Illinois River & Josephine Creek
Located in the western side of Josephine County, between latitude 42′13′ and 42′29′ N, longitude 123′38′ and 124′05′ W, the Illinois district had a total production in 1852-1953, between 5,000 and 10,000 ounces of Oregon placer gold along the Illinois River downstream from the mouth of Josephine Creek, and were very productive. The Illinois River and tributaries were worked almost continuously from 1852 to 1942, and actively continues today by hobbyist gold prospectors and serious miners. The river flows west into Curry County.
Some of the tributaries such as Althouse Creek and Briggs Creek have already been described and Josephine Creek will be described here. The first discovery of was made in 1850 and was made at the mouth of Josephine Creek and not long later Josephine Creek and it’s tributaries. Canyon Creek, Days Creek, and Fiddler Gulches, were places where gold mining was quite productive. The bedrock is decomposed serpentine, and aside from gold and platinum group metals in the waterway, gold is also found in two partially cemented gravel benches. The highest of which is 150 above the current stream level. These gravels were worked by hydraulic methods as well as, by drifting . Up to 20,000 ounces of Oregon gold was recovered. Between 1886 and 1911, considerable gold was recovered using hydraulic methods from a broad gravel bench on both sides of the Illinois River below it’s junction with Josephine Creek.
Much of the gold and platinum group metals found in the Illinois River and it’s tributaries came from mineralized zones in the district where there were small lode gold mines. Near the headwaters of the Illinois River where you would find Waldo, the famed “”Sailors’ Diggings” can be found. The Sailors dug a 41 mile ditch to bring water for the huge hydraulic and sluicing operation that soon followed. The placer mining continued into 1942, with intermittent activity into the present. This area is noted for large nuggets.
On Jack Creek and nearby Horse Creek in the Josephine Creek area, placers were worked extensively before 1910. No official records were found by the author on the total production of these two creeks.