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The Lost Mine of Becker Canyon


Comprising most of the Great Basin of North America, the state of Nevada presents a creased and wrinkled appearance shaped by plate tectonics. Nevada is part of the Basin and Range physiographic province, an immense region of linear, north-south trending mountain chains bounded by deep, alluvium-filled valleys. The Basin and Range Province is a product of tensional stresses in the Earth's crust. Rifting of the continent has produced a series of parallel mountain ranges bounded by downthrown, graben-like basins.

The Great Basin region of Nevada suffers from the rainshadow effect of the Sierra Nevadas. The state is therefore extremely dry. But it wasn't always so. During the last Ice Age, most of the basins in Nevada were filled with pluvial lakes. The ancient lag deposits and wave-cut terraces can still be seen along the flanks of many mountain ranges.

The Shoshone Mountains of central Nevada are a north-south trending chain of mountains extending some 55 miles through the heart of Nevada. The range is bounded by the Reese River valley to the east and the Ione and Smith Creek valleys to the west.

The core of the Shoshone Mountains consists mostly of mid-Tertiary welded and nonwelded silicic ash-flow tuffs with minor rhyolitic lava flows and associated hypabyssal intrusives. A few isolated and scattered exposures of younger andesite and basalt occur on both flanks of the range, south of Lander County. An isolated wedge of Pennsylvanian-Permian sedimentary rocks crops out on the western flank of the Shoshones, just southwest of Gold Park. These upper Paleozoic sediments consist of cherts, argillites, and shales of the Havallah Formation.

A cluster of inferred faults occurs along the eastern portion of the range, near the border of Nye and Lander counties. The western edge of the Shoshones is home to a number of small fault-bounded blocks of sedimentary rock peeking out from beneath the cover of younger volcanic rocks. These small fault blocks mostly crop out south of the Lander County line.

The silicic ash-flow tuffs of the Shoshone Mountains are found throughout central Nevada. The pyroclastic nature of these rocks suggests that the mid-Tertiary period was an extremely violent time in Nevada's geologic history.


The eastern flank of the Shoshone Mountains near Becker Canyon is nearly surrounded by rich mining districts. Some are quite close. From the mouth of Becker Canyon, the fabulous Reese River silver deposits near Austin lie only 36 miles to the northeast. The gold and silver mines of Phonolite are located 17 miles to the west while the rich Union District lies a mere 12 miles to the southwest. The lode deposits of Gold Park are located just across the divide of the Shoshone Mountains from Becker Canyon, only 6 miles to the northwest. The old forgotten mining camp of Ursline lies within the canyon itself, only 2 miles or so from its mouth. Certainly the Becker Canyon area has some potential for the determined prospector. The flats below the mouth of Becker Canyon have never yielded substantial amounts of gold. The

likelihood that a gold-bearing vein of quartz lies anywhere near the surface along the flats is extremely minimal. Very little bedrock is exposed there and the area has a deep cover of alluvium. Of course, gold is where you find it, so prospectors may want to investigate the area with a metal detector.

While in the area, prospectors may also want to survey the upper portions of Becker Canyon, near the old site of Ursline. Small veins of gold-bearing quartz may still lie hidden somewhere in the area. In addition, prospectors may want to focus on the rugged crest of the Shoshone Mountains, between Becker Canyon and Gold Park.