Osceola, most famous of the White Pine County gold producing districts, was probably the longest-lived placer camp in Nevada. One gold nugget found was valued at $6,000. The gold-bearing quartz belt found in 1872 was 12 miles long by 7 miles wide. Placer gold was found in 1877 in a deep ravine in the area. Miners first used the simple process of the common “49” rocker. Hydraulic monitors later were used to mine the gold from 10-foot to 200-foot thick gravel beds.
There were no significant springs or streams in the Osceola area to conduct a placer mining operation, so they constructed a 18-mile canal to bring water from streams running down the west side of Wheeler Peak as far south as Williams Creek near Pyramid Peak. Then in 1886, developers acquired water rights from Lehman Creek and began an 18-mile canal to catch water from streams on the east side of the mountain range. The eastern canal was called the Osceola Ditch and was an incredible undertaking. At a cost of more than $250,000 about 300 laborers, including many Chinese and Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute Indians, worked several months to complete the canal. The path was graded, a 600-foot long tunnel was blasted in one section, and miles of open-topped wooden aqueduct (called flume) which included control gates was constructed. The majority of lumber came from Hendry’s Creek near Mt. Moriah as well as other mills in canyons to the south of Lehman Creek.
It is unclear whether the the hydraulic mining at Osceola was really worth the expense. Once constructed, the flumes leaked and ice and snow cut the production to three or four months a year. Parts of the ditch deteriorated in a few years and by 1900 it was abandoned.
One of the worlds largest gold nuggets, said to have weighed 23 pounds was found here by a man with a pick and shovel. He stole the nugget, but he later returned $4,000 in gold bars to the owner.
Osceola was a good business town because of its location near the cattle and grain ranches and gardens in Spring Valley to the west and Snake Valley to the east.
Famous mines in the district were The Cumberland, Osceola, Crescent and Eagle, Verde, Stem-Winder, Guilded Age, Grandfather Snide, Red Monster, and the Saturday Night.
The town reached its peak in the mid-1880s when it had more than 500 residents. It was one of the first towns in Nevada to have electric lights and the first telephone in White Pine County.
But, there were several fires in the late 1880s and the population was down to about 100 by 1900. A fire in the 1950s destroyed most of the remaining buildings. The camp produced nearly $5 million primarily in gold with some silver, lead and tungsten.
Intermittent mining continues and there is one local resident -- please respect private property.
Osceola Historic Marker.
“Great Basin Drama” by Darwin Lambert.
“Roadside History of Nevada” by Richard Moreno.
Ely, Nevada 45 miles.
East of Ely on paved Highway 6&50 to Spring Valley marker then well-maintained gravel road to ghost town site then 3 miles of slow rocky dirt road to top of pass. Then 5 miles of well-maintained gravel road takes you back to Highway 6&50 at BLM roadside rest east of Sacramento Pass.