Written and submitted by Tom Bohmker
Southern Oregon is famous for it’s pocket gold deposits which are on or near surface enrichments of lode gold. Many of these finds were quickly worked out and few ever developed into any kind of conventional lode mine with sizable tonnages of ore and ore processing mills. Most pocket deposits were shallow holes worked with hand tools, a little dynamite and the gold separated from the country rock in mortal and pestle. Details of pocket mining prospecting and case by case discussion can be found in the book The Elusive Pocket Gold of SW Oregon available from Cascade Mountains Gold.
Some months ago, I receive some emails from a mining acquaintance who reported on a rich recent pocket find in the Hungry Hill Area. A photo sent to me shows the digging at 4 feet down and a large mass high grade about 4 inches across. Another photo shows approximately 20 to 30 ounces of gold that had just been crushed out of the host rock. Initially reports claimed 20 Ibs of gold have been recovered from this pit. A recent photo shows the excavation nearly 8 feet deep and the yield is said now to be much more. If these figures are accurate this could be one of the largest pockets in recent decades.
Geology of pocket deposits in the Hungry Hill Area
This area is on the contact of Meta-volcanic such as greenstone and certain meta-sedimentary rock units with the large serpentine belt that stretches North by Northeast from the Oregon/California border to an area near Canyonville, Oregon. Most of the gold deposits are in the rock units bordering the serpentine . There are a few larger quartz veins exposed on the surface for fractions of a mile and have been worked hundreds of feet deep. However, many of the pocket deposits are broken up tiny veinlets of quartz which may be only followed down a few feet before pinching and losing value. Others may show little quartz but contain gold values in shear zones of localized faulting. Where such gold bearing lodes are on the surface there can be additional concentration of gold values by eroding away of the lighter ingredients of the host rock or from the formation of laterite type soils.
The pocket belt is especially strong from the head waters of Canyon Creek just a couple miles west of Cave Junction . From here the belt heads North by Northeast to Hungry Hill; then the Pocket Knoll and across the Illinois River to the drainages of Briggs Creek. The creeks and gulches that drain this area are famous for rich placer gold deposits. Interestingly only a few of these lode deposits ever developed into large underground mines as the Peck Mine and the Eureka Mine on Soldier Creek a tributary of Briggs Creek Most of these diggings were shallow surface pits quickly worked out and abandoned. On hill sides such as Hungry Hill the slopes still show the out lines of hundreds of shallow pits. The old timers did not find them all!