In Search of Gold – American Girl Mine, CA
Our super-sweet boondocking spot out here by Ogilby Road has some richness to it too. In fact history tells us that we’ve parked the rig right next to gold. Oh yeah real sparkling, honest-to-goodness gold, and some of it pretty recent too. I did this on purpose of course, just in case we should strike it rich while boondocking, but sadly neither Polly nor the cats seem to have any natural talent for gold-digging (darn animals!). Still, it’s a fascinating little place and a fabulous spot to explore, which is exactly what we’ve been doing. And having waaaay too much fun in the process.
This is the story of the Cargo Muchacho Mining District, a rather extensive set of chocolate-colored mountains ~8 miles west of Yuma. The initial discovery of the yellow treasure here in the hills probably dates back to Spanish explorers around the 1600’s, but the more recent history starts in the mid-1800’s. Story has it that two Mexican boys found gold ore in the hills and came back with their shirts loaded = the muchachos cargados (loaded boys) thus giving the name to the range. Another story tracks gold discovery to a wondering mule from members of a California-bound wagon train who were camped near the mountains in 1862. More than likely both stories (and many others) are true. Either way the news spread and by mid-1880’s the area was booming with mines and miners most of which lived in Ogilby/Hedges area (later called Tumco).
The American Girl Mine was one of the biggest, and (as it turned out) has one of the most recent stories. It is said to have delivered ~205,000 tons of ore in the “boom-times” up to 1930. It lay inactive until the 1980s where the claim was bought by the Newmont Mining Co. re-assessed and re-opened in 1989 for another ~10 years of active mining before declining gold-prices shut it down again. These days the area seems to be entirely owned by BLM altho’ I saw an active listing for the place on the net (anyone got a cool $3M spare?).
But the history pales in comparison to the living experience, and we’ve been having a TON of fun exploring. The whole area in front of our RV is criss-crossed by old mining roads, hidden mining pits, cast-away artifacts and old chutes & structures. You could literally spend weeks driving around finding new spots, and even do some prospecting too. One of our boondocking neighbours (a lovely Canadian bloke who came by to say “hi” on his motorbike) told us he’s been coming here over 8 years and seen plenty of folk raking out areas looking for gold. You can even prospect for other super-cool minerals including Kyanite.
We may, or may not have found gold (I ain’t saying you know), but the area here has definitely been priceless. Whether or not you find the real thing, I guarantee the experience will be well worth it.
So from that point of view we found exactly what we were looking for…
P.S. I’ve got soooo many more cool pictures of this area that there are at least 2 more posts coming up incl. all boondocking details, but if you’re simply dying to get here right now here are the directions -> Take I-8 from Yuma ~14 miles west until you hit Ogilby Road (also called S34) on your right. Approx. 5 miles down the road you’ll cross some rail-road tracks and see a dirt road (American Girl Mine) off to your right. Follow it as far as your heart desires…