Articles - Gold Ridge Mine

GOLD RIDGE MINE EXPLORATORY

by Hugh Blanchard

   From 1897 until 1907 hard rock gold mining was performed under several owners a mile above San Antonio Falls on a ridge just west of San Antonio Creek’s headwaters. The mine was worked under several names but is now known as the Gold Ridge Mine. A kitchen and mess hall, a  5 stamp mill, five cyanide leaching tanks, a Huntington rock crusher and a aerial cable tram were placed on the mill site. However the ore was low grade and an avalanche finally ended the operation. Today all that remains is the rock outlines of the kitchen and mess hall and the foreman’s cabin, some small pieces of metal, the rock crusher and of course the mine. John Robinson in his  coffee table book The San Gabriels relates the history of the mine and includes pictures of its operation.  
 
                        rock outline of the kitchen/mess hall (Aug 2004)
 
                        the remains of the rock crusher (Aug 2004)

   Although not posted the area has been a private enclave within the Angeles National Forest since 1925. It has had several owners over the years . Donald Dominousky who resides in the Mt. Baldy area has been its owner for the past 10 years.  
   The ruins and mine are located in San Bernardino County just outside the Los Angeles County line. They are reached by hiking up the well known San Antonio Ski Hut trail for two miles. About half a mile before reaching the Ski Hut (open on weekends) the trail goes between two rocks. The rock on the left is five  feet  high and the one on the right four feet. You can turn left at this point which has been dubbed “Boulder Gate” or continue for another hundred feet where there is a faint use trail.    

                  
                                        Boulder Gate (Blanchard 2004)

   An easy descent of less than 300 feet brings you to a narrow shelf where there are some remains of the mine. The most conspicuous is the rock outline of what was the kitchen and mess hall. Then a steeper descent of 200 feet brings you to a rotary crusher. This is a circular, open topped bowl in which a rotating arm moves the ore chunks over the ribbed bottom and sides crushing them to powder. A stamp mill achieves the same results by having one or more stampers drop crushing the ore.

 
                 View of the mine area from the ruins (Richard Collier 2005)

   You are now just above the streambed. Go upstream about 300 feet until reaching a conspicuous wash on your left.  Watch out for stinging nettle which is prevalent along the stream.Then work your way up the gully for about 200 feet  but stop about 30 feet before reaching a conspicuous large brown boulder. The tunnel is just off the wash to your left. It is partially concealed by bushes and can not be seen until you are almost upon it.
   In the summer of 2004 the writer was informed that the water level in the mine was high and the mine ended after 60 feet. In August I made a solo trip and  encountered numerous gnats just inside the entrance. Almost  immediately I found myself in cold chest deep water. At about the 30 foot mark with the water level seeming to get higher and what appeared to be a solid rock wall about 30 feet in front I turned back as the mine seemed to end at that point.
   However on the grotto trip to the Ski Hut on September 26 three grotto members (Daniel Veelik, Curtis Wheeler and David Bowman) entered the mine and to my surprise and delight reported that the mine continued far beyond the 60 foot mark. Also the water level continued dropping until near the end of the mine there was no water at all. They could see light from the entrance almost all the way in. Calciferous deposits were found on the wall  near the end. 

 
            digging a trench to let the collected water out of the mine... (Collier 2005)

 

                       after much work there was just enough room
                          to squeeze into the mine (Collier 2005)

   Unfortunately the Angeles National Forest fire closure took effect the very next day  delaying further exploration until the summer of 2005. At that time it was found that the mine entrance had been completely covered with rocks and gravel from the record breaking snow and rain of the previous winter. On October 5th, 2005 the entrance was opened sufficiently to permit two grotto members (Curtis Wheeler and David Lew) to explore the mine and  to estimate its length as about 160 feet. The water depth at the entrance is 4 ft 10 inches and gradually decreases  to none at the end. At about the 80 foot mark the tunnel veers  about 30 degrees to the right. 
 
                      inside the entrance of the Gold Ridge mine (Nov 2005)

   Finally in August 2008 after a four year lapse the writer with the assistance of Daniel Veelik and Davon Grey made it to the end of the Gold Ridge Mine. The water was still up to my neck and as cold as ever. The mine was measured at 187 feet. It makes a 12 degree turn to the right at 146 feet and becomes increasingly shallower after that distance. It took almost an hour to dig the entrance open. Two curious big horn sheep observed our efforts.

   My sincere appreciation to Bob Strickland,  volunteer Sierra Club caretaker at the Ski Hut who first informed me of the location of the ruins and tunnel. Also Duane McRuer and Byron Prinzmetal,veteran Sierra Club leaders who are co-authors of a natural history guide of  Mt. Baldy (Duane coined the term Boulder Gate) and Daven Gray whose knowledge of Mt. Baldy area mines and mining techniques is unequalled. Without their assistance this article could not have been written.   

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