A 49'er panning gold was a familiar sight soon after the initial gold discovery announced by James Marshall at Coloma on Jan. 24, 1848. Thousands had little more than a pick, shovel and pan, to dig out and separate flakes of gold from rock and stream bottom gravel. Placer mining is when gold is obtained by simple washing. Placer County was named for these water-based mining processes. Coloma is 20 miles due east of here (30 miles by road).
This 2/3 cubic yard capacity bucket is one of 140 from the last operating bucket-line gold dredge in California, at the Yuba River gold field east of Marysville. Miocene (10 million year old) river gravels were processed from 50 to 100 feet below the water line to recover ounces of tiny gold flakes from tons of rock in a gigantic version of the original panning method. It was donated by the Cal Development Company.
In 1879 Lester Allan Pelton, carpenter and millwright, invented a metal waterwheel turned by a high speed water jet and received a patent in 1880. Pelton's first wheel was used at the Mayflower Mine in Nevada City. The water was directed into paired, self-emptying round buckets which powered heavy equipment, such as stamp mills, throughout the Sierra Nevada foothills. A variation, the Knight wheel, used square cups.
Sometimes when the mine opening was in rough terrain an aerial tram was built to carry ore in large buckets to a more convenient processing site.
It was invented by Edward E. Mattson of American Hill in 1853. They were used to power wash hillsides of Eocene age (50 million year old) river channel deposits of auriferous (gold-bearing) gravels at Gold Run in Placer County and Malakoff Diggings in Nevada County into sluices to recover the gold. This New Giant model was made by the Haskins Company in Grass Valley in 1883. Massive river channel siltation and a dam break generated extensive valley flooding, prompting the nation's first environmental protection ruling in 1884 which ended hydralic mining in California. The roughly 30 years of hydralic mining yielded over $100 million in gold, valued then at about $16 an ounce.
Also in the outdoor area is a rocker or cradle, a sluice box, a Head frame tower and Winch house and a stamp mill.