The San Gabriel Range: Southern California Gold Nuggets

Large 7.5 ounce California gold nugget


Only is short distance north of Los Angeles is a very productive gold area in the San Gabriel Range. This was the closest gold bearing location to me when I first started prospecting. I could be up here and digging for gold in less than 90 minutes from my home in the LA area. I found my first nugget here and this place still yields some decent flakes to local prospectors who are willing to work for their golden rewards. If you are interested in finding some gold flakes or nuggets of your own here, take a look at the following information....... 8 ounces of large Alaska gold nuggets

Not far from sunny Los Angeles, California in the San Gabriel Mountain Range, the San Gabriel River has yielded a significant amount of placer gold, including some good sized nuggets.  The San Gabriel Mountains are located in a part of the Transverse Range geologic province of Southern California, just a short drive north of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.  Because of its easy and convenient access, this location has become a very popular spot for local prospectors - and much of the placer area is designated for recreation and anyone is welcome dip their gold pan in the water and prospect here for free. Areas with easy public access are visited by many people now that the price for gold has risen to record heights.


Placer gold was discovered in the San Gabriel range in the 1840s and the area has had several productive periods since that time.  Nuggets and flakes of placer gold have been obtained from both the stream gravels as well as older terrace bench gravels above the river. Some good sized gold nuggets more than an ounce in size have been produced from these deposits, but fine flakes are much more common. In the early days, these bench gravels were mined by hydraulic mining as well as tunneling along the bedrock. While a number of streams and tributaries in the region west of Mt. San Antonio (also known locally as Mount Baldy) have been productive, the East Fork of the San Gabriel River has produced most placer gold. Some of the local prospectors focus on these more remote streams as they are not worked as hard as the ones within a few hundred feet of a paved road.

If you would like to read more information on digging for gold in general, and some instructions on how to pan for gold, be sure to check out my website on gold panning located here:

Instructions On Panning For Gold

Basic Placer Mining Methods

Early Day Gold Mining In the San Gabriel Mountains

In 1874, it was reported that more than $2 million in gold had been produced from this area - equivalent to roughly about 100,000 ounces.  In addition to the productive placer deposits, there are also several hard rock gold quartz mines located in this area.  Lode gold mining on the local quartz veins was most productive during the period from 1903 to 1908, however there was some activity again in the 1930s.  The estimated total output of the lode mines here is about 50,000 ounces.

The gold quartz veins occur in schist and gneiss, both of which are metamorphic rocks. While the values are spotty, the ore deposits are rich in places.  The veins are usually less than 3 feet thick and do not extend to any great depth.  The oxidized zones near the surface yielded the richest ore. The erosion of the veins in these hard rock deposits are the source of the placer gold nuggets found in the gravels.


The East Fork of the San Gabriel River is a popular spot for both picnic goers and prospectors from southern California, and still yields small amounts of gold. The East Fork was actually the second spot where I was able to find some placer gold of my own when I first started prospecting. While the bed of the River does contain gold, the gravels are very deep and getting down to bedrock is about impossible in most places. I always did my best at this location when I was digging in the bench gravels above the modern stream. I would dig the material from the bank, then haul it down to the river where I processed it in my sluice box. Small crystals of garnet are common in the concentrates from this location. Most of the country rock is gneiss and contains mica, a mineral that sometimes looks like gold and may fool beginning prospectors.

It is not unusual to see a large number of folks out here on weekends, although not all of them are prospectors - some are merely there for a family picnic and to escape the traffic of the city. A dozen folks here and perhaps a half a dozen there are spread along the San Gabriel River engaged in the quest for gold.  The most productiv4e gold placer area is located about 30 miles north of Azusa and deep in the Angeles national Forest, from the Camp Williams trailer park upstream for some distance. The San Gabriel River is not terribly rich, but it does consistently yield some nice small nuggets, flakes and colors of gold to the hard-working prospector.

My First Little Gold Nugget From the San Gabriel River - I Still Have It!



Want to know a little bit more about this crazy prospector guy? Well, here's a little bit more about me, and how I got into prospecting: Chris' Prospecting Story  

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