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The Lost Goler Mine


By the late 1880's, mining in California was in a slump. This was especially so in lower California, which lacked the immense gold deposits of the Mother Lode country further north. The great Randsburg strike of 1894 rejuvenated the sagging mining history of southern California. The Randsburg mines poured out a stream of metal worth nearly $8 million by the time they closed down. The first big strikes occurred on Rand Mountain in 1894 but the year before, gold was discovered at Goler, only 7 miles away in the El Paso Mountains. The placers at Goler Gulch were extremely rich. Gold nuggets weighing up to 10 ounces were recovered from the canyon during the initial rush. Local mining men claim that over a million dollars in gold have been taken from the Goler Mining District. The first official strike at Goler was in 1893, but twenty years before, a German prospector named John Goler found and then lost a fabulously rich placer deposit somewhere along the southern flank of the El Paso Mountains. The Goler legend was well established by 1893 and so the gold-bearing canyon was christened "Goler Gulch".

John Goler was an experienced prospector. During the early 1870's, he was in the rugged desert country of south-central California. As always, Goler was on the lookout for gold. Somewhere along the southern slopes of the El Paso Mountains, he found himself in a canyon near a spring. At his feet were nuggets of gold! He filled his pockets and eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where he sold his take. It was in Los Angeles that John Goler met his future partner, Grant P. Cuddeback. The two men would make several attempts to find Goler's lost placer, but they never located the golden spring. They did find a small deposit in Red Rock Canyon, located on the western edge of the El Paso Mountains near the site of Ricardo. But it wasn't the fabulous Goler Mine. It just wasn't rich enough. That gold-laden spring has been pursued by many prospectors, but it still lies hidden somewhere in the El Paso Mountains of south-central California.


The history of mining in the El Paso Mountains begins with the discovery of rich placer deposits in 1893. Gold was found in virtually every canyon along the southern flanks of the El Paso Mountains. Rich deposits were found in Red Rock Canyon, Goler Gulch, Last Chance Canyon, and Bonanza Canyon. Of these, the richest were Bonanza Canyon and a tributary of Goler Gulch known as Benson Gulch. Goler Gulch has yielded some monumental nuggets. The placer deposits of Goler Gulch are a classic example of secondary enrichment in which an ancient, pre-existing placer deposit is subjected to erosion and further enriched. In this case, a gold-bearing conglomerate serves as the source rock for the Goler nuggets.

Only 7 miles southwest of Goler Gulch lies the famous Randsburg Mining District. This district was the biggest gold producer in all of southern California. The massive lodes on Rand Mountain were discovered in 1894, the year after the Goler Gulch strikes. Three years later, a prospector named Si Drouillard was wandering the desert a few miles east of the Rand Mine when he stumbled onto a rich gold deposit. Prospectors swarmed to the new diggings and a mining camp sprang up called Johannesburg (or "Joburg" for short). The Randsburg District yielded nearly $8 million in gold before the ore bodies gave out.