Gold Districts of California
Location. This district is in southwestern Butte County. It is mainly a dredging
field that extends from just west of the city of Oroville southwest along the Feather
River to a point about five miles due east of Biggs. The field is one to two miles wide
and nine miles long.
History. Shallow placers were mined here during the gold rush. The area was
settled in 1849: Oroville originally was known as Ophir City, but the name was changed in
1855. Around 1895, W. P. Hammon and others tested the area to determine the feasibility of
mining on a large scale. They introduced bucket-line dredging in 1898, the first in
California. The field was highly productive from 1903 to 1916; in 1908 there were 35
dredges and 12 dredging companies active in the field. Output later declined, but dredging
was done again from 1936 to 1942 and 1945 to 1952. The dredge field is now an important
source of sand and gravel. The total Output from dredging is estimated to be about
1,964,000 ounces of gold.
Geology. The gold occurs in river gravels and adjacent terrace gravels on the
flood plain. The gravels rest on a bedrock of soft but compact andesite and rhyolite tuff.
Coarse boulders, which become finer downstream, are present along with alternating sand
layers. Digging depths ranged from 25 feet upstream to as much as 55 feet downstream. The
gold was fine and occurred chiefly in the gravels. It was 915 to 930 in fineness. Dredge
recoveries ranged from 15 cents to 25 cents per yard of gold at the new price. Minor
amounts of platinum also were recovered.
Concerns. Butte Dredging Co., El Oro Dredging Co., Feather River Development
Co., Gold Hill Dredging Co. 1938-50, Gold Run Dredging Co. 1906, Indiana Gold Dredging Co.
1908, Kentucky Ranch Gold Dredging Co. 1909, Natomas Cons. 1909-17, Oroville Dredging Ltd.
1906-16, Oroville Gold Dredging Co. 1941-44, Oroville Union Gold Dredge. Co. 1914, Oro
Water Light & Power Co. 1906-16, Pacific Gold Dredging Co. 1906-16?, Pennsylvania
Dredging Co., Shasta-Butte Gold Dredge. Co. 1928-?, Viloro Syndicate Ltd. 1904-16?, Yuba
Cons. 1935-52. Many other earlier concerns were consolidated around 1906.
Excerpt from: Gold Districts of California, by: W.B. Clark, California
Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 193, 1970.
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