Mining in Del Norte

Del Norte County yielded several types of metal to miners who worked here more than 100 years ago. Gold mining began in 1851, and by the late 1800s remained one of the “most important” of its industries, according to A.J. Bledsoe, who published a history of the area in 1881.

By that date, Bledsoe included placer diggings on Smith River and the Klamath along with the off-and-on efforts to mine the black sands at the foot of Gold Bluffs, south of the mouth of the Klamath River. Although considerable money had been invested at Happy Camp, Bledsoe wrote that it remained the only section of the county not yet to receive any capital benefit.

At the time he published his history, Bledsoe said the most important mine in the Happy Camp District was Del Norte Hydraulic Mining Company’s. Its diggings were a mile above the town.

But four other mines and various river bar claims also dotted the area. The gold mining areas of Big Flat, Haynes Flat and French Hill were worked since about 1854.

Miners worked the Smith River with placer mining methods, but did not find large amounts of gold, so when the beach sands of Gold Bluff began drawing notice the miners paid great attention. Other gold-bearing sands were found at Humboldt Bay, Klamath River and Crescent City, but Gold Bluff became the most consistently mined for about 20 years.

Gold was not the only metal mined, however. Silver, copper, chrome, iron and coal also drew investors.

Silver was not found in a specific area but rather in ledges throughout the county. Copper was localized around Low Divide in the north-west part of the county, in the vicinity of the chrome-bearing ores. Low Divide also contained “enormous” amounts of iron ore of various grades.

Although coal was discovered at Point St. George, Bledsoe noted that “like every other mining company, with the exception of the Tyson company, the coal company was destitute of capital.” It sank a shaft about 70-80 feet, but was told to suspend work by its creditors.

Bledsoe described the coal as brown and of valuable properties. Copper mining in Del Norte County had a 20-year run before the industry went belly up.

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