California, "The Golden State", is the fourth largest producer of gold in the United States, following only Nevada, Utah, and Alaska. In 2001, California's mines produced some 449,200 troy ounces of refined gold.
The discovery of gold on the South Fork of the American River at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma, in 1848 led to the fabled California Gold Rush of 1849. Unlike traditional hard-rock deposits, California's gold was readily available on the surface, concentrated into rich placer deposits which an inexperienced prospector with minor tools could reasonably expect to exploit.
Literally countless 'small' nuggets were collected from California's placer deposits during the period, but in 1854, a single mass of gold weighing more than 190 troy pounds -- the largest known to have ever been discovered in California -- was found at Carson Hill in Calaveras County. Subsequent to this, in 1859 the largest almost pure gold nugget ever found in California, weighing 54 troy pounds, was discovered near Magalia, in Butte County.
California's gold is even today largely produced from the
legendary "Mother Lode", which is actually not a
single deposit, but a region named in 1869 to refer to five
counties: Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador and El Dorado.
There are no set boundaries to the the Mother Lode, and its
definition has been expanded in the period since 1869 to include
several other counties in the region. California Route 49
appropriately links the many gold-producing locales of the
But as surface deposits in California became depleted, the California Gold Rush was generally considered to have come to a close in 1858, when the Colorado Gold Rush began.
Nevertheless, tales of lost Mother Lode gold mines, and those further south, particularly in the Mohave Desert, credibly abound even today.
A General History of CaliforniaComing soon, a thorough introduction in to the general history of California. Check back with us often as we regularly add new features. For a list of recently updated features, click here.
Our extensive research into the lost treasures of the US southwest has surfaced twenty well-documented Lost Treasure Tales from the state of California. They are presented below. To see these on a map of California, click the "Show Map View" button at right. To see more detailed maps, visit each tale from the index below, and click on the "Page 3" maps link.
Note that the location of the Lost Breyfogle Mine may lie in Inyo County, California or in neighboring Nye County, Nevada. So you will find this tale in both the California and Nevada indexes for theGeoZone.