Welcome to Western Mining History

Mining Regions of the Western United States

The image above illustrates the incredible scale of the mining regions of the western United States. Yellow dots are gold mines, black dots are non-gold mines. Map icons show the distribution of historic mining towns. An interactive version of this map is available here.

Gathering Gold: The Mines of Bobtail Hill

"Gathering Gold - An Illustrated Treatise on Modern Methods of Operating Gold Mines and Marketing Their Product" by General Frank Hall gives a fascinating look at the mines of Bobtail Hill at Blackhawk, Colorado around 1900.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Darwin, California

Featured Mining Town: Darwin, California

Darwin, California was the site of an important silver rush in the mid 1870s. The high grade surface ores were exhausted in a couple years and the district quickly declined, but eventually large scale mining of lower grade ore revived the town, which became the Death Valley region's most permanent settlement.   Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Bourne, Oregon

Featured Mining Town: Bourne, Oregon

Bourne, Oregon was settled in 1888 to support the rich gold mines that surrounded the town. During the 1890s this was a typical western mining town, however by 1905 Bourne became the center of an elaborate mining stock scheme that spanned a decade and bilked investors worldwide out of millions of dollars.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Downieville, California

Featured Mining Town: Downieville, California

Downieville, California was settled at the convergence of the North Yuba and Downie rivers. Originally known as The Forks, the town was the site of some of the richest placer gold diggings ever discovered.   Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Pioche, Nevada

Featured Mining Town: Pioche, Nevada

Pioche, Nevada was the site of a significant silver rush in the early 1870s. Located at an extremely isolated region hundreds of miles from the nearest rail link, Pioche nonetheless became one of the of the largest towns in the Nevada. This was also one of the most lawless and violent mining camps in the West, notorious for frequent acts of murder and armed conflicts over the mines of Treasure Hill.  Continue Reading

Goldfield, Nevada: The Arthur Allen Albums

Photographer Arthur Allen captured many important scenes from Goldfield, Nevada's peak years - from the budding camp that was just a collection of tents in the fall of 1903, to the thriving community that was described as "The World's Greatest Gold Camp", and was Nevada's largest city by the middle of the decade. "Goldfield, Nevada: The Arthur Allen Albums" presents over 100 photos of the city, the mines, and cultural events that occurred during Goldfield's boom years.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Leadville, Colorado

Featured Mining Town: Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, Colorado was one of the world's greatest mining cities. The camp grew to be a fabulous city in the clouds built on a mountain of silver.  Continue Reading

Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works

Death Valley's Harmony Borax Works operated during the 1880s. The borax operations of Death Valley made the "20 Mule Teams", the wagon trains that hauled the finished borax across the desert, famous in American culture.  Continue Reading

Featured Mining Town: Jerome, Arizona

Featured Mining Town: Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona was a major copper mining city located on an improbably steep location on the side of a mountain. This billion-dollar camp was once the fourth largest city in Arizona. Today, Jerome is a popular tourist destination.  Continue Reading

The Western Miner: A Photo Collection

While many romantic tales have been told of the prospectors that discovered the quartz leads that would become great mines, and of the mine owners and entrepreneurs that built empires of industry in what was a vast wilderness, it was the miner that ultimately did the difficult and dangerous work that extracted the great wealth of the West.  Continue Reading