In Search of Gold – American Girl Mine, CA

Polly and I check out an old ore shoot in the hills by our RV

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).

Is it the light or is it gold? If you see a new rig on the blog you'll know....

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.

This is the pure, solid gold baby!

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…

Paul poses by one of the massive American Girl mining pits

Biking with Polly in search of American Girl Mine

Go find that gold, Taggart!

A sunset worth millions right from the RV

Yet ANOTHER cool sunset!

Late afternoon "prospecting" in the hills
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, I think we’ll be heading back out to the desert in mid-Jan after we’ve finished what we need to do in San Diego. It is just SOOOOO much fun out there!

  1. says

    I’m planning on heading to Ogilby Rd. tomorrow for perhaps a week or so. Heard there are lots of boondockers out there. That true ? I like a place where there are at least some other RV’ers around.

    • libertatemamo says

      Most of the RVs we saw were around Sidewinder Rd so if you head there you’ll have some company. Sidewinder is the first dirt road on your right after the railroad tracks on Ogilby.

      Where we were boondocking (out some miles back on American Girl Mine Rd) it was very quiet and only very, very few rigs around.

      We just left this afternoon otherwise we’d have invited you to join us! Enjoy the area. It’s great!


      • says

        Nina, Now I’m confused ?? I was told Sidewinder Rd is the first exit after the Border Patrol and Ogilby is the second exit ?? I boondocked last year at the first exit and found it to be noisy because it was so close to the I-8. This place had a gas station (Shell I think) where you turned right.

        Oh well, I’m going to get on the road today so I guess I’ll find out.

        • libertatemamo says

          You want to take Ogilby off I-8 to the north side (it’ll be a right turn if you come from yuma). Then drive ~5 miles north on Ogilby until you cross some railroad tracks. As soon as you cross those tracks there will be 2 dirt roads going off to the right. One is Sidewinder (the first one), the next is American Girl Mine. It gets confusing because both Sidewinder and Ogilby continue on (there’s even a portion of Ogilby south of I-8 where people boondock, but that’s a horribly noisy area). But as long as you follow those directions you’ll get to the right spot. Hope that helps!

        • libertatemamo says

          DO hope you enjoy the area and I am SO sorry we’re not there to meet-up!! We have appts. here in San Diego this coming week, so just came into our next-month spot yesterday. I’ll be checking your blog for updates!

  2. jil mohr says

    this is an area we like too…we went there out first year rv’ing….I totally get what the attraction is for the two of you…enjoy….love seeing the pics…

  3. says

    We have such good memories of that area, Our second time there we drove further up Ogilby as we found American Girl very washboarded..
    Did our laundry further up on the left a Gold Rock RV park.

    • libertatemamo says

      I must say it’s a pretty cool spot. The dirt road was in good condition when we went. A little washboarded, but very wide and pretty flat. Didn’t know about the laundry so that’s a great tip! Thanks girl that!

  4. says

    Just found you guys and a going to start back at the beginning and read up in both the blogs. Love boondocking! Love that you are retired so early in your life. Good for you.

    What happened to Investing for a Living? Sounded like a great learning experience for me but when I went to the link the post was 2 months old., You must be still “investing” are you just no longer keeping your readers informed?? Say it’s not so!

    • libertatemamo says

      Ahhhh…sadly Paul has lost steam on the blogging side. He is still actively investing & putting more and more time into research & learning, but has kinda dropped the blogging. At some point I’m hoping to spend some time to go thro’ his posts and organize them just to keep a record out there of all the good stuff he’s written.

  5. Mark, Dawn and Fleeby says

    Looks like the mine is back in production, judging by the amount of truck traffic, road grading and improvements (in the form of new turn lanes on Ogilby Rd) within the past few weeks. A group of us have been here off of American Girl Mine Rd for the last week and the aforementioned improvements were done shortly(?) before our arrival. As you head north on Olgilby and cross the railroad tracks look for the right turn lane which is American Girl Mine Rd. About a mile up, on the North side of the road we found a water pumping station for the road watering truck. Good camping on both sides of the road here!

    • libertatemamo says

      You know we saw the trucks going in an out of there when we stayed in Jan, so I guess the mine is in full swing again. Cheers for the update.

  6. says

    That used to be my home. I lived there for 12 years. My dad re-opened that mine and started mining it in about ’78-’79. We sold it in ’86 or so ( I think, I was just a kid) But that desert was my playground. Really fun to see all those pictures of where I used to hike and explore.
    ~ Katherine Wolff Grote

    • libertatemamo says

      AMAZING!! love it how I hear stories like this through the blog. Can’t believe your dad actually mined that mine. Cooool! Do you have any special secret spots or things to see in the area you want to share?

      • says

        There used to be tons of amazing places but from the pictures I’ve seen, Newmount Mining Co pretty much stripped that whole valley where I used to live. I just came across some amazing pictures of our homestead and what it used to look like. It’s nothing like that now. There used to be acres of hard packed white tailings from previous mining there (before we claimed that area) that I used to play in as a kid. I would come home covered in white dust. It’s a wonder I didn’t kill my lungs! LOL! There used to be canyons to play in, rock formations that would fill up with water after a good rain we would swim in, and mine shafts we would insanely explore. I think all those things are gone. I am trying to plan a trip out there in the spring. I am in Texas now so we’ll see how that goes :)

        • libertatemamo says

          Interesting! There are still lots of fun canyons to explore around there and a few washes that carry a little more green (typically the ocotillo bushes bloom there earlier than other spots), but I haven’t seen the white tailings or rock formations w/ water. It’s fun to hear from someone who lived in the area!


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