Silver City District

Publication Info:
Nevada Mining Districts (Compiled Reports)
The Districts Described in This Section are from the following publications:

Mining Districts of Nevada - Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 47 (updated 1998); Placer Gold Deposits of Nevada - USGS Bulletin 1356 (1973)

Table of Contents

Silver City District


Other Names: Columbia, Devil’s Gate, Wildcat, Chinatown, Devil’s Gate and Chinatown, Gold Canyon, Dayton, Badger, Blue Sulphur; Blue Sulphur Spring, Blue Sulfur Springs, Sulphur Spring, Spring Valley, Palmyra

County: Lyon

Discovered: 1849

Organized: 1859

Commodities: gold, silver, lead, copper, iron


Situated in Gold Canyon and centered on the town of Silver City. Originally named Devil’s Gate district; Wildcat was another name for Devil’s Gate. Lincoln (1923) listed Devil’s Gate and Chinatown as an alternate district name. Placer mines in Gold Canyon between Silver City and Dayton are included in the Silver City district. The Badger area was near Sutro, and the Blue Sulphur [Spring] area was to the southwest of Silver City.

Hill used Palmyra (in the Pine Nut Range southeast of the Como district) as an alternate name for Silver City. Columbia district included both the Silver City and Comstock districts. The Spring Valley district was south of Silver City, in the Daney Mine area. Silver City is commonly included in the Comstock district along with the mines in Storey County.


Territorial Enterprise, April 31, 1860; Virginia Evening Bulletin, July 14, 1863, 3:1; DeGroot, 1863: Stretch, 1867, p. 26; Browne, 1868, p. 328; Whitehill, 1873, p. 101, 102; Angel, 1881, p.498;King, 1885, p.511; Stuart, 1909, p.140; Hill, 1912, p.219; Lincoln,1923, p. 131; Stoddard, 1932, p. 56; Stoddard and Carpenter, 1950, p. 80; Moore, 1969. p. 24; Ansari, 1986, p. 11, 46, and 1989, p. 62, 69

Silver City (Gold Canyon, Dayton) Placer District Description


South slope of the Virginia Range, north of the Carson River Tps. 16 and 17 N., R. 21 E.

Topographic Maps

Dayton and Virginia City 15-minute quadrangles.

Geologic Maps

Moore, 1969, Geologic map of Lyon, Douglas, and Ormsby Counties, Nevada (pi. 1), scale 1:250,000. Thompson, 1956, Geologic map and sections of the Virginia City quad- rangle, Nevada (pi. 3), scale 1:62,500.


From Reno, 29 miles south on U.S. Highway 395 to Carson City; from there about 11 miles northwest on U.S. Highway 50 to Dayton. Placers are west and north of Dayton and are accessible by dirt roads.


The first discovery of gold in Nevada was made in 1849 in gravels near the junction of Gold Canyon and the Carson River near the present location of Dayton. This discovery led, after 10 years, to the discovery of the Ophir mine of the Comstock Lode—the first major location on the lode. The Ophir was discovered by Peter O'Reiley and Patrick McLaughlin, two placer miners looking for unworked placer gravels at the head of Six Mile Canyon.

Gold and silver have been recovered from the gravels along Gold Canyon, Six Mile Canyon, and the north side of the Carson River. Early placer miners worked Gold Canyon from the vicinity of Gold Hill (sec. 32, T. 17 N., R. 21 E., Virginia City quadrangle, Storey County) downstream to the Carson River (sec. 23, T. 16 N., R. 21 E., Dayton quadrangle, Lyon County) and Six Mile Canyon (6 miles north of Gold Canyon in T. 17 N., R. 21 E., Virginia City quadrangle, Storey County) for an undetermined distance to its head.

After the discovery of the Comstock lode, most placer-mining activity was concentrated in Gold Canyon, in particular, in the lower part of the canyon in the alluvial fan west of Dayton. This area, and the gravels in the townsite of Dayton, northwest of the Carson River, were the scene of large-scale placer-mining operations after 1940.

The gravels at the Rae placer (sec. 16, T. 16 N., R. 21 E.), the site of intense placer operations during the period 1920-23 and in 1940, are on a terrace sloping southwest to the Carson River. These gravels are at least 90 feet thick, but the gold values decrease below 40 feet. The gravels northwest of the Carson River within the townsite of Dayton (sec. 23, T. 16 N., R. 21 E.; the site of dredging during the period 1941-42) are more than 120 feet thick. The gold-bearing gravel there is overlain by barren soil 2-8 feet thick.

Production History

The Silver City district placers are the most productive in Lyon County and among the most productive in the State. Total early placer production is unknown, but placer mining probably continued on a small scale throughout the latter half of the 19th century. The most productive years were probably those between 1849 and 1859, before the discovery of the Comstock lode, when the area was solely a placer-mining region. Lord (1883, p. 24) estimates a placer production of $548,600 from 1850 to 1857.

Placer-mining activity during the 20th century has continued steadily, mostly on a small scale. Five large-scale operations since 1900 recovered considerable amounts of placer gold and silver. Gold Canyon Dredging Go. (1920-23) operated a large electric bucket-line dredge in Gold Canyon from about 2 miles south of Silver City (in stream gravels in the Manuel King placer ground) to an area west of Dayton (in terrace gravels of the Rae placer ground). This operation recovered a total of 14,621 ounces of gold and 7,482 ounces of silver. The Oro-Neva Dredging Co. (1940) operated a dragline dredge on the terrace gravels of the Rae placers, west of Dayton, recovering a total of 3,365 ounces of gold and 1,703 ounces of silver.

The Dayton Dredging Co. (1941-42) operated a large dragline and floating washing plant on a strip of gravels 2,000 feet wide and 2,200 feet long on the north side of U.S. Highway 50 within the townsite of Dayton, close to the original placer discovery site. This operation recovered about 32,000 ounces of placer gold (silver recovery is undetermined) . After World War II, the Dayton Dredging Co., then called the Grafe Dayton Dredging Co. (1946-47), resumed work on company placers, recovering about 3,900 ounces of gold. The Dayton Co. worked the placers again during the period 1952-54, but recovery was only about 500 ounces for each year.


The placers in the Silver City district were derived from erosion of the Comstock lode. The lode deposits consist of brecciated quartz veins, in places exceedingly rich in silver sulfide and native gold (rang- ing in age from 13.7 to 12.4 m.y.; M. L. Silberman, oral commun., 1970) found at intervals along the Comstock fault and the Silver City fault. The ratio of silver to gold is reported as 40 : 1. The placer gold contains a large amount of silver (average gold fineness 660), and the weight of silver recovered with the placer gold amounted to about half that of gold recovered.

The possibility of finding placer gold in Tertiary gravel deposits in the area has been mentioned by many geologists. The young age of mineralization (Miocene or Pliocene) precludes the presence of placers in gravels older than Pliocene.


Bonham, 1969: Summarizes earlier work on geology of the Comstock lode; dates mineralization of lode.

De Quille, Dan, 1891 : Early history of placer discovery in Gold Canyon; production per day from gravels per man; production per day per man on residual gravels at Gold Hill; discovery by placer miners h Six Mile Canyon of the Ophir silver mine; production from this residual placer.

Gianella, 1936: Distribution of placer gold; ratio of silver to gold in ores and in placers.

Lincoln, 1923: History, placer-mining operations, and origin of the Gold Canyon placers.

Lord, 1883: Chapters 1-3 describe early placer mining; daily yield per day per man; early lode discoveries by placer miners; estimates of placer production; problems in placer mining.

Mining World, 1941a: Construction and operating details of 14-cubic- yard bucket dragline dredge used at Dayton, 1941-42; length, width, and depth of area to be dredged; distribution of gold in gravels; thickness of barren overburden.

Moore, 1969: Production during the period 1940-43; plate 2 locates placer deposits; brief history of early placer mining.

Paher, 1970: History of the town of Dayton includes brief history of placer mining; photograph of dredge used in 1897 included. Silver City and Johntown are described with history of placer mining near these sites.

Southern Pacific Company, 1964: Locates placer operation during the period 1920-23; reports extent of stripping on Southern Pacific land; concludes that part is worked out.

Stoddard and Carpenter, 1950: History and location of placer-mining operations during the period 1920-43; placer-mining techniques; production from the different operations; average value of gravel.

Thompson, 1956: Notes extent of placers; describes lode mines.

U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1940-43, 1946-47, 1952-54: Reports large-scale placer operations; production.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1920-23: Reports large-scale placer operations; production; yardage mined (1922).

Vanderburg, 1936a: History of early placer activity (1849-57); average wage per day per man; source; placer-mining operations during the period 1920-23; production; placer-mining techniques; describes Rae placer ground; depth of pay gravels; distribution of gold in gravels; average value of gravels; fineness of gold; history of opera- tions along Carson River to recover gold in mill tailings from Cornstock lode.

Young, 1920: Reports activities at opening day of dredge mining in Gold Canyon; summarizes early history of placering; gives construction features of dredge. 1921: Detailed description and chronology of dredge construction; source of water and power used in dredge operations; brief description of placer ground and problems anticipated in dredging.

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