Colorado Mining History
In 1849 and 1850, several parties of gold seekers bound for the California Gold Rush panned small amounts of gold from various streams in the South Platte River Valley at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in then western Kansas Territory, now northeast Colorado. The gold nuggets initially failed to impress the gold seekers, but rumors of gold in the Rocky Mountains persisted, and several small parties explored the region. In the summer of 1857, a party of Spanish-speaking gold seekers from the New Mexico Territory worked a placer deposit along the South Platte River about 5 miles (8 kilometers) above Cherry Creek (in what is today the Overland Park neighborhood of Denver.)
The following year, William Greeneberry "Green" Russell led a party of Cherokee gold seekers from the State of Georgia to search for gold along the South Platte River. In the first week of July 1858, Green Russell and Sam Bates found a small placer deposit near the mouth of Little Dry Creek (in present day Englewood) that yielded about 20 troy ounces (622 grams) of gold, the first significant gold discovery in the Rocky Mountain region.
News of this discovery soon spread and precipitated the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. An estimated 100,000 gold seekers flocked to the region over the next three years. The placer gold deposits along the rivers and streams of the region rapidly played out, but miners soon discovered far more valuable seams of hard rock gold, silver, and other minerals in the nearby mountains.