At the turn of the 19th century, Quartzville, in the eastern portion of the county, was the center of a genuine gold rush, drawing many settlers to this part of the Willamette Valley. A town of 1,000 people was located in the mountains 30 miles northeast of Sweet Home, above what is now Green Peter Lake.
According to U.S. Mint reports, 3,938.92 ounces of gold were taken from mines in the Quartzville area in the peak year, 1896. The strike was promising, but – here’s the good news for today’s prospectors – it never reached the mother lode. By the early 1900s, most of the mines – such as the Jackass, Donaca Bar, Albany, Lawler, Lone Star, Red Bull and White Bull Mountain operations – had been shut down and the town of Quartzville was dying.
Although mines in the area were shut down because they were not profitable, the motherlode has never been found, so that gives prospectors a good reason to keep searching.
Remnants of Quartzville and the mines’ boarded-up entrances can still be found in the region.
Today, nine miles of open corridor along Quartzville Creek is open to the public, particularly in the Yellowbottom area, and there is plenty of opportunity for eager gold seekers to pan and dredge along the creek bed, only a 35-minute drive from Sweet Home. Wire and pocket gold is still fairly plentiful, by gold-seekers’ standards. Caution: There are some club and private claims in the area, so be careful not to trespass onto those.
Most of the gold found there is small – flour gold – but it’s there. Warning: Although the public gold mining area in Quartzville Creek is open to anyone who wants to hunt for gold, beware that you don’t stray onto one of the many private claims in the Quartzville area, usually marked with white posts with silver tape around the top. The silver tape should include the name of the claim, serial number and a basic description such as “southwest corner” and, possibly, longitude and latitude info.
In addition to gold, east Linn County also has an abundance of opportunities for rockhounds. For more on that, see our Rockhounding page, below this one on the pull-down menu.
Also of interest to prospectors is White’s Electronics, makers of some of the finest metal detectors on the market, which is headquartered in Sweet Home and offers tours and a museum.