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Placer County

Placer County Stone Industry

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  • Placer County Marble and Rhyolite (historical times through circa 1906) (From The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, Bulletin No. 38, California, State Mining Bureau, San Francisco, California, 1906.)

    “Marble occurs in Placer County in several localities.”

    Rhyolite of good building quality is reported to occur in Blue Canon, in Sec. 14, T. 16 N., R. 11 E. Some occur at Dutch Flat. The old hydraulic mine workings have exposed large quantities of this material of varying quality. A local building erected in Forest Hill about forty years ago still stands as evidence of the imperviousness of this material to the elements. It is light of weight and color, and of finer grain than that at Dutch Flat. Similar occurrences are noted at Chalk Bluff, between Sugar Pine Mill and Damascus, in T. 15 N., R. 11 E.”

  • Placer, County, California, Mineral Resources & Introduction to the Placer County Area of California (circa 1915) – Excerpt from Sacramento Valley and Foothill Counties of California: An Illustrated Description of all the Counties Embraced in this Richly productive Geographical Subdivision of the Golden State, compiled and edited by Emmett Phillips and John H. Miller, Published under the direction of The Sacramento Valley Exposition, J. A. Filcher, Director-in Chief, January, 1915.

    Placer County

    “Valley, foothill and mountain lands are found within the confines of Placer County. The county extends from the floor of the Sacramento Valley across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the western boundary line of the State of Nevada.

    “Its general direction is northeast and southwest; it is about 100 miles long and varies in width from ten to thirty miles, this being determined by the course of rivers that mark its northern and southern boundaries.

    “The total area of the county is 1,395 square miles, of which 810 square miles are mountains, 450 foothills and the remainder valley lands. The altitude ranges from 40 feet above sea level in the Sacramento Valley to 8,000 or more at the summit of the mountains. From an elevation of 2,500 feet to the summit of the Sierras snow falls in winter, increasing in depth as the altitude becomes greater.

    “Placer is one of the most noted fruit producing counties in California. The fruit belt extends from the western boundary lines to Colfax and a considerable distance beyond. In this belt is produced practically every horticultural product known to the temperate zones. The list includes oranges, lemons, limes, pomellos, peaches, plums, prunes, cherries, apricots, pears, persimmons, nectarines, loquats, grapes, figs, olives, almonds, walnuts, apples, etc.

    “Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Lincoln, Bowman, Applegate, Weimar, Colfax, Dutch Flat and Towle are all important fruit shipping points during the fruit season. In the lower altitudes of the fruit belt the principal horticultural products are oranges, peaches, plums, cherries, pears and grapes. In the higher altitudes fine winter apples are raised, also Hungarian prunes and Bartlett pears that are the equal of any.

    “The soil of the western portion of the county is of alluvial composition, as is all the soil in the Sacramento Valley, and is very productive. In the foothills the prevailing soil is a decomposed granite, rich in all essentials for plant production.

    “Placer County orchardists are prosperous and contented. Some of the prettiest farms in the State are to (be) found here. Most of the product is shipped to Eastern markets in carload lots. Several thousand cars are shipped annually.

    “As in all counties whose boundaries extend into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, lumbering is an industry of considerable importance in Placer County. The sugar pine, yellow pine, fir and cedar are the commercial trees that compose the great forests on the divides. There are several large lumber mills in operation, and there is a wealth of uncut timber on the mountain plateaus.

    “Placer is rich in minerals. Its gold production since 1849 is estimated at more than $75,000,000. Several large drift mines are now in operation and they are among the largest in California. There are great bodies of gold, copper and iron ore, and valuable deposits of asbestos, lime, clay, and other useful minerals.

    “In the vicinity of Lincoln are great deposits of potter’s clay and one of the leading industries of the county is the manufacture of pottery. At Rocklin are quarries that produce granite that ranks with the best in the United States as a building material.

    “Placer County is well watered, its northern and southern boundaries being mountain streams fed by numerous tributaries that rise within the confines of the county. These streams furnish water for three purposes – domestic use for cities, irrigation and power development. For the generation of electric energy by water power, Placer is in the very front rank of the counties of California. A great electrical development and irrigation project has just been completed in the higher altitudes of Placer County. By the construction of great dams an immense quantity of water has been impounded. This water is used to turn the wheels of generators to create electricity for lights and power in the cities of Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco and elsewhere, and after it passes through the power houses, it is again taken from the streams and conveyed in canals to the foothill and valley farms, where it is used to irrigate the growing crops. There is an abundance of water for irrigation in every part of this rich and resourceful county.

    “Placer County is sometimes spoken of as the gateway to the Sacramento Valley. The appellation is not inappropriate, as the county is the first through which the tourist passes while en route to California from the East over the lines of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The visitor’s first glimpse of California is of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains with their deep canyons, timbered plateaus and snow-capped peaks. As the train winds down from the mountain, the visitor next sees the pretty foothill orchards and finally the fertile valley lands.

    “The mountain scenery of Placer County is magnificent. From the peaks are presented views as awe-inspiring as can be seen from the world famous Alps. Lake Tahoe lies partly in Placer County many of the resorts on the shores of that magnificent body of water are in this county. Mountain streams and lakes are numerous and here the gamey trout awaits the skillful angler’s fly. This is also a huntsman’s paradise. Grouse, valley and mountain quail, doves, wild pigeon and deer are found, and for those who wish to test their skill and courage against big game, bear and California lion are to be had by penetrating into the depths of the mountains.

    “The freight terminal of the Southern Pacific Company is located at Roseville, where the eastern and northern main lines of the railroad converge. A pre-cooling and icing plant, by which deciduous fruit is cooled and iced before being shipped East, is located here.

    “Near Loomis, the United States Government maintains an experimental station for fig raising, which promises to become an important industry in California within a few years. Figs grow readily in California and begin to bear the second year, producing an abundant crop by the fifth year.

    “The county seat is Auburn, situated in the heart of the foothills. It is a delightful little city surrounded by thriving orchards.

    “The climate of the foothill section of Placer County is delightful at all seasons of the year, and the air being laden with a balsamic ozone is a tonic to those with weak heart or lungs.”

  • Placer County Mines and Mineral Resources (circa 1915-1916) – Excerpts from Report XV of the State Mineralogist, Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Chapters of State Mineralogist’s Report Biennial Period 1915-1916, Part III. The Counties of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yuba, California State Mining Bureau, 1919, pp. 271-459. (Used with permission, California Department of Conservation, California Geological Survey.)

    Placer County, by Clarence A. Waring, Field Assistant. Field Work in October and November, 1915.


    “North of the ‘Mother Lode’ region lies a district rich in mineral resources which needs only the stimulus of capital and stable, enterprising men to further develop its latent resources. Hydraulic mining, which occupied the early workers, is now ‘tied up’ as it were, by federal antidebris legislation, which disheartened the operators and caused stagnation of the mining industry in general….”

    “Extending as it does, from the Sacramento Valley to the summit of the Sierras, Placer County offers a diversity of mining interests as well as a diversity of climate. In the middle fifties this county, with an estimated annual production of over $6,000,000 in gold, produced nearly one-tenth of all the yellow metal taken from the entire state. In 1914, with a production of $600,000 in gold, the county claims only about one-thirty-fifth of the total production…Together with the decrease of gold production has been the shifting of population. Iowa Hill, which in 1859 claimed a voting population of 1249, now has only 69, and other mining towns have dwindled to small villages or disappeared entirely. Over 500 mining claims were recorded in 1887. Only 135 properties are now active, i.e., being worked or having assessment work done (circa 1915)…Of the 135 active properties, 64 were said to be producing in 1916 and are distributed as follows: 6 quartz, 18 drift, 12 placer, 2 hydraulic 3 dredge, 2 chrome, 2 clay, 1 copper, 18 granite.

    “A revival of interest in mining is coming, in fact, many of the old properties are now (circa 1915) being leased and work begun. This new activity will, no doubt, be more permanent than that of the old hydraulic days and the mining industry will be on a firm foundation for years to come.


    Name, derivation of (Placer County)

    "Placer County derives its name from the Spanish word ‘placer,’ meaning a place where gold dust is found mixed with sand, earth or gravel.

    Location and boundaries (of Placer County)

    “It was organized in 1851, and extends from Bear River and the north line of T. 17 N, southward to the American River and its middle fork. It is bounded by Yuba and Nevada counties on the north, by the state of Nevada on the east, by El Dorado and Sacramento counties on the south, and by Sutter County on the west.

    Area (of Placer County)

    The county embraces 1484 square miles, and has an average length of over ninety miles, and an average breadth of about 13 miles.

    Population (of Placer County)

    The census of 1910 placed the county thirty-first in rank with a population of 18,237. Auburn, the county seat, is a city of the sixth class, with a population of 2376 in 1915….”

    Power (in Placer County)

    “The river system of Placer County is particularly well placed to furnish water capable of producing an enormous amount of hydroelectric power, besides being afterwards available for irrigation.…”

    Transportation (in Placer County)

    “The county is perhaps more fortunate than many others, since the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad crosses its western end and follows along the full length of its northern side. A branch of the Southern Pacific from Roseville through Loomis, Lincoln and Sheridan to Marysville furnishes excellent transportation for the extreme western portion of the county. The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railway from Colfax to Nevada City furnishes transportation in Placer County for a small region southeast of the Bear River and north of Colfax. Automobile and wagon roads traverse the county and follow the principal valleys and ridges, making most of the mines fairly accessible.

    Mineral Production (in Placer County)

    “The mining industry in Placer County is confined at present to the production of gold, silver, copper, lead, clay and stone. The greatest value is obtained from the gold production. The silver and lead are derived from the refining of the gold and copper. The copper production for 1915 showed a decided increase over that for 1914 because of renewed activity by leasers.

    “Granite is quarried extensively in the region about Rocklin and furnishes building stone, monumental stone, and paving blocks. Clay is produced principally near Lincoln ….”

    Mining Districts (in El Dorado County). (Please Note: Only the districts that list building stone will be listed here.)

    “The Colfax district (recorded as the Illinois district and includes the Capehorn district) includes all quartz mines and quarries in the vicinity of the town of Colfax, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and placer mines on the Bear River and North Fork of the American River . Gabbro, diabase, serpentine, slate and amphibolite are the principal formations….”

    “The Lincoln district includes the region about the city of Lincoln, where clay and building stone are quarried. Eocene sedimentary rocks and andesite prevail….”

    “The Rocklin (Loomis) district includes all granite quarries and placer deposits in the region about Rocklin. Granodiorite and andesite are the formations. Active quarries: Alexson, Anderson, Andrews, California, Delano, Escola, Griffiths, Hebrick, Hendrickson, Hutala, Leed, Osacar Kesti, Kesti, Liikola, Maki, Pacific, Pisila and Aho, Union and Wickman….”*

    (* The quarries that are italicized in this paragraph were active at the time of the report circa 1915.)

    Granite (in Placer County)

    “The quarries in the granodiorite east of Rocklin are the only ones producing granite in the county (ca 1915). The quarries northeast of Rocklin in the region of Loomis and Penryn are all idle. The granodiorite at Rocklin is light-colored and fine-grained and composed principally of quartz and feldspar, with fine crystals of hornblende and scales of biotite. The rock quarried at Penryn is coarse-grained and composed principally of quartz and feldspar, with quite large crystals of hornblende and flakes of biotite.”

    Limestone (in Placer County)

    “Lenses of limestone occur commonly associated with the metamorphic rocks throughout the county, but are seldom of large enough extent, or, if so, near enough to transportation, to be economically valuable. A lens of considerable size is cut by the Middle Fork of the American River, 5 miles northeast of Auburn and is being worked on the El Dorado side of the river by the Pacific Portland Cement Co. The portion of the deposit in Placer County will no doubt be worked in time. Small deposits northward in the same belt occur two or three miles south of Clipper Gap. A lens one mile north of Hayden Hill, three miles southeast of Towle, cut by the North Fork of the American River, is about two miles from the railroad, but no development work has been done.”

  • Placer County Mineral Industry (circa 1919) – Excerpt from California Mineral Production for 1919, Bulletin No. 88, by Walter W. Bradley, California State Mining Bureau, 1920, pp. 157.
    Area: 1,395 square miles.
    Population: 18,584 (1920 census)
    Location: Eastern border of state directly west of Lake Tahoe.

    “While standing only twenty-ninth on the list of mineral-producing counties, Placer contains a wide variety of mineral substances, some of which have not been commercially exploited. Its leading products are gold, chromite, granite, copper, and clay. Other mineral resources are: Asbestos, brick, chromite, coal, gems, iron, lead, limestone, magnesite, manganese, marble, quartz crystals, glass-sand, silver, and miscellaneous stone.

    “Commercial production for 1919 was as follows:”

    (Headings for the information below are: Substance, Amount, and Value.)

    Chromite, 1,018 tons, $24,000
    Clay and clay products, ---, $98,513
    Gold, ---, $230,000 (estimated)
    Granite, ---, $36,2333
    Silver, ---, $21,000 (estimated)
    Stone, miscellaneous, ---, $4,330
    Other minerals, ---, $1,055
    (Total value) $415,131.
    Placer County, 1916 Map, from California Mineral Production for 1919 (with County Maps), Bulletin No. 88, by Walter W. Bradley, California State Mining Bureau, San Francisco: California State Printing Office, 1920, pp. 186. Placer County , 1916 Map
  • Placer County Limestone Industry and Deposits (through 1947) – Excerpts from “Limestone in California,” by Clarence A. Logan, California Journal of Mines and Geology, Vol. 43, No. 3, July 1947, California Division of Mines, San Francisco, California, pp. 175-357. Used with permission, California Department of Conservation, California Geological Survey.)

    “The line of the Central Pacific Railroad (now the Ogden Route, Southern Pacific Company) was built in the early sixties and traverses nearly the entire width of Placer County from west to east. San Francisco was the metropolis of the state then, and lime was in great demand there for building, but transportation from nearby deposits was poor. Many small deposits of high-calcium limestone were found within a few miles of the railroad near Auburn, Clipper Gap, Applegate, and Colfax and with cheap rail and water transportation to San Francisco it was natural that these should be opened and equipped with lime kilns. This activity continued into the first decade after 1900, when Portland cement began to displace both granite and brick. No lime kilns have been operated in the county since 1910, and the last recorded limestone production was in 1916.

    “The formations in which the limestone deposits occur in this county were originally mapped by the U. S. Geological Survey as ‘Carboniferous’ under the local name of Calaveras formation in the lower, western section and Cape Horn, Clipper Gap, and Delhi farther east. These names cover hard siliceous slate, phthanite, quartzite, mica schist, and limestone altered to marble, and also possibly in part by silicification to phthanite. The place of these formations in the geologic column was determined by meager fossil evidence found in the limestone at only one or two places. On the new state geologic map these formations are classed as ‘Carboniferous, Mississippian.’

    “In western Placer County, as near Auburn and Clipper Gap, there are remnants of the old Cretaceous peneplain, on which are limited exposures of these rocks, including small bodies of limestone, all planed down by erosion to an approximate level. From Auburn east and northeast, extend the succession of deep canyons carved by American River and its tributaries. On the sides of these trenches are a number of limestone bodies which have been so stripped by erosion as to indicate that while their outcrops are small, they extend to vertical depths of several hundred feet. The first type, exposed on the old peneplain, would have to be worked through shafts. Those exposed on the sides of the stream canyons can be worked in open quarries and ‘glory holes.’”

    Plate 21-B. Limestone Exposed North of Volcano, Placer County by Placer Mining. Limestone Exposed North of Volcano

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