Sierra Nevada Adventures Single Day Rides

ADV Mother Lode Ride

MOTHER LODE RIDE

Here’s your opportunity to explore some of the best curvy back roads and fun dirt mining roads in the Mother Lode. There’s no better time of year then spring to explore the Mother Lode region, when the foothills are alive with beautiful wildflower blooms, cascading creeks and rolling hills of green grass.

 

Your adventure begins on the western edge of the foothills then ventures southeast through Amador and Calaveras Counties on some of the most exciting curvy back roads and twisty dirt roads that exist. You will also explore historic gold rush towns and some of the richest hard-rock mines in the gold country such as, the Bunker Hill mine, Freemont mine and Treasure mine. After exploring Amador County your adventure will take you through forgotten mining towns in Calaveras County such as Mountain Ranch, Sheep Ranch and Calaveritas. You will also have the opportunity to view Ironstone’s 44-pound gold nugget which is the largest crystalline gold nugget in the world. Yes, that's correct, this unique crystalline gold specimen weighs a remarkable 44 pounds with an appraised value of over $3.5 million.

 

The California Mother Lode, is a world famous hard-rock gold vein stretching northwest to southeast in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The California Mother Lode is a zone from 1.5 to 3.7 miles wide and 120miles long, extending from Georgetown in El Dorado County to the north, through Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, and south to Mormon Bar in Mariposa County. Shortly after the discovery of gold on the American river in 1848 the rich Mother Lode was discovered in the early 1850s, during the California gold rush. The Mother Lode zone contains hundreds of mines and historical sites, including some of the richest hard-rock mines of the gold rush era. Individual gold deposits within the Mother Lode are gold-bearing quartz veins up to 49 ft. thick and a few thousand feet long. The Mother Lode was the most productive gold producing districts in the world during the California Gold Rush. You will have the opportunity to explore some of these rich hard-rock mines while traveling some of the best dirt mining routes imaginable.

 

The first hard-rock mines were discovered in Amador City in 1851, the original Minister's Claim and Spring Hill mine were the first few mines founded and soon after many other mines followed. By the 1870s & 1880s, Amador County had over 300 hard-rock mines in operation with some mine shafts over a mile deep into the earth. You will have the opportunity to explore the ruins of many of these hard-rock mines such as the Bunker Hill Mine, Fremont-Gover Mine,

Argonaut Mine including the famous Kennedy Mine. You will also explore historic dirt mining roads through Amador City, Volcano, and Drytown, which is the oldest town in Amador County. Mining for gold began in Drytown in the spring of 1848 when miners discovered gold in the rich gravels along Dry Creek. Although the creek may have run dry during the summer months, legend has it the town never did, as an old story claims some twenty-six saloons wet the miners thirst during the 1850’s and today the only wet spot in Drytown is the road-side Drytown Club.

 

Bunker Hill Mine: The mine was first worked as the Rancheria Mine in 1853. Was renamed the South Mayflower in 1893. It was organized in 1899 as the Bunker Hill Consolidated Mine and operated till 1922, producing $5,154,382 in gold. The shaft reached 3440’ on an incline with a winze. It had a 40-stamp mill.

 

Fremont-Gover Mine: Founded prior to 1867 as the Loyal Lode Mine. The Fremont-Gover Company formed in 1872 and worked the Gover in the 1880’s and ‘90’s. The Fremont shaft was sunk in 1903 including a 40-stamp mill continuing in operation until 1918. Reopened in 1937 and worked until 1940. Fremont shaft was 2950’ deep. The Gover was 1500’ on an incline. Total production was $5,000,000 in gold.

 

Argonaut Mine: The Argonaut mine had been discovered in the 1850s by two freed slaves, William Tudor and James Hager. It was destined to become one of California's richest, producing more than $25 million before the federal government closed the nation's gold mines at the beginning of World War II. This mine is the site of the worst mining disaster in the Mother Lode. Forty-eight miners were trapped at 3,500 feet below ground in August of 1922. All of them died from deadly gas that was released during a mine fire. The fire burned two and one-half days before it was extinguished.

 

Kennedy Mine: The Kennedy Mine, famous for being one of the deepest gold mines in the world (at 5912 feet), demonstrates how gold changed an entire way of life in California. Although gold was known to be present and was mined by the Spanish and Mexicans, the California Gold Rush did not begin until after James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848. Between 1848 and 1858, California exploded from being a largely unpopulated agrarian state into a vital, fast growing and exciting part of the United States. Prospected in 1860, reorganized in 1886 and continuously run until 1942, the Kennedy Gold Mine produced approximately $34,280,000 in gold according to the CA Department. of Conservation. One of the tallest head frames in existence today can be seen at the Kennedy Mine. The mine also had one of the largest stamp mills in the Mother Lode, moving tailings by means of huge wooden wheels, some of which are still standing.

 

Beyond Amador County your journey travels to the forgotten mining towns of Calaveras County such as, Mountain Ranch that was established in 1858. Mountain Ranch (formerly, El Dorado and El Dorado Town) was renamed to Mountain Ranch when the little post office was moved 1.5 miles south to a town called El Dorado Camp. As there was already an El Dorado post office in California, El Dorado Camp became known as Mountain Ranch. The historic little post office located on the old main street is no longer in use but at one time it was billed as the world's smallest post office.

 

After visiting Mountain Ranch your adventure explores a combination of remote dirt roads and back roads to the forgotten mining town of Sheep Ranch where you will visit the historic Pioneer Hotel and the fabulous Sheep Ranch Mine. Sheep Ranch has a surprisingly colorful history, the town was once surrounded by sheep corrals, and in 1860 gold ore was discovered in the corrals where the sheep were kept at night. Soon after, Sheep Ranch became a bustling gold mining town. Before the turn of the century there were five flourishing gold mines and one had a ten-stamp mill. The town also supported 15 saloons.” The main mine in town was known as the Hearst mine, owned by George Hearst who was the father of William Randolph Hearst. It was operated continuously by the Hearst firm until 1893 and had produced an estimated 4 million dollars in gold and reached a depth of 1,400 feet. By 1942, when finally closed, the fabulous Sheep Ranch Mine produced more than 8 million dollars in gold and had reached 3,100 feet in depth. It can be described as the most productive in the Sierran East Gold Belt. Exploring further off the beaten path your adventure travels past the historic California Caverns once known as Cave City Cave and was once visited by Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and John Muir and was used as the hide out for the legendary Gold Rush bandit Joaquin Murrieta.

 

RIDE DETAILS:

Single-Day Ride (20 rider max)

This dual sport adventure ride is perfect for medium to large dual sport adventure bikes.
Off-road terrain is rated 'mild to moderate' with lots adventure.
Ride distance: 200 +/- miles round trip (75+/- miles dirt roads)
One gas stop (125-mile range required)
Bring water & picnic Lunch

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