The California Gold rush of 1849 can still be experienced
all along California’s famous “Route 49.”
It’s a great place to launch a series of family adventures along the Sierra Nevada mountains; hunting for, and finding Gold! The 49’er worked the gold from the Sierra foothills – something over 3+ billion dollars worth! Evidence of their lives, lore and adventures can still be found along this route through the same gold fields they worked in 1849.
Nearby, National parks like Yosemite and Sequoia serve as a backdrop for your historic gold rush adventures. This mother lode region is truly the heart and soul of the “Golden State.”
We have a collection of recommendations regarding places to stay and great prospecting along the highway. Good food and many stories about interesting and dynamic Gold Rush characters like Grizzly Adams, Bret Harte and Mark Twain…
“The Mother Lode” along highway 49 was so named because it was such a rich band of quartz lode gold. That lode gold ore fed the gold placers along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada as far back as the tertiary period (way before the gold rush of ’49).The Mother lode placer deposits were (and are) legendary for the quality of nuggets and blue/gray quartz gold leads known as the “great blue lead.”
Let’s look at some of the towns along this route. These are places that were world famous back in 1849. They drew the hard working and hard living prospectors and a huge infrastructure to support them. Names like “Levi Strauss & Co.” were forged in this crucible. There is always the story behind the story that you can only find after visiting these places. That’s a big part of the Gold prospecting adventure of today.
California Highway 49:
Beginning just below Oakhurst just north of Fresno and south of Yosemite National Park,
California route 49 runs along the Mother Lode region of California,
The route goes through such historic gold mining communities as
- Sonora, Columbia,
- Angels Camp,
- San Andreas,
- Grass Valley, and
- Nevada City.
Turning eastward toward the Sierra Nevada, California Route 49 climbs up the Sierra Nevada, passing through Downieville en route to its end point at California Highway 70 in the town of Vinton.
There’s a great set of adventures for you all along this unique highway (including finding gold).
PS. Here’s a Wikipedia article with more detailed info: on California’s Historic Gold Rush – Route 49
Lynda Lovejoy says
I live in Loudoun County, VA. sitting on a big ridge of blue quartz, with lots of iron in the rocks. In the creek, a lot of rusty quartz and quartzite, (mostly opaque orange and reddish quartz) with other types of quartz like chalcedony, jasper, as well as gneiss, slate, etc. Some marble. Also hematite. A large majority carry the black-red-purple hues. We believe we have found gold dust in the creek, as well as gold dust mixed among the blue quartzite, usually with a creamy sandstone..
Do you have any members or chapters in VA? There are a couple of abandoned gold mines in the area.
Sure enjoyed the video on Platinum. I have a platinum placer claim in Colorado that Im beginning to work, will keep you posted. Thanks again for your advice.
Beverly Burnette says
I live in Ga. I have really got a lot out of the videos that I saw you in, on YouTube, which makes me want to buy the videos. But was thinking, I hesitate to buy them, until I see pics and results that it actually works for people, and you. Since I live in Ga, would it be worth my time getting you think? It’s like pulling eye teeth trying to find an untouched place here in Ga. But am I just looking where everyone else has already been… Please let me know. I really want to get the videos if you think I could really use it. I would also like to teach this my kids too.
Thanks for all your shared wisdom!! It’s very much appreciated.. My family owns about 10-15acres right on the western side of the logtown ridge formation..I’ve put in alot of time studying and learning as much as i can recently but truthfully i’m a rookie with limited experience..I was hoping i could get some input about the general location where our property is at?? The land seems ideal, if compared to the indicators of gold bearing clues i learned about from your videos..I’ve located a massive quartz vein on our property and the quartz it’s self has alot of red,black and green oxzidition mixed with alot of tan,brownish, redish clay?? I feel there’s alot of potential here but i could really use some advice? thanks to anyone who can help.. god bless
Prospector Jess says
Sounds like an interesting site…
Hi Jess, I was stationed in the Army in Alaska, and in 1974 while digging my Foxhole, down stream from a Glacier, I cut through a vain of what I thought was pure gold. I used my spoon to dig the gold out and placed it in my still pot (helmet) and helmet insert until they both were heaping full. My squad I was with, including myself, new nothing about gold, so we just determined that I was too lucky to find real gold…so long story short, before leaving the area we always fill in the foxholes we’ve dug…and I did that one; but before completely filling it in, just below the surface of the ground, I made a silhouette of a woman and strategically emptied the contents of gold on the upper torso of the sculpture making it look as if it were May West laying there…we all marveled at it for a minute, then I covered it up with dirt and blended the surface back to it’s original appearance. As far as I know it is still there and in tact as I had left it. The only thing that I know that changed for sure is, the area I found the gold is now on what was later in the 1990’s declared to be an Indian Reservation. I think my best case scenario now is to just be able to say it’s there and be done with it, what do you think?
Great advice but I do have a question.
Many areas, BLM & FS, have public campsites that post “Hobby Gold Panning” yet some of these same sites have claims on them, lode and placer. I don’t worry about the load claims but what about the placer claims?
Who trumps who in these areas?
I am not too worried about the major rivers as most of the claim holders are dredgers and can’t currently dredge 🙁
Prospector Jess says
Legitimate claim holder trumps, the problem is in proof of a correct claim. Even if you can’t dredge, claim holder can legally take your equipment. Not too likely for a pan, but a high banker…
In fact some of the court lawsuits on dredging are based on the fact that California overrode 1872 federal law with the dredge ban. This should get interesting as many of the largest mining companies and the USA depends on the mining law of 1872 to make raw resources for manufacturing things like copper wire and steel…
Robert S says
Every time I see a article about prospecting along the 49 highway I hope to see this… Almost all gold bearing areas along this route are claimed or are on some ones property. Be aware of this.. make sure not to trespass or claim jump. You can be arrested or worse . I had some bad experiences in my rookie days following advise of articles such as these. I still run into people after 30 years of prospecting who think they can just go up into gold country and start prospecting anywhere a article suggests there is gold. Yes some public areas are set aside but unless you are a member of a prospecting club or a claim owner you wont find much but a rich history.
Prospector Jess says
Right you are, so
1. Join a club like the GPAA
2. Get your research on claim owners done early
3. Make sure you try to contact and work an access profit sharing deal (in writing)
4. Do Not Claim Jump or Trespass (you lose your gear, may end in jail or worse as gold fever can make people very possessive and aggressive)
I’m putting this claim thing together into one of our gold claim module video series…
hi jess,just joined your site seem to be very knowledgble so maybe you can help me.i just got back from a weekend to the san gabriel river,beautiful place if the local residents werent such nasty pigs and park rangers dont seem to exist.the smell and the garbage was terrible.so we only stayed 2 hours and headed to big bear.i am a member of the gpaa but still a greenhorn when it comes to digging in the right place.i have gone to gpaa claims and found some fine gold but working 300 pounds of sand for quarter gram is not fun.i was hoping you could tell me of a good place to go considering i am in las vegas.i havent bought the high end of equipment but i have several sluices a cheap metal det. my family and i really enjoy getting out but its hard to keep there interests when we dont find alot.i do research on history and where gold has been found,but i really could use an experienced prospector to point me in the right direction and what equip to take.also what is your opinion of the falcon metal det.?any help and advice would be appreciated,thanks,TIM
Prospector Jess says
Sorry your San Gabriel outing was spoiled. It is a pretty good area, but very popular with the locals. Unfortunately for prospectors many of those locals do make a mess. Often the GPAA members are the ones cleaning up…
The GPAA is a great start, make sure you connect with a local chapter too.
I agree with you about wanting to be more efficient when you look for gold. That’s why we created http://hunting4gold.com.
There are many prospects out in the desert, the San Fernando GPAA often goes out to Dusenberg.
Sounds like a start, I still use my gold pan & sluicebox more than anything else (especially the gold dredge for now 🙁 )
I agree with you, It’s no fun for the family if you don’t find gold. Perhaps everyone can do a bit more research to learn where to start finding gold and how to more efficiently mine gold when you locate it. Stay tuned for more Q & A’s to help with your family – prospecting team’s efforts.
How are you researching? What do you know about paystreak formation? For more on paystreaks go here: http://hunting4gold.com/blog/where-does-gold-go-in-a-storm/
I’m not that familiar with the Falcon detector, what do you think of it?… For me, Garrett, Whites, Fisher and Minelab are my main metal detector focus.
any help and advice would be appreciated,thanks,TIM
Will do, Prospector Jess
John Green says
About 32 years ago I was with a guy who had a drywasher. We were headed down stream along the San Gabriel River,at least I think were headed down stream, only we were up on the road. He pulled off in a parking area to the right. We went across a ravine, then around a point in the hill. We didn’t walk far and he showed me an ancient stream maybe a 100 feet or so above the river. We dug for maybe an hour or so, feeding his drywasher. We wound up with some nice Gold, If my memory is correct I thing about 9 pennyweight. Since I am on the other side of the U.S. not much chance that I will get back there. Maybe I should look at Google Earth.
Prospector Jess says
Sounds like a great experience!