Big Bug Creek Drainage Area

Publication Info:
Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona
Geological Survey Bulletin 1355 (1975)
Table of Contents

Related: Where to Find Gold in Arizona

Author's note: The most productive placers in Arizona are in the high mountainous region of south-central Yavapai County. Most of the placers are concentrated on the slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains in the vicinity of many small lode deposits. Because of the large number of small mining districts that include parts of gold-bearing streams. I have grouped the placers on the basis of drainage areas rather than formal mining districts


Yavapai County

East flank of the Bradshaw Mountains, Tps. 12 and 13 N., R. 1 W.; Tps. 12 and 13 N., Rs. 1 and 2 E.

Topographic Maps

Mount Union and Mayer 15-minute quadrangles.

Geologic Maps

Anderson and Blacet, 1972a, Geologic map of the Mayer quadrangle, Yavapai County, Arizona, scale 1:62,500.

1972b, Geologic map of the Mount Union quadrangle, Yavapai County, Arizona, scale 1:62,500.


State Highway 69 leads east and south from Prescott to Humboldt, Poland Junction, and Mayer. Placers are found adjacent to the highway near Mayer and are easily accessible by dirt roads from the highway.


Placers are found in stream gravels and gravel-covered mesas in a roughly triangular area that extends for about 20 miles east and northeast from the head of Big Bug Creek. Most placer-mining activity was concentrated in the part of Big Bug Creek, tributary gulches and gravel benches in the area bounded by McCabe, Hum boldt, and Mayer (Tps. 12 and 13 N., R. 1 E., Mayer and Mount Union quadrangles). Apparently, there was little or no mining in the part of Big Bug Creek downstream from Mayer.

Small placers were worked in the upper reaches of Big Bug Creek below the Mesa mine, about 2 miles south-southeast of Walker, on the south side of the creek (approximately sec. 9, T. 12 N., R 1 W., unsurveyed, Mount Union quadrangle); in Eugene Gulch, a major tributary to Big Bug Creek (south edge of T. 13 N., R. 1 W., Mount Union quadrangle), and in Chaparral Gulch and other small gulches near McCabe (W 1/2 of T. 13 N., R. 1 E., Mount Union quadrangle).

Production History

The placers in the drainage area of Big Bug Creek were discovered during the 1860's, but the greatest activity in placer mining was during the 1880's (Wilson, 1961, p. 48). Wilson states that no estimate of early production is available, but recorded production for the 20th century (second only to Lynx Creek in Yavapai County) indicates early production probably was large.

In the eastern part of the area, north and northwest of Mayer, many small-scale and some large-scale placer operations have been active during the 20th century. The Shank and Savoy property (or the Savoy property) was active for many years; this placer is in a side gulch on the west side of Big Bug Creek and extends about 3 miles northwest of Mayer (probably Grapevine Gulch, sec. 8, T. 12 N., R. 1 E., Mount Union quadrangle).

The gold-bearing gravels overlying cemented gravels were bouldery to sandy, with little clay. The gold here was irregularly distributed, flat to round particles that were as much as 50 cents in value. This placer was worked by a number of companies and probably produced most of the placer gold reported from the district during the 1930's and 1940's.

Other placer-mining activity was concentrated in the area surrounding Mayer (especially sec. 22, T. 12 N., R. 1 E., Mayer quadrangle) where the placers are found in a wide gravel-covered area between outcrops of metamorphosed Precambrian volcanic rocks. The area was worked intensively for many years and during the 1932-33 season was reworked by individuals who mined the gravels by tunneling and packing the pay dirt to sluices, rockers, or small concentrating machines.


The placers in the Big Bug district originated by erosion of many small, and some large, gold-bearing veins on the east flank of the Bradshaw Mountains. Some veins, such as the Mesa mine in the upper part of Big Bug Creek, and several veins in the vicinity of McCabe, are considered to be Precambrian in age; other veins, in the vicinity of Poland and Providence, are considered to be later, probably Laramide (Lindgren, 1926, p. 127).


Allen, 1922: Placer operations during the period 1900-1901; reason for failure.

Arizona Mining Journal, 1919: Placer-mining activity in Eugenia (Eugene) Gulch.

Koschmann and Bergendahl, 1968: Placer gold production.

Lindgren, 1926: Locates small placers on upper Big Bug Creek.

Randolph, 1903: Notes presence of placer gold.

Wilson, 1961: Location; extent and character of gold-bearing gravel; placer-mining operations.

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