Gold Run was one of the most productive mines in Placer County with an estimated total yield exceeding $15 million. O.W. Hollenbeck established the town in 1854, calling it Mountain Springs. The name officially changed in 1863 as a result of the riches discovered in the area. Ming camp settlements often began with one name and changed over time to match the discoveries, incidents or people of the day. Gold Run flourished from 1860 into 1884. It is located 25 miles northeast of Auburn on a ridge south of Dutch Flat between Bear River and North Fork of the American River. Other area camps included Squire’s Canyon, Canyon Creek, Goosling Ravine, Gold Run Canyon, Potato Ravine and Indian Canyon.
Hydraulic mining began here in 1865 by blasting mountainsides with steam of water and sending huge amounts of sediment to clog the rivers, that led to winter flooding and habitat destruction. The main attraction was the bed of distinctive blue gravel that stood two miles long, ½ mile wide and 250 feet deep. Historical records indicate that as much as 80 million cubic yards of gravel were mined in the region.
Today few residents live in Gold Run. The Pioneer Union Church is preserved. The former school house is now a private residence. Gold Run still bears scars from the Gold Rush era, although some damage is now covered by 100 year old forests. Deep ravines and high cliffs reveal the evidence of the now illegal practice of hydraulic mining.
The Anti-Debris Act of 1883: Sawyer Decision to end Hydraulic Mining
Hydraulic mining during the Gold Rush used high-pressure water jets to wash away gravel from a mountainside in order to extract gold from the rocks. Although hydraulic mining was popular with mining companies, the environmental effects on riparian habitat and land surrounding the rivers were devastating.
The case for the ”Anti-Debris Act” went to trial in June 1883. On July 1, 1884, Judge Lorenzo Sawyer’s decision to end hydraulic mining became one of the first environmental decisions in the nation. All hydraulic mining activities throughout the Mother Lode ended abruptly, leading to a sharp decline in population at any camp or town where hydraulic mining was the primary method of extracting gold. People moved on to other diggings and the places they left behind stood abandoned.
The Historical marker is located on the northwest corner of Interstate 80 and Magra road, across the street from the post office.
Placer is a Spanish word describing surface mining. Gold that had been “placed” in streams or on the ground through natural erosion was processed by planning, rocking, and similar techniques. Such mining efforts made Placer County residents some of the richest in California.