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The Vulture West FootPrint maps over 60 square
miles of well-known gold producing territory. Incredible
9" resolution aerial imagery makes it easy to identify
old mine shafts, old roads and previous diggings.
Centered around the famous Vulture Mine gold
has been pulled from placers and lodes since gold was first
discovered here in the 1860s. Excellent winter weather,
easy access via Vulture Mine road and many good camping
areas on BLM land make this a favorite for seasonal prospectors.
The Vulture Mountain Range is the place where
the famous Vulture Mine was discovered by Henry Wickenburg
in 1863. The Vulture Mine is said to be the most productive
gold mine in Arizona. It is also one of the earliest gold
mines in Arizona drawing the California Forty-Niners east
to the new Territory. Active on and off until the war effort
of 1942 shut down gold mines all over the United States
it produced gold worth over $2,000,000.
There are many accounts of the troubled history
of the Vulture Mine and I suggest that you do a little web
research before visiting the area. Or better yet, visit
the Vulture Mine itself. It is open to the public and definitely
worth the visit. A self-guided tour allows you to explore
the mine and the ghost town of the Vulture Townsite.
and Placering in Arizona
Bulletin #168, 1961
University of Arizona, Tucson
This bulletin supercedes AZBM #160, 1952 which supercedes
AZBM #142, 1933
The Vulture placers are in northwestern Maricopa County,
in the vicinity of the Vulture mine, about 14 miles by road
southwest of Wickenburg. North of that area the extensively
dissected Vulture mountains rise to elevations of 3,500
or more feet above sea level or nearly 2,000 feet above
the desert plain on the south.
According to A.P. Irvine who spent many years in this
district, these placers were first worked about 1867. At
times during the five or ten years following, as many as
200 or more men were placering with dry-washers in arroyos
of the vicinity. Blocks of ground only 50 ft square were
allowed each miner, but many men recovered from $25 to $50
per day each. By about 1880, the richest, readily obtainable
fold had veen harvested, but some dry-washing, principally
by transient miners, has been done every year after rains.
Evidences of the early activity are still to be seen in
numerous old pits, piles of screenings overgrown with small
brush, and decaying dry-washer machines. In the northern
portion of the area, some of the thin hillside gravels were
scraped up and dry-washed.
The principal rocks of the Vulture area consist of pre-Cambrian
schist, dikes, and irregular masses of granite, probable
Mesozoic monsonitic dikes, and Tertiary andesitic and rhyolitic
lava flows. Within this schist are the large, rich gold-bearing
quartz vein of the Vulture mine and many smaller veins.
Practically all of the smaller veins carry visible free
gold, and drainage channels leading down from them contain
The Vulture placer ground covers about 3 square miles
in the pediment of Red Top Basin, northwest of the Vulture
mine, and continues down Vulture Wash for about 2 miles
southeast of the Vulture Mine. The placer gravels , which
are composed mainly of medium to fine, angular pebbles of
schist and quartz, are generally less than 10 ft thick and
rest upon schist bedrock. Considerable caliche cement, which
occurs in all but the thinnest gravels, has limited dry-washing
operations to the narrow arroyos that re typical of this
Although some gold is distributed throughout the gravels,
it is more abundant near bedrock. Several samples, taken
from random localities at the time of the writer's visit,
revealed abundant colors when panned. Even the old dry-washer
tailings show fine colors upon panning, as those machines
could recover only the coarser gold. The gold is mostly
coarse and angular. During the early days, according to
Mr. Irvine, many $10 to $20 nuggets were found, and some
worth $100 were reported.
The origin of the placer gold, in Red Top Basin at least,
appears to have been the small quartz veins of that vicinity.
The gold of these veins, like that of the adjacent placers,
appears to be coarser than that in the Vulture vein. It
is possible , however, that the placer gold in the drainage
below the Vulture mine may have been derived in part from
the Vulture vein.