In an effort to help Gold Country Museum visitors to better understand the mechanics behind hydraulic mining we have recently redesigned our exhibit on it.
The exhibit is comprised of a relatively small scale hydraulic monitor, a large scale mural and several photo illustrations of the different aspects of hydraulic mining.
You can click on the photos below to blow them up to full size. The text from each panel is listed below the photos
Water from rivers or streams was stored in reservoirs high in the mountains and released into flumes. The water flowed down the flumes, sometimes over 50 miles, to provide water for the monitors.
Water was forced by gravity into a wide monitor base that tapered into a smaller nozzle which created pressure capable of washing down hillsides and moving large boulders.
The earth displaced by the high velocity spray of the monitors fed into a sluice box where the gold settled against the riffles and the debris washed out of the sluice.
The debris ran into the nearby streams and riverbeds. The accumulation of mining debris eventually caused silting in the major rivers and flooding in the valley.
The genius of engineering that made hydraulic mining possible contrasted sharply with the ignorance of its effects. Over a billion cubic yards of mud and debris were dumped into rivers and creeks which led to widespread flooding downstream. The muddy waters destroyed homes and businesses and damaged property.
On January 7, 1884 in the case of Edward Woodruff V. North Bloomfield Mining Company, Judge Lorenzo Sawyer ruled that mine owners could not dump their tailings into navigable waterways. This ruling effectively ended large scale hydraulic mining.
If you’d like to see this exhibit, along with many others, stop by the Gold Country Museum. It’s located in the Gold Country Fairgrounds and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Also, admission is free.