Texas Gold Panning    Researched & Edited By: Tx Rockhound

  Foreward by Edgar B. Heylmun, PhD

The Lost Gold Of San-Saba

  Much of the area of interest lies in the scenic "Hill Country" of central Texas, west and northwest of Austin, with elevations which rise to 1,300 feet or more. Annual rainfall is about 26 inches. The landscape is not unlike the foothill regions in California, where grasslands are dotted with live oak trees. However, because of overgrazing, some areas have degenerated into a scrub jungle, with abundant deer and rattlesnakes. Two large reservoirs, lake Buchanan and Lake L. B. Johnson, are favorite vacation areas, with numerous resorts.


The Llano Uplift forms part of the Hill Country near Llano (pop. 3,100), which is pronounced "lay-no" in Texas. The town is 76 miles northwest of Austin. The Llano Uplift consists of igneous and metamorphic rocks of Precambrian age. Since building stone, talc, serpentine, iron ore, copper, silver, and gold have been produced in the past, the area has become known as the "Central Mineral Region." The Llano Uplift forms an island over 50 miles in width, which is surrounded by a sea of sedimentary rocks. Residual soils and saprolite ("rotten rock") overlie bedrock and may locally contain enrichments of gold. Some of the old diggings were on these pocket enrichments.

The best-known gold mine was the Heath, located 5 miles northeast of Llano, north of Road 2241, on privately owned land. Gold-bearing quartz veins and stringers cut dark graphitic schist near its contact with intrusive pink granite. Most of the quartz veins strike about N. 70 W. Pegmatite dikes, some containing rare minerals, also cut the schist.

The Heath Mine was active between 1896 and 1916, during which time several test lots of ore were shipped. One lot of picked ore reportedly assayed at 1.1 ounce gold/ton. The quartz veins contain free gold, pyrite, chalcopyrite, and other sulfides. Some individual quartz stringers had spectacular gold values. The schist itself contains disseminated gold, and the overlying residual soils reportedly run as high as 0.1 ounce gold/ton.

In 1901, a shaft was sunk to 615 feet, and six other vertical and inclined shafts were sunk in an area of about 20 acres. There were many drifts and crosscuts. A number of shallow pits and trenches were also dug. Erosion and vegetation have obliterated most of the old workings.

About 9 miles north of Llano, in the Babyhead district, there were a number of shallow diggings on copper and gold veins. Production, if any, was not recorded. A lost Spanish mine, the Almagres, originally discovered in 1756, was rediscovered near Honey Creek, 12 miles southeast of Llano. Nearly pure masses of native silver were found at shallow depths, along with a small amount of gold. It was worked, off-and-on, for over 50 years. No work has been done since Spanish times.

At the Central Texas Mine, 20 miles northeast of Fredericksburg, rich pockets of gold were reportedly found in quartz veins and stringers which cut schist. Shallow shafts and pits, active in the 1930s, can be found over an area of about 2 square miles. There was no recorded production.

Spaniards worked iron-stained outcrops of limestone of Cretaceous age, some 22 miles north of Uvalde, as well as 20 miles north of Georgetown (see map). Samples taken at the old diggings show pyrite with only trace amounts of gold. Iron-stained sandstone of Eocene age contains finely-divided gold over a horizontal distance of 60 miles, east of Luling and Bastrop (see map). These are paleoplacer deposits. Shafts were sunk to depths of 200 feet or more in 1903, near Harwood, in an 80 foot zone which reportedly assayed as high as an ounce of gold/ton. There are no reports of production.

Central Texas is not noted for placer gold but colors can be found at a number of localities. In places, even roadside ditches contain colors. Some of the creeks and gullies, which drain the area of the Heath Mine, contain specks and scales of gold. Creeks and gullies in the Babyhead district contain gold. Certain stream courses, such as Little Llano, Babyhead, and Pecan Creeks, are known to contain specks, scales, and small flakes of gold.

Some 15 miles south of Llano, Sandy (Big Sandy) Creek and its tributaries have a drainage area of 385 square miles in the Llano Uplift. The headwaters are near the Enchanted Rocks. There are extensive gravel deposits associated with the drainage basin, so that sizable placer gold possibilities could exist. If not gated, these ranchlands deserve further investigation for placer gold.

A novel placer operation took place on the East Fork of Walnut Creek, some 23 miles southeast of Llano. A large arrastre was carved out of bedrock in the creek channel. Nearby paleoplacers at the base of a Cambrian sandstone were mined and taken to the arrastre, where the ore was crushed while the stream flowed through the arrastre. The operation was not a commercial success, but remains of the arrastre can still be seen.

Finely-divided gold can be found in bars, banks, and benches associated with the Llano River near the town of Llano. Many creeks in the region flow for much of the year, and some are potential placer streams. Every gravel deposit in the Llano Uplift deserves to be checked. Finely-divided placer gold has also been found in Gazley Creek, southeast of Bastrop, as well as in other creeks in that region.

Most land in Texas is privately-owned, and some lands have been withdrawn as parks or recreational areas. All posted and gated roads must be respected. Don't mess with Texans. Where lands can be entered, experienced prospectors might find surprising amounts of lode and placer gold.


Parts of Texas have been plagued, in the past, by scam artists. This is unfortunate, because parts of the Llano Uplift could have legitimate lode and placer gold deposits. Geologic conditions are favorable in many areas. Experienced gold panners could probably find gold in a number of places. Other mineral deposits could also be present. There is a fee gem topaz locality near Mason, 34 miles west of Llano.

Rivers creeks and tributaries of surrounding areas such as pennington creek Guadalupe river near Kerrville Little Llano River, Pecan Creek, Babyhead Creek, and San Fernando Creek are known to carry gold values."Sandy Creek, south of Llano is noted for its placer gold... Tributaries of Sandy Creek, such as Walnut Creek, Comanche Creek, Coal Creek, and Crabapple Creek are also noted for their placer gold. In addition to the Hazel Mine, located north of Van Horn, and the Quitman Mountains of West Texas "Gold, silver, and some lead are found in the Shaftner district, located on the south flank of the Chinati Mountains, overlooking the Rio Grande Valley and the border towns of Presidio and Ojinaga. Presidio is also the name of the district's and the state's major historic precious metal mine. The Presidio Mine opened in the 1880s and was active until 1942. During that time it is believed to have yielded more than 92 percent of the state's total silver production and at least 73 percent of Texas' total production of gold. Below are maps showing these creeks and surrounding areas.

Llano Area Map

North Llano River Map
South Llano River Map
Colorado River Map

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