Nestled within the deepest valley in North America, the Amargosa River ebbs and flows through the history of southern California. It is the site of one of the earliest gold discoveries in the Death Valley area and indeed all of California. Placer gold was discovered near Salt Springs by Mexican traders during the late 1820's. Located near the junction of Salt Creek and the Amargosa River, Salt Springs was a stopping point for Argonauts on their way to the Mother Lode country. Some of the 49'ers found gold in the area, but of course they moved on to the goldfields further north in the Sierra Nevadas. During the 1860's, the Salt Spring Hills and surrounding country were scoured by prospectors who discovered many fabulously rich surface deposits. The famous Amargosa Mine was also in operation during the 1860's. The Amargosa produced extremely rich free-milling gold in quartz. Of course, highgrading was a problem in any mine containing ore this rich. It's a sure thing that highgrade Amargosa ore made its way out of the mine during the 1860's. Indeed, some
knowledgeable mining men claim that the legendary Breyfogle ore was actually highgrade from the Amargosa Mine.
During the 1870's, prospectors were still wandering the Salt Springs area in search of gold. In addition, the occasional trader or emigrant family still passed by Salt Springs and the Amargosa River on their way to and from California. It was sometime during the mid-1870's that such an emigrant stumbled upon a fabulous placer deposit somewhere near the Amargosa River. His name was John McCloskey and he was returning to California with his bride when he made the discovery. He found the placer near an embankment of dark-colored boulders. McCloskey collected some nuggets and the pair continued their journey westward. Of course, McCloskey returned to the Amargosa to search for the gold placer. He knew the gold was near a train of black boulders - he just couldn't find them in that vast country. He never did.
The Amargosa River country of Death Valley encompasses an immense area in southern Inyo and northern San Bernardino counties. The most important (and virtually the only) mining district in the southern end of Death Valley is the Salt Spring District. Also known as the Amargosa District, the Salt Spring mines were located near the junction of Salt Creek and the Amargosa River. The placer deposits near Salt Spring were discovered during the late 1820's. They were rediscovered by American prospectors during the 1849 gold rush, but most of these men moved on to the Sierra Nevada goldfields. Serious work in the Salt Spring
Hills began in the 1860's. Many rich pockets of gold were discovered right on the surface! The famous Amargosa Mine churned out a stream of yellow metal during the 1860's. Ore from the Amargosa was incredibly rich, consisting of chunks of native gold in quartz. The district foundered during the 1870's, but sporadic mining activity has occurred in the area ever since.
The Ibex Hills are located about 12 miles northwest of the Amargosa Mine. The ancient metamorphic rocks of the Ibex Hills are host to a number of talc mines.