Where is Melvin Road?

Mountain Secrets

editorial@sierrastar.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Two weeks ago I was searching through my file cabinet and pulled out one of my old real estate files. In the 1990s, I handled mining claims for clients who were looking for a different type of real estate investment.

As I paged through my files, one transaction came to my attention. It was in 1995 that I assisted my client in selling his claim to the Rich Hill Mine. Up until that time most of my negotiations on mining claims were centered around the Mariposa area, but this claim was west of Highway 41 in Coarsegold.

Many of you may not realize it, but Coarsegold was a hot spot for that elusive yellow metal called gold. By 1850 there were over 10,000 individuals living within and around the mountains surrounding Coarsegold.

One of the original mining families and large land holders during that time was the Melvin family. In fact a one-lane dirt road that follows the west tributary of Coarsegold Creek is named Melvin Road. This almost forgotten road leads into the center of early gold prospecting.

The stream still displays the exposed bedrock and mounds of diggings or tailings from those previous years of panning (placer mining). When the stream played out, those miners followed the color upstream until locating its origin before digging the mine shafts following the gold vein (hard rock mining).

Looking at the sloping mountain sides above the creek, you can see how the earth has been worked. Deep trenches, terraced or platform type formations surrounded by mounds of tailings identify this worked area.

On the northern hillside is a large sealed Tungsten mine. Besides gold the presence of an odd yellowish-green-colored mineral, called tungsten, shared these shafts. It too suffered the same fate as gold and silver mining. With new federal and state regulations, the small miner ceased operations.

Throughout this section of mountains there are many famous local mines, Melvin, Hawkeye, Rich Hill, Conquistador, Texas Flat, Lily, Morning Star — just to mention a few of the many open and closed shafts not identified in historical records.

On this bright clear February morning, I decided to go back in time and revisit that old forgotten road. The old steel gate still extends across the road just before crossing Coarsegold Creek. I believe 1996 was the last time I walked into this area. The creek looks the same but this old road seems to be used more often. Maybe there are a few new families in the area.

While hiking this old road, I passed the location of the old Melvin home which burned down around 1986; the fire was caused by careless renters. All that remains today is its scared foundation.

Being somewhat familiar with this area from my past business dealings, I decided to leave the road and explore areas within the BLM boundary. I wondered how many surface and abandoned mine shafts I could locate. Within two hours, I located more than a dozen abandoned diggings and shafts, some sealed and two still open.

I cannot recommend this type of hiking to the novice or someone who is not familiar with this area. Most of this area is private land, so check with the forestry to identify which is BLM land and which is private. But if one stays on the road, you will see the scars of the early pioneers who came to this area in search of their personal fortune along Coarsegold Creek.

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