Prospecting For Nuggets In Arizona's Plomosa District
By James E. Mulkey
From Page 62
August, 2001 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2001 Lost Treasure, Inc. All rights reserved.

You're probably familiar with the exploits of Captain Pauline Weaver, a trapper who discovered gold at what became known as the La Paz District in 1862, who went on to discover an even richer placer field at Rich Hill, Arizona. But are you familiar with the nearby Plomosa District?The Plomosa District, like its neighbor, the La Paz District, is located a few miles east of the Colorado River near Quartzsite in what was Yuma County, but, since 1983, is now La Paz County, Arizona.In the 1860's, miners moved on whenever they couldn't recover at least a pound of gold a day. One of the places they moved to was the Plomosa District, an area that practically surrounds Quartzsite. During the 1860's, Fort Tyson was located in the heart of the district to protect miners from raids by marauding Indians. Today, Fort Tyson, which is located in Quartzsite, is restored and encompasses a mining museum and a complete assay shop.The Plomosa District was formed in the 1860's and includes the eastern and western margins of the La Posa Plain. This plain separates the Plomosa Mountains on the east from the Dome Rock Mountains on the west at the border with the La Paz District. The district surrounds the town of Quartzsite, covering about 7,500 square miles.The most important placer fields in the Plomosa District are to be found in the La Cholla, Oro Fino and Middle Camp, according to "Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona," an Arizona Bureau of Mines publication. But what was not mentioned in that publication was the amount of mining activity throughout the district for ores other than gold, including scheelite, silver, lead and zinc in widely dispersed areas. These areas include those found along Gold Nugget Road, which is southeast of Quartzsite, and along both sides of the road to Bouse, which is northeast of Quartzsite, as well as in the area of Boyers Gap, which is northwest of Quartzsite.When two friends of mine, Dave Hudson and Ray Whitehead, a.k.a. Red Bottle Ray, received Fisher Gold Bugs from their wives, we decided to explore the northern portion of the Plomosa District after seeing a handful of good-sized nuggets supposedly found there. We made two trips to the region. Each time, Dale Schutte, an experienced and highly successful nugget-shooter, came with us. On both trips, we used two vehicles to explore old lead-silver mines, gold mines and lead mines in addition to collecting highly fluorescent ore specimens on the dumps at various lead-silver and zinc mines in the district.During the second of our two visits to the district, we prospected in the washes near Mudersback Mine where we had been told we would find gold. It turns out that the gold was in the form of flakes and required a dry washer to recover it. Although we had brought three Fisher Gold Bugs, a Minelab SD-2100 gold detector and a portable blacklight with us, we hadn't thought to bring along a dry washer.The Excelsior mine group, including the Mudersback Mine, was where pockety chalcopyrite, bornite and pyrite in a pyrometasomatic deposit, oxidized near the surface, with a garnet epidote gangue and strong hematitic-copper carbonate gossan was found in an irregular deposit that is in a faulted and deformed metamorphosed Mesozoic limestone inter-bedded with schist and intruded by quartz monzonite.The Mudersback Mine produced 700 tons of ore averaging about 4.4 percent copper, 0.67 ounces of silver per ton, and 0.03 ounces per ton of gold, according to Stanton Keith in his "Index of Mining Properties in Yuma County, Arizona."To reach the first of two areas where we hunted, take Highway 95 north from Quartzsite for a distance of six miles to Plomosa Road and follow this paved road for a distance of 10 miles toward Bouse. The turn-off to the first group of mines we visited, including the Climax, Tough Nut and Southern Cross groups (silver-lead with some gold), leaves the highway at a point 10 miles from Highway 95 and winds its way south past a shallow shaft currently under claim for gold ore (whose tailings are composed of bright red hematite) a few hundred yards west of the main dirt road. At this point, you will be about a mile south of the paved highway. Keep to the main road, which we negotiated in a two-wheel drive pickup, and continue a little less than a mile to a fork in the road.The right hand fork leads south to some very interesting lead-zinc mine shafts and tunnels (where drifts were followed) at the Climax Mines one and one-half miles from the fork. Highly fluorescent ore specimens can be found at the mines both inside tunnels and on the tailings. The main road continues in an easterly direction for a little more than a mile to the Tough Nut Mine and a half-mile further across a small valley to the Southern Cross Mine.To reach the Mudersback Mine, which we found during our second visit to the region, drive one mile further toward Bouse along Plomosa Road over a low altitude pass where a historical marker is located and drive down onto a cactus-covered plain. Look for a turn-off on the right-hand side of the paved highway and follow this dirt road, which leads south in a meandering fashion, to the Mudersback Mine at a point almost two miles south of the highway. Be sure to purchase the Ibex Peak 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic map before you visit the area, as it will help you locate mines and roads in the region. You can purchase this map from either a commercial map dealer or order it by mail by writing to The U. S. Geological Survey Map Sales; Box 25286, Federal Center, Building 810; Denver, CO 80225.A word of caution: miners followed drifts in many of the tunnels in the district, leaving deep, uncovered shafts, which are quite hazardous to the unsuspecting. Again, do not attempt to enter any of the mine shafts in the district as these are, almost without exception, bottomless pits.Several mines in the Plomosa District were good gold producers, including the Old Maid Mine where spotty, fine-grained gold in hematite and vuggy quartz with some oxidized copper mineralization, in narrow, lensing and irregular veins was mined from the early 1900's up through 1938. The Old Maid Mine produced 150 tons of ore averaging about 2.6 ounces per ton of gold, 0.6 ounces per ton of silver, and 0.1 percent copper, according to Stanton Keith. Although deposits of copper-gold and gold-silver ores were mined at both the Mudersback and Tough Nut mines, these are lode mines with small amounts of gold being found that had to be refined to recover values.What we wanted was to find a region within the Plomosa District where we could find nuggets with our gold detectors. Dale had heard that nuggets could be found in the area around Dripping Springs in the southern part of the Plomosa District using metal detectors. Chances are, the person who showed us nuggets, claiming they came from deposits northeast of Quartzsite, found them near Dripping Springs.Dripping Springs, along with dozens of inactive gold and silver mines, can be reached by taking Gold Nugget Road Exit off of Interstate 10 just east of Quartzsite. You will need two topographic maps: The Plomosa Pass Provisional Edition, 1990, and Crystal Hill. You will also need a four-wheel drive vehicle to visit most of the mines in the region. The first group of mines includes the Gold Nugget Mine which is located a little over one and three-quarter miles from the Interstate, at the end of a side road that leads eastward to the southern end of Guadalupe Mountain. Free, course gold with some cerussite, which is fluorescent under a shortwave ultraviolet lamp, anglesite, galena and copper minerals were found and mined in the early 1900's up through 1951 at the Gold Nugget Mine that averaged about 1.0 ounces of gold per ton with 2 ounces of silver per ton.Leave the Gold Nugget Mine and drive south on Gold Nugget Road along Italian Wash. One mile from the turn-off for the Gold Nugget Mine, another side road leads toward the southwest and the Belle of Arizona Mine, where spotty gold and silver deposits were found in quartz stringers and mined between the years 1937 and 1961. Return to the main road and continue south down Italian Wash. Be sure to avoid turning toward the southeast into Apache Wash at a point about a half-mile south of the turn-off for the Belle of Arizona Mine. Drive for a distance of a little over two miles past the turn-off to the Belle of Arizona Mine and drive past several mines and prospect holes located alongside the road until you reach the entrance to a canyon on the west side of what has now become little more than a Jeep trail. Park your vehicle and prepare for a two-mile hike into Dripping Springs.You will find numerous Indian petroglyphes in the canyon, which means that you are in the right location to find Dripping Springs. You will find gold nuggets throughout this area and on the floor of canyons to the north.Sources:Arizona Bureau of Mines, "Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, Bulletin Number 168," University of Arizona, Tucson, 1961.Heydelaar, Pieter, "Successful Nugget Hunting, Volume I," self published,1991.Johnson, Robert, "Gold Diggerss Atlas," Cy Johnson & Son, Susanville, Calif. 1992.

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