Even before I was bitten by the Gold Bug, I really enjoyed riding my quad on the numerous trails in Lake Havasu. Anyone who has spent even a minimum amount of time doing this in Havasu’s desert has likely come across one of the many abandoned hard rock mines around here. Local 4×4 clubs volunteered to fence off many of these mines’ dangerous open pits to prevent unfortunate accidents. There have been reports of unsuspecting offroad riders falling into their openings…sometimes resulting in their demise! Among these mines are the Jupiter Mines, Pittsburg Mine, Wing Mine, Sirius Mine and another (name unkown), some 20 miles into in the Mohave Wash, where a 2-story wash plant still resides.
This is only a couple miles past a popular offroad destination referred to as the “Desert Cabin”, an old miner’s shack that is being maintained by offroad enthusiasts, complete with old furniture & cots for those who want to spend the night. It is similar to a local corner bar, in that, through the years, visitors have stuck dollar bills with their names or messages, to the ceilings and walls. Through the years I have ventured into some of these old mines, following exposed quartz veins into the depth of their darkness. WARNING! Most all of these old mines require a flashlight to illuminate dangerous downshafts that pop up unexpectedly and can plunge many, many feet down!
All these old mines left an impressioin and since getting into prospecting, I knew that eventually I’d have to re-explore some of these. Keep in mind, all these old mines were setup for hardrock mining, where gold-containing ore was harvested, then crushed to release their precious gold. Back in the day, mercury was used as an means to attract the gold from it’s host ore’s dust. Around here, that ore is quartz. My baddy Chad and I decided to explore the abandoned 2-story wash plant in the Mohave Wash. I was able to see it clearly via Google Earth as well as gather GPS coordinates. Prior to making the trip, I visited our local BLM office and had a nice chat with their geolgist, to perhaps learn a bit about this wash plant. She was very willing to share what information she had. the claim expired over 15 years ago and was informed that someone was recently granted a permit to demo / remove it. We decided to go out and have a look. We left in a Samurai and once getting on a trail that lead to the Mohave Wash, quickly realized this was going to be a long, rough ride! Most of the 20 mile journey was all washboard (whoops, to us locals), which the Samurai is not designed to handle! A quad would have been more appropriate, but because our quads did have the capability to haul our gear, we had no choice. Once we arrived, after a nearly 2 hour, punishing ride from hell, we setup the drywasher and started digging around the wash plant and surrounding areas. To me, what made this a prime spot, was a rocky hillside that wrapped around into the wash, making a perfect backsplash for any gold that might have been traveling down stream. Upon closer inspection, this rocky hillside had many exposed layers of clear quartz crystals running horizontally through it. I started picking through it, hoping to find some evidence of color (gold). Even filled a few 5 gallon buckets with it and the dirt around it, then ran it through the drywasher. I quickly panned the concentrates and found absolutely nothing. It was as clear as this quartz that this was not why someone went through all the trouble to haul all this gear and erect it, so far into the desert! We then hiked around this area, looking for logical places to take some sample dirt. We did this to about half a dozen spots and none produced any gold. At this juncture, it was a mystery why this plant was here. It was getting dark and we needed to get back on the hell-ish washboard back home. A week or so after returning, I spoke with a local longtime prospector who knew of this loaction. He said the areas they were digging were closer to where the Desert Cabin was and that they must have trucked the dirt to the location of the plant to run it. Lessons learned: just because a big wash plant is sitting in a remote desert location, does not mean gold will be found in close proximity to it and…NEVER use a Suzuki Samurai to travel 20 miles of desert washboard trail!
Trips have been made to other abandoned mines, all with the same result. I thought that via erosion, placer gold would find its way out of the quartz veins and down to the washes beneath them, but to date that just has not panned out. Yeah, pun intended. There was a nice consolation prize though…we ran across a group of feral burros, whose predecessors were likely used during the Gold Rush days. Back to prospecting the Bison area.