French Corral is in northwestern Nevada County about nine miles northwest of Nevada City. Much of the gold production came from hydraulic mines between here and Birchville to the northeast.
The town was named for a mule corral erected by a Frenchman, who was the first settler in the area. The principal period of gold mining was from the middle 1850s to the 1890s; there has been minor work since. Sometime before 1867, a 7.5 carat diamond, the largest known to have come from California, was found here in a sluice box.
French Corral was the terminus of one of the first long-distance telephone lines in the United States. Installed by the Edison Company about 1878, it connected Birchville, North San Juan and North Bloomfield to Bowman or French Lake, in the high Sierra Nevada some 58 miles east. It was used primarily to send messages about the delivery of water to the hydraulic mines, but it also was used by Western Union to send other messages.
The total production of the district is unknown, but it has been estimated to be valued at between $3 million and $4 million. Lindgren, in 1911, estimated that 32.5 million yards of gravel had been removed and that 20 million remained; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in 1891, estimated that the same amount had been removed, but that only 10 million yards remained.
A major channel of the Tertiary Yuba River entered the area from the northeast. It extends southwest for a distance of about four miles in this district. The gravels deposited by this channel are 150 to 250 feet thick and 600 or more feet wide. The gravels have yielded gold throughout, but the quartz-rich lower gravels were the richest. Bedrock is granodiorite with greenstone to the north. Also there are some gold-quartz veins and bodies of mineralized granodiorite and greenstone.
Lindgren, Waldemar, 1895, SmartsviJIe folio, California: U. S. Geol. Survey Geo!. Atlas of the U. S., folio 18, 6 pp.
Lindgren, Waldemar, 1911, Tertiary gravels of the Sierra Nevada: U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 73, pp. 123-125.
MacBoyle, Errol, 1919, Nevada County, French Corral mining district: California Min. Bur. Rept. 16, pp. 7-11.