Gold was discovered on the Tulameen River in 1860 but the region was quickly abandoned in favour of the Cariboo gold fields when news of the rich new finds filtered through. Some gold mining continued and the area was mapped, in general terms, by Dr. George M Dawson in 1878.
In 1885 rich placers were discovered on Granite Creek and a gold rush of major proportions ensued. Granite City at the confluence of Granite Creek and the Tulameen River was rapidly built and boosted a population of over 700 in its heyday. It contained a typically Wild West conglomeration of saloons, barbershops, and general stores but the bustle was short lived. By 1888 when the richest easily accessible placers were depleted, the miners moved on to greener pastures leaving behind a derelict ghost town, parts of which attract a few tourists to this day.
Since its discovery, Granite Creek has accounted for a reported 26,000 ounces of gold, approximately 60% of the reported production of the entire district. It should be noted that since a crown tax was assessed on gold production, and since many of the miners were Americans or Chinese, true production statistics of the 1880’s were woefully lacking. Platinum occurred with the gold, and once its value was recognized, it too was saved. The ratio of gold to platinum on Granite Creek generally averaged between 2:1 and 3:1.
The gold on Granite Creek was generally coarse and of nugget consistency, while the platinum occurred as hard silver coloured rounded nodules normally about the size of a matchhead.
The easily mined gravels were found for the first five miles above the mouth of the creek. The gravels were generally shallow and as the creek had a drop of over 100 feet per mile. The gravels were ground sluiced. The lowest mile of Granite Creek was an alluvial fan, and bedrock could not be reached due to the miners inability to cope with the inflow of water into their diggings. At a point five miles above the mouth, the gravels deepened, and mining become impractical, although the values encountered on bedrock were as high grade at this elevation of 3,300 feet as they were in the lower stretches.
The gravels of Granite Creek are nowhere near depleted. Dry benches occur on the hillsides at many locations, and although of apparent good grade, were seldom large enough, or the companies well enough organized, lacking the technical or financial assistance required to exploit them.
Placer mining on the creek was revived in the 1930’s, but the operators did their mining by hand methods, lacking the capital necessary to exploit the deposits in an efficient cost effective manner.
Today most of the major creeks are solidly staked, but most of mining being done is more as hobbies than businesses.
General Placer Geology
In recent years, with the present day scientific techniques, it has become most apparent that proposals advanced in the early 1900’s were indeed correct, that almost all placer nugget gold is of secondary origin. Cyanides produced by plants as well as mineral chlorides, act in the presence of air to dissolve and carry gold solutions, only to re-deposit the gold on favourable nuclei in air deficient environments. The long Oligocene period of erosion was on obvious ideal environment for the build-up on bedrock of secondary nugget placers. The ratio of nuggets to fine gold, in the Tulameen district is uncommonly high. Fine flour gold in recent placers normally overwhelmingly outweighs the coarse gold.
Extremely rich nugget placers have been found not only in the creeks of the Tulameen area, but on benches up to several hundred feet above the valley floors. The difficulty in prospecting, testing, and mining increases with elevation above the creek levels. The costs involved, particularly before modern diesel and electric pumps became readily available in bringing water to the “dry” bench placers were prohibitive. High bench prospecting has therefore never been popular. On the other hand, there is no reason to suppose that all rich placers are relegated to elevations within 300 feet of the valley bottoms. The rich ground on Newton Creek with its nugget gold was found at an elevation exceeding 3,000 feet above sea level, and it is probable that rich protected placers may exist to elevations exceeding 4,500 feet in this region.