British Columbia’s “Gold Hole” – Fact Or Fiction?

In the Cariboo District of British Columbia, about a quarter of a mile past the Barkerville intersection, on the Quesnel-Bowron Lake road, there can be seen a large, water-filled pit. Surrounded by heaps of gravel and rusting scraps of iron machinery, it is the remains of one endeavor by men whose dreams of golden treasure were confounded by the simple, though effective forces of nature.

At the bottom of this pit, a very rich deposit of placer gold is believed to lie. It is estimated that $4,000,000 million in gold awaits those that can solve the mystery of the pit.

During British Columbia’s gold rush era, alluvial gold in incredible proportions was often found on top of bedrock. A half mile away, toward Barkerville, an early mining operation on the east hank of Williams Creek had revealed evidence of an ancient river bed. It had paralleled the present direction of Williams Creek before its course was lost when it veered north-northeast and down into the swampy valley where Williams Creek and Willow River join. Despite the fact that many thousands of dollars worth of gold was mined from the prehistoric river bed, no practical method was available to continue mining beyond the higher ground during those early days.

According to S. Holland, 1974, this story, which appeared in True Treasure Magazine January – February, 1974 is an exaggerated and inaccurate account of placer operations on Devlin Bench. These started in 1952 and 1953 with the dredging operation of Kumhila Exploration Company Ltd. and were followed in 1956 by a second dredging operation in the same area. Finally after a period of inactivity the tailings from the previous operation on Devlin Bench were reworked in 1962 and 1963.

All this work was done on a placer lease which was owned by the Lowhee Mining Co. Ltd. Subsequently the lease lapsed and the ground was relocated in February, 1970 as Placer-mining Lease #7097. At the time, the lease was still in good standing.

The Kumhila Exploration Co. Ltd., which consisted of D. P. Kumle, A. T. Lazzareschi, and L. J. Hickman, all of California, formed this private company and optioned part of the Lowhee Mining Company’s leases at Devlin Bench on the east side of Williams Creek at the Bowron Lake road crossing. After considerable churn-drill testing, the dredge equipment formerly operated by Summit Mines Limited was assembled on the property. This equipment consists of a Hickenbottorn steel-pontoon all-riffle washing plant of 3,500-cubic yards-per-day rated capacity and a Marion 40A walking dragline shovel with an 80-foot boom and a 3-cubic-yarci bucket. As drill testing showed the pay gravel to be at an approximate depth of 50 feet, a Caterpillar D-8 bulldozer was used to strip as much of the barren surface gravel as possible. A crew of eighteen men was employed , and 200,000 cubic yards of gravel was moved , of which 84,680 cubic yards was treated by the washing plant.

In 1953, Kumhila Exploration Company Limited mined 68,200 cubic yards of gravel with their dragline dredge on Williams Creek near Devlin Bench on the Bowron Lake Road. Operations were suspended in early September and the washing plant dismantled when no further pay gravels were located.

In 1956 the Lowhee leases on Conklin Gulch and Williams Creek were under option to L. A. Prosser of L and L Dredging. In 1962. Williams Creek Hydraulic Mines Ltd. commenced to rework the old tailings on Devlin’s Bench on P.M.L. 3354, about midway between Wells and Barkerville and approximately one-half mile up the road to Bowron Lake and just north of the road. 150,000 cubic yards of gravel was treated and the gold recovered is reported to be fairly coarse. In 1963, a further 90,000 yards of gravel was put through the sluice-boxes.

The officially recorded production of placer gold from these operations is as follows:

1952 yielded 6044 ounces, 1952 yielded 4827 ounces, 1956 yielded 326 ounces, 1962 yielded 272 ounces, 1963 yielded 430 ounces, and 1964 yielded 129 ounces, for a total production of 12,028 ounces. The price of placer gold ranged from $28.18 per ounce in 1952 to $29.96 per ounce in 1964. It is true that about $400,000 was recovered by dredging and hydraulicking.

According to the story, the miners had reached bedrock, where the long-sought mass of placer gold was believed to lie. Unfortunately, this bedrock lay in a saw-toothed, criss-cross pattern with deep crevasses between up-thrusting pinnacles of rock. Some of the fissures were 100 feet underwater, some peaks of the bedrock only 80 feet. The extreme depth of the pit itself was now a problem.

Among the ordinary nuggets they found, was a very curious one. It was unusually long, about the length of a man’s thumb, pointed at one end, and almost flat at the other end. After examining it, the manager ran to the pile of tailings at the end of the sluice where he found the rest of the nugget. It measured nearly 4 inches long and had apparently sheared off in the sluice.

One cannot help wondering how many more large nuggets like the last one still remain in that watery hole, as well as who eventually may have the good fortune of finding out. Someone eventually will beat fate and have a solution to the Gold Hole’s riddle. If you get the chance, visit the site for yourself. It is practically alongside the road to Bowron Lake, just beyond Wells. Then you can decide whether the story is FACT OR FICTION!

Happy Prospecting!

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