Potholes District

Publication Info:
Gold Districts of California
Bulletin 193 California Division of Mines and Geology 1976
Table of Contents

Related: Where to Find Gold in California

This district is in the southeast corner of Imperial County about 50 miles east of El Centro and 10 miles northeast of Yuma, Arizona; near the Colorado River and west of the Laguna Dam. Nearly all of the gold produced here has come from dry desert placer deposits. The value of the total output is estimated at $2 million. The district was so named because the gold was found in small depressions or pots.

Small-scale mining began here in 1775-80, when California was under Spanish rule, and continued into the early 1800s when the state was under Mexican rule. The most productive period, apparently from the 1860s to the early 1890s, saw as many as 500 Mexicans and Indians working the dry washes. Winnowing was with blankets, and, later, hand-operated bellows-type dry washers were employed. Nearly all of these were one or two-man operations. When a deposit was worked out the miners would move on to another one, usually in the same district. These operations had mostly ceased by 1900, as the deposits were largely exhausted. Later, several attempts were made here and in the Cargo Muchacho and Chocolate Mountain districts to the west to work the dry placers by large-scale methods. All of these attempts failed because of high equipment and operating costs, erratic distribution of gold values, rough terrain, and scant moisture, which even in desert placers, makes it difficult to separate the heavy and light particles. Also, much of the easily recoverable gold had already been removed from these deposits.

Crawford, J. J., 1894, Pot Holes Mines: California Min. Bur. Rept. 12, p.242.

Haley, C. S., 1923, Dry placers-Gold placers of California: California Min. Bur. Bull. 92, pp. 154-160.

W. B. Tucker, 1926, Imperial County, Potholes placer: California Min. Bur. Rept. 22, p. 261.

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