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El Centro Field Office

Tumco Historic Mining Town

Tumco is an abandoned gold mining town and is also one of the earliest gold mining areas in California.  It has a history spanning some 300 years, with several periods of boom and bust.

Gold was first discovered by Spanish colonists as they moved northward from Sonora, Mexico.  According to legend, two young boys came into their camp one evening with their shirts filled with gold ore.  These muchachos cargados (loaded boys) were the namesake for the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, where the Tumco deposits occur.  Following the first discovery of gold, numerous small mines were operated by Mexican settlers for many years.

In 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Yuma to Los Angeles line of its transcontinental route.  With the presence of the mountains, a gold rush into the area began.  This initial rush to stake mining claims soon gave way to mining companies that moved into the area, purchased claims and developed the mines on a large scale.  A 12 mile wood pipeline pumped over 100,000 gallons of water from the Colorado River per day, and the railroad carried mine timbers from northern Arizona for use in the expansive underground workings.

Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area.  Tumco was a typical mining town of its day.  Historical accounts talk of rich eastern investors, unscrupulous charlatans and colorful characters in the raucous townsite and the mining boom ultimately leading to financial ruin.

The Tumco townsite went through several periods of boom and bust and, although the town site has long been abandoned, gold mining was recently conducted near the western end of this valley.  This latest episode in the history of Tumco began in early 1995, when American Girl Mining Joint Venture began operations near the site of some of the early mines in the area.

Although little can be seen of Tumco, during the boom time of the 1890´s, it supported a population of at least 500 people and the 40 and 100 stamp mills of the mine produced $1,000 per day in gold.