The Cortez Creek Placer
Carbon County, Wyoming
Carbon County, Wyoming
• Primary Commodities: Gold
• Claim designation: un-patented Placer
• Size: 20 acres
• Location: Carbon County, Wyoming
The Cortez Creek Placer is a documented Gold producer in the Medicine Bow Mountains of southern Wyoming.
Featuring a hydraulic wash plant placer operation from the late 1950’s, original workings dating back to the Spanish explorers, an annually flowing water way and a highly secluded location.
In 1875, Col. Stephen W. Downey of Laramie discovered gold in the Medicine Bow Mountains on Centennial Mountain.
As prospectors flocked to the area, a community was established in 1876 and named the town Centennial in honor of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The Brush Creek district has a very interesting history. The area was prospected in the late 1800's following the discovery gold flakes and some thumb nail sized nuggets in the creeks. According to Mullison (1909) the Ute Indians described some ancient Gold prospects. Mullison explored these prospects in 1886 and discovered several diggings on Cortez Creek, North Brush Creek and Mullison Creek.
At one location near the mouth of Cortez Creek, Mullison located a 6' in diameter circular shaft sunken into an abandoned part of the creek bed. Trees growing on the mine tailings were estimated at over 175 years old, suggesting the mine may have been of Spanish origins. (Mullison 1909).
Surviving documentation shows the mine held under private ownership from 1959-2014, the mine taxes lapsed for unknown reasons, and the area lay abandoned and forgotten for over seven years.
Primary workings consist of a large hydraulic cut bench gravel deposit of Cortez creek. The cut appears to be an extension of the original flow pattern of Cortez creek.
Open cut measures nearly 50' wide by 75 in length.
Though probably earlier developed by a sluice or long tom, the mine was later worked with a hydraulic water cannon and large steel flume workings to divert the creek bed.
Extensive gravel deposits are located on the creek level as well as the upper bench and terrace gravels of the hillside gulch.
The uniquely fabricated steel water flume appears to have been welded together in sections consisting of military grade cannon shells from the 1950's.
A skeleton of an old steel hydraulic cannon, as well as a collapsed miners shack rest near the creekside.
Cortez creek features annually flowing water, with a width of 3'-5' and a depth of 6'-3'.
Gold deposits can be located in the gravel deposits as well as in the old timers hydraulic tailings.
The Gold in the area has been described as flakes and small nuggets.
Access to the mine is via a well maintained dirt road, suitable for any 4x4 vehicle during the warmer months.
A small staging area is available for camping near the mine workings, parking is available for at least two vehicles and possibly a small camper with a high clearance base.
The historic and unique placer operation is available to the beginning enthusiast, up to an established mining company.