Mary Creek is a creek in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. The creek is located in Cottonwood Country which is between Quesnel and Barkerville, and is a small tributary of John Boyd Creek which flows into the Cottonwood River. Bullion in 15 and 20 pound lots was shipped to a refinery in Richmond.
In 1969, Terry Toop discovered and mined possibly the richest and geologically most unusual shallow placer gold deposit in the Cariboo, on the west flank of Mary Creek.
Toop left his Chilliwack farm home back in 1934 at the age of 17 and roamed Northern B.C. and the Yukon for the next 40 years, convinced that he could find gold somewhere. Finally, he and his son Gary, found what they were looking for.
For some time, Toop had a hunch about an ancient channel of gold cutting across the junction of two creeks, Mary Creek and Norton Creek, in the Cariboo Cottonwood area about 30 miles east of Quesnel. He and Gary shoveled, picked and panned, until one cold October day, they hit blue-gray clay, the substance in which Cariboo gold is often found. Soon, they were pulling out nuggets falling loose from the gravels around them.
The two men raced home that night Terry yelled at his wife Marge “We’ve struck it kid.” They were sitting on the greatest placer gold discovery this century in British Columbia. Apart from buying a new car, the Toops, who used to support themselves by winter fur-trapping, poured all of their money into heavy machinery.
Their site, which they dubbed Toopville, featured three rustic cabins in place of their tents, and a petunia patch. There was also a mock cemetery with a boot hanging from a noose, son Gary’s idea for warning off strangers and trespassers. Since word of their bonanza got out, says Toop, weekenders, day trippers, and dreamers have flocked to the area looking to stake their claim. The toops, however, had the area staked up with 11 leases covering about 2,000 acres.
Numerous articles on the Toop Placer Gold Mine have been published in magazines and journals, but very few technical and geological reports on the property itself have been published.
From 1969 to 1977 the Toop family opened up the discovery deposit on Mary Creek using small conventional mining equipment with good results mainly from the pre-glacial Paleo channel. Mr. Toop has high graded areas of the valley floor of PML 7141 along the Mary Creek. It soon became obvious that an extensive drilling and stripping program was required to develop the gold bearing gravels of the richer, deeper bedrock paleo channel on this property and this would require a larger company with a detailed geological property evaluation and an engineered mining plan to remove the overburden efficiently, to recover the placer and bedrock minerals at a profit.
The bulk of the Toop production to date has come from the basal paleo channel on bedrock with thicknesses of 1.52 to 7.59 meters (5 to 25 feet) across a channel 53.20 to 76.00 (175 to 250) feet wide and extending for at least 488 meters (1,600 feet) along the length of Mary and Norton Creeks within P.M.L. 7141. Approximately, 186.62 kilograms (6,000 ounces) of gold are reported to have been produced from approximately 30,582 cubic meters (40,000 cubic yards) of material processed through the wash plant. This production has largely been mined from a zone averaging 3.05 meters (ten feet) thick at the base of the pay sequence and includes up to 1.22 meters (4 feet) of the fractured and broken bedrock. A strong nugget effect is present on the property with high grade sections crossing the paleo channel spaced at an average of 30.48 meters (100 feet) apart. Nuggets have commonly ranged from 10 grams to 100 grams (.32 to 3.2 troy ounces) in size.
The gold from Mary Creek has a majority of hackly, spongy irregularly surfaced coarse nuggets with the balance being elongated, well rounded and polished. The opinion is that the bulk of the Mary Creek gold is locally derived and appears to be directly associated with local bedrock quartz veining.
The Toop properties provide an excellent example of the mining potential of deeply buried pre-glacial fluvial placers. The cost of removing large volumes of overburden is offset by the potential richness of the deep paleo channel gravel. In deposits of this type, detailed sedimentological and stratigraphic data will help identify the extent and volume of the gold-bearing strata, as well as the thickness of over-lying non-auriferous sediments.
The ground that William Matthew Hall walked across more than a hundred years ago promises to yield anywhere from $7,000,000 to $15,000,000 in placer gold. Only a tiny fraction of the old run has been mined, and the centre of the ancient pre-glacial channel hasn’t yet been reached. It is truly a bonanza creek.
As for Terry Toop, his long quest for a creek where the “nuggets fall free from the gravel,” is over.