The Mother Lode – part 2

Sutter Creek is about four to five miles northeast of Jackson and Amador is a couple of more miles northeast of Sutter Creek. Both towns gained importance because they were at the northern edge of the Mother Lode as some called one of the most extraordinary quartz veins in the world. There were many other lodes in California such as those around Grass Valley and Nevada City but none as impressive as this one. Most veins run only a few miles while six or even eight miles is considered far, but this one could be followed clearly all the way to Mariposa, or more than sixty miles.

Sutter Creek 1853

It is made up of hard, white quartz that is rich with particles of gold that are often invisible to the naked eye. The vein varies from about one foot to thirty feet wide and runs with about a 45-degree cant to the east. In some place there are course side branches, called companion veins that extend its width to over a hundred feet. Nor does it run always in a straight line, although it usually stays within a half mile of what might be deemed a normal course, it can sometimes be found as far as two or three miles away. And other entirely different veins can approach so close as to be confused with the large lode.

All of the streams of the Southern mines, from the Mokelumne in the north to the Merced in the south, as they run from the Sierra Nevada, flow through or across this vein. Around Jackson and Sutter Creek it is the source of the wealth in such early shafts as the Oneida, Hayward, and Keystone Mines, three of the richest quartz mines known. All have produced millions of dollars. Farther south it appears again near Carson Hill just north of the Stanislaus River, at the Golden Rule and Rawhide mines east of Jamestown, and at Coulterville and Pine Tree near Mariposa, leaving the entire region between the northern and southern limits of the vein full of rich locations.



  1. Stephy Smith says

    Hi John. Love all the gold rush history!

  2. What a truly amazing geological event. I am still trying to get my mind around a vein that runs so strongly through such a large area. Fascinating.

    • The really remarkable thing is that it wasn’t just one huge vein of gold, there were many. There was a parallel vein in a limestone cave that ran close to the mother lode. In Hangtown there were the blue and gray channels. In the Yuba River area there was the great blue lead and many more smaller veins could be found all over the gold country. There was a lot of gold in California. there still is.

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