The Cache Creek placer area is located west of the town of Granite in northern Chaffee County. Cache Creek flows into the Arkansas River just below the Granite Bridge.
Cache Creek was one of Colorado’s largest and most productive hydraulic mining operations that operated from 1860 to 1911. Water used for hydraulicking activities was diverted from Lake Creek to Cache Creek via the 16-mile long Cache Creek Ditch which was completed in 1863. Nearly $3,000,000 in gold is reported to have been produced from the placers of Cache Creek and some high-grade gravel remains!
Small independent placer mining first took place along Cache Creek from 1860 to 1863. Significant increases in production took place in 1884 with the introduction of “booming” and again in 1889 when hydraulic placer mining was introduced. These operations continued until 1911 when the entire operation was shut down in one of Colorado’s first environmental lawsuits.
Since major mining operations ended, a slow and natural recovery of the Cache Creek area began. The Bureau of Land Management recently acquired the land that includes Cache Creek. This acquisition was made primarily for wildlife habitat and open space but it is also recognized for its significant mining history. The Cache Creek Area has been of interest to the small scale placer mining community because placer gold was left behind when major operations were shut down in 1911.
Placer Area Activities
BLM acquired the Cache Creek Area in 2002 to protect important wildlife, aquatic and riparian values and to offer recreational-level placer mining. Recreational mining consists of non-motorized and non-mechanical activities such as panning. This activity is allowed on most public lands. “High banking” is considered motorized sluicing (43 CFR 8365.1–5) and is not recreational level mining. High banking is administered under the 1872 Mining Law. Because the Cache Creek Area is acquired land, the area is not subject to the 1872 Mining Law.
Over the past several years, activity at the Cache Creek Placer Area has increased drastically. Greater visitation has led to user conflicts and damage to the area’s natural resources, prompting BLM to take a hard look at past and present activities in this area. Based on that review of BLM regulations, the RGFO determined that “mining” activities on the Cache Creek property should be limited to recreational-level mining and should not include motorized or mechanical devices to aid in the collection of minerals.
Therefore, starting on Memorial Day in 2012 (May 28), high banking activities will no longer be permitted at the Cache Creek Placer area. Recreational-level gold panning and other non-mechanized/non-motorized activities will continue to be allowed in the area.
We strongly recommend camping only at developed campgrounds in the area based on limited parking, developed facilities. Developed camping facilities are available along the Arkansas River
and near Twin Lakes and Clear Creek reservoirs.
The camping regulations apply to individuals camping on public lands in undeveloped locations and for relatively short durations for recreational purposes.
If it becomes apparent that a significant increase in camping has resulted in unacceptable levels of environmental damage or user conflicts that can not be mitigated, the Royal Gorge Field Office will consider discontinuing authorization of the recreational placer activities.