps/books on past gold & silver mining I decided to also throw in to our Pilot my sluice, pans, boots and stuff, JUST in case I found a little time to get out on some of the feeder creeks that run into the Uncompaghre River that flows right thru Ouray.....maybe find some gold...
Our hotel was at the South end of town right ON the bank of the Uncompaghre River, maybe 30 feet away and man-o-man was the snow melt making the river a rushing, boiling whitewater torrent! High, fast and angry as could be............and fairly silty looking in color. I asked the hotel owner what the river name meant and she said the translation from Spanish was "dirty water" or "red spring water". Ha. Well, at this time of year it was a little "dirty". :wink:
Just up the river a couple hundred yards from the hotel Box Canyon creek joined the river and there was a nice waterfall up Box Canyon.
This from Wikipedia on the history of Ouray:
"Originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, the town at one time boasted more horses and mules than people. Prospectors arrived in the area in 1875. At the height of the mining, Ouray had more than 30 active mines. The town—after changing its name and that of the county it was in several times—was incorporated on October 2, 1876, named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe. By 1877 Ouray had grown to over 1,000 in population and was named county seat of the newly formed Ouray County on March 8, 1877.The Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in Ouray on December 21, 1887. It would stay until the automobile and trucks caused a decline in traffic. The last regularly scheduled passenger train was September 14, 1930. The line between Ouray and Ridgway was abandoned on March 21, 1953.
The entirety of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District with most of the buildings dating back to the late nineteenth century. The Beaumont Hotel and the Ouray City Hall and Walsh Library are listed on the National Register of Historic Places individually, while the Ouray County Courthouse, St. Elmo Hotel, St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital (currently housing the Ouray County Historical Society and Museum), Western Hotel, and Wright's Opera House are included in the historic district.
Like most towns in the Colorado mountains, Ouray was originally a mining town. However the evidence does not dominate the town. The largest and most famous mine is the Camp Bird Mine, the second largest gold mine in Colorado, established by Thomas Walsh in 1896. Even though there was an operation permit filed in 2007, the mine still remains inactive. During its lifespan, the mine produced about 1.5 million troy ounces of gold, and 4 million troy ounces of silver, from 1896 to 1990. In 1995 the old milling equipment "The Crusher" was disassembled and sold to a smaller mine located in Mongolia where it operated for about two years. The vacant mine can be seen on the steep 2WD road leading to the 4WD roads to Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass."
My Colorado gold book said that like most counties in the San Juan Mountains, no placer deposits corresponding to the size and scope of important gold mineralization had ever been found. That meant most everything good/big in gold and silver was all hard rock mined. Around Ouray was a LOT of gold, silver, lead mines....most in the sedimentary uplift on the Northeast side of town up on Gold Hill. To the Southeast was a huge volcanic section called the "Amphitheater" of compacted volcanic ash & rocks, mostly gray in color. Very majestic. Ouray bills itself as "The Switzerland of America" with near endless 13K+ mountains, all jagged and very picturesque.
The owner of a rock shop in town told me a lot of the richest mines were located on the faulting between the reddish sedimentary/sandstone uplift and the huge volcanic section. Eli, the owner of an actual mining/prospecting shop in town, called Atlas Mining & Manufacturing, said there WAS some very fine placer gold to be had in the creeks above town up towards Red Mountain Pass, heading to Silverton to the South and in the Uncompangre River. He suggested I pan on the river at the section of national forest land right beside the road about 1 mile below town... O.K. I had a lead now...
Dee & I had a nice visit in Ouray the rest of that Saturday afternoon checking out some of the antique stores, souvenir, jewelry and what not shops.....then had a fantastic (but not cheap) prime rib dinner at the Beaumont Hotel restaurant, a extremely nice stone/brick hotel built in 1888, now restored. I discovered that there was a mine tour for the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine up the canyon above the city to the East, but having been on several underground hard rock mine tours in the past, I figured it would be about the same. I wanted some "wild" placer gold on my own, panned from the gravels of a Colorado stream instead.
So, Sunday morning it was raining lightly and saw it had snowed about an inch that night of wet, heavy snow. By 8AM most was melting away and the roads just wet. One never knows the weather in the mountains as Spring turns to Summer! After breakfast at our Victorian Inn, church service with Dee's friend at church there in Ouray, we three drove out of town to this recommended spot by Eli the mining shop owner. Arriving I could see the river was indeed a boiling whitewater torrent. I took a few minutes to hike up/down the river bank, looking for a safe spot that had some material/gravels worth panning. Yep, found a spot... The girls sat on the bank and watched me "do my thing" and chatted about family/friends.
My first spot was a small build up of gravels between 2 rocks. Very interesting as the "gravels" were some of the prettiest & most interesting collection of gray, purple, greenish volcanic rocks and red/orangish sedimentary rocks I'd ever seen. Panning my first big pan of material was like water washing a pan full of gem stones. At the bottom of the pan I was happy to see a decent amount of "black sand" of some sort, and as I backwashed & tapped it off saw at least 10 little specks of gold. Nice. I showed the girls my first man did have at least SOME gold. They kind of laughed at my enthusiasm for such tiny little micro specks. I said if I found this in my first pan, there's MORE to be had. They again chuckled at me...
So, back to that gravel pile to try deeper, getting into some clay, tree roots and silt. I panned that pan. O.K. More specks for sure....maybe 20 micro specks. I tried a little deeper in the flowing water behind a big rock. Less, maybe 10 specks.
I tried one more pan, for a total of 4 pans from that gravel pile/bar.....got a few more specks.
O.K. Time to look for a different holding spot. Slightly down river I spotted a little "beach" where the splashing water was making a layer of black sand right on the surface of the brown sand bar. O.K. I scooped/skimmed up all the layered black sand only as I could into my pan and panned it. Yeah! Probably about 40 little colors/specks. AS I suspected, this micro fine free gold was riding and holding right with the black sand. I panned out 2 more pans of mostly black sand and found good micro gold in each pan. I would have loved to have my Gold Cube here, and the river WAY lower....and just wash sand all day...
It had been only about 30 minutes and I proved to the girls that there WAS gold to be had and it was (sadly) time to go .....as I we needed to get Dee's friend up to Montrose, Colorado, to meet back up with her mother. I quickly dumped my snuffer bottle into my pan, tapped it up and showed the girls my "color" for my maybe 7 pans of material. Dee's friend was impressed that I found gold at all, let alone a nice little smile of fines in such a short time. Maybe I'll get her into prospecting someday in the future.....who knows. :wink:
Back to the Pilot we packed out and headed up to Montrose, made the drop off of Dee's friend, and we drive home to Buena Vista....a fun weekend complete and some gold found.
Hope you get out on a "Gold Adventure" of your own soon.......make a fun memory, get some fresh air.....and find some "wild" gold of your own.
Randy "C-17A" http://www.goldadventures.biz