Spring Valley District
Other Names: Fitting, American, American Canyon
Commodities: gold, silver, lead, mercury, copper, antimony, sericite-pyrophyllite
The most southern of the districts on the east side of the Humboldt Range. Located south of the Indian district, and shown as American district on the General Land Office 1866 map. Stretch (1867) also used American name; Spring Valley name was used in 1880s during major placer mining activity. Fitting, for camp of Fitting, was used in the early 1900s.
General Land Office, 1866; Stretch, 1867, p. 53; Ransome, 1909, p. 35; Hill, 1912, p. 212; Lincoln, 1923, p. 218; Stoddard, 1932, p. 81; Vanderburg, 1936b, p. 42; Lawrence, 1963, p. 196; Papke, 1975, p. 54; Johnson, 1977, p. 90
Spring Valley Placer District Description
East flank of the Humboldt Range, Tps. 28 and 29 N., Rs. 34 and 35 E.
Unionville 15-minute quadrangle.
Wallace, Tatlock, Silberling, and Irwin, 1969, Geologic map of the Unionville quadrangle, Pershing County, Nevada, scale 1:62,500.
From Lovelock, 13 miles north on Interstate 80 to Oreana and junction with State Highway 50. From there, it is about 16 miles east across the Humboldt Range to Fitting in lower Spring Valley Canyon. Placers are near Fitting and south along the flanks of the range.
Placers were worked in Spring Valley Canyon, Dry Gulch, and American, South American, and Troy Canyons on the east side of the Humboldt Range. The Spring Valley district was formerly called the Indian Silver mining district, and it is under this district name that the first discovery of placer gold was recorded. Placers were discovered in Spring Valley Canyon in 1875, when the Eagle mine, now known as the Bonanza King mine, was one of the most active in the area.
From the beginning, the placers were highly productive. Descriptions of placer-mining activity during the period 1875-76 state that in places 2 ounces of gold dust per day per man was recovered.
Spring Valley Creek heads near the crest of the Humboldt Range and flows east about 4 miles to Buena Vista Valley. The creek flows through Spring Valley, an alluvial basin, for about 1.5 miles near the crest of the range. Most placer-mining activity was concentrated in the steep part of Spring Valley Creek, east of Spring Valley Basin (secs. 35 and 36, T. 29 N., R. 34 E., and sec. 31, T. 29 N., R. 35 E.).
The gravels in the lower part of the canyon are 20—30 feet thick and contain gold in gravel horizons underlain by clay. The gold recovered from these gravels was coarse, and nuggets worth $3 to $5 were recovered in 1911. The fineness of the gold recovered in one placer operation ranged from 696 to 730.
Placers have been worked on a small scale in Dry Gulch, 1 mile south of Spring Valley Canyon (sees. 1 and 2, T. 28 N., R. 34 E.) since at least 1882.
American Canyon heads in the alluvial basin east of the crest of the Humboldt Range at Sage Hen Springs and flows about 4 miles east to Buena Vista Valley. Placers have been worked intensively from the edge of the range upstream for 2 miles (secs. 17 and 18, T. 28 N., R. 35 E.; sec. 13, T. 28 N., R. 34 E.). Most of the placer mining was done in the 1880's and 1890's by Chinese miners who dug shafts 40-100 feet into the gravels.
The gold, both fine and coarse in size, was concentrated in a pay streak underlain by clay at an average depth of 60 feet but' at shallower depth at the upper end of the placer than at the edge of the range. Little or no gold was found below the clay or on true bedrock.
A continuation of the deposit was reportedly found in gravels overlain by lava near the edge of the range (sec. 17, T. 28 N., R. 35 E.). Schrader (1915, p. 368-370) describes placers overlain by basalts at the 4,700-foot elevation in Walker Gulch, half mile north of American Gulch (N/2 sec. 17, T. 28 N., R. 35 E.). At the time of his visit, the deposit was being prospected along shafts 60 and 200 feet deep. The gold is described as particles generally valued at about one-fifth of a cent but reaching a maximum of 1.5 cents, and the gravels were estimated to average (at that time) $.75 to $1.00 per cubic yard.
South American Canyon is less than 1 mile south of American Canyon and joins American Canyon at the edge of the range. Placers in South American Canyon are found in a bowl-shaped alluvial area (probably in the S1/2 sec. 13, T. 28 N., R. 34 E.). Shafts in the sub-angular gravels were dug to depths of 15 feet.
Troy Canyon is 2 miles south of South American Canyon. Placers in this canyon were not so extensive nor productive as those in the northern canyons, and most of the work was apparently concentrated in gravels near the edge of range (sees. 31 and 32, T. 28 N., R. 35 E.)
The placers in the Spring Valley district are said to be the most productive in Nevada. Placer production estimated to be as much as $10 million, largely from American and Spring Valley Canyons, is attributed to early work by Chinese placer miners. Certainly, every description of the placer area credits the large amount of work done by these early miners, but production records for Humboldt County (before 1919, Pershing County was part of Humboldt County) do not reveal large amounts of gold.
It is generally supposed that the Chinese miners never revealed the amount of placer gold recovered from the area, and, indeed, shipped large amounts of their proceeds out of the country.
The Chinese miners, who numbered in the hundreds, dug numerous shafts and systematically drifted along pay streaks and bedrock to recover the placer gold. The ground in American Canyon was worked by lessees who held blocks of land 20 feet square. Each block reportedly yielded $1,500 to $3,000 in gold.
Spring Valley Canyon has been the scene of most placer-mining activity in the district during the 20th century. Most of the work done over the years was small-scale drywashing, but two large-scale operations worked the lower part of the canyon. The first dredge in Spring Valley Canyon, also the first in Nevada, was the wooden dredge operated by the Federal Placer Mines Co. from 1911 to 1914.
The dredge worked stream and bench gravels with an average recoverable value in gold of 31.6 cents per cubic yard. During the period 1947-49, the Spring Valley Gold Dredging Co., and then the Southwest Dredging Co., operated dryland dredges, dragline excavators, and a dryland washing plant in lower Spring Valley Canyon. The dredge tailings from this operation can still be seen at the mouth of the canyon. Both operations were successful, the operation in 1949 yielding about 2,000 ounces in placer gold.
Production figures for the 20th century from Dry Gulch and American, South American, and Troy Canyons are not available, but production has been small compared with that from Spring Valley Canyon.
The only important lode mine in the Spring Valley district is the Bonanza King mine (formerly called the Eagle mine) located half a mile south of Spring Valley Canyon (NE# sec. 1, T. 28 N., R. 34 E.). The ore there contains gold, galena, pyrite, sphalerite, and tetrahedrite. Assuredly, erosion of parts of the Bonanza King vein must have contributed some gold to the placers in Spring Valley Canyon, but this same vein could not have been the source of the gold in the placers to the south.
Gold prospects occur along several small quartz-tourmaline veins which cut Rochester rhyolite at Gold Mountain, south of Spring Valley (center of sec. 3, T. 28 N., R. 34 E.). Similar quartz veins containing native gold were observed near the crest of the range (R. E. Wallace and D. B. Tatlock, written commun., 1971). These veins are related to swarms of rhyolite porphyry dikes but are in Limerick greenstone or Rochester rhyolite host rock.
It has been suggested by geologists who studied the area in the past that the gravels in American Canyon represent an ancient drainage that at one time crossed the Humboldt Range and connected with gravels in Limerick Basin and Canyon. Granite pebbles were reported in the American Canyon placers, although there is no granite exposed in that area. These pebbles may be from the leucogranite exposed in the Limerick Basin area, but this aspect of the geology of the Humboldt Range has not been studied in detail.
Bergendahl, 1964: Placer-production estimate for Spring Valley district.
Burchard, 1883: Production from Spring Valley and Dry Gulches. 1884: Production.
Lincoln, 1923: Gives dates of working placers in American Canyon; distribution of gold in gravels; dredge operations in Spring Valley in 1911.
Locke, 1913: Describes placers in American Canyon; production; early mining history; extent of placer; depth of pay streak; distribution of gold; notes placers found underlying lava.
Murbarger, 1958: Describes abandoned placer camp in American Can- yon. Details how Chinese miners worked placer gravels by construct- ing shafts and drifts to false bedrock.
Paher, 1970: Brief history of early mining by Chinese miners; brief history of dredge mining; photograph of Federal dredge at work dur- ing the period 1910-14 included.
Ransome, 1909b: Describes extent of placer mining in American Can- yon; depths of pay streaks; minerals associated with gold in placers.
Raymond, 1877: Notes placer production from gulch near Eagle mine.
Schrader, 1915: Describes placers in American Canyon, Walker Gulch, and Spring Valley and South American Canyons. Details of placer occurrence in gravels buried by basalt in Walker Gulch.
Southern Pacific Company, 1964: Located placer gravels at the mouth of Troy Canyon.
Vanderburg, 1936a: History; extent of placer workings; production; placer-mining operations; distribution of gold in gravels; size and fineness of placer gold; placer mining in 1936. 1936b: History of placer mining in Spring Valley; placer-mining operations in 1930's in Dry Gulch and American and Spring Valley Canyons.
Walker, 1911: Describes dredge used in American Canyon; depth and average value of gravel; size of gold recovered; problems encountered in dredging.
Wallace and Tatlock, 1962: Outlines geologic setting for lode gold occurrence; notes situations for placer gold concentration.
Whitehill, 1877: Placer-mining activity in 1875 and 1876; locates deposits in relation to Eagle mine in Indian district (now Bonanza King mine in Spring Valley district); production per day per man; number of men working placers.