Gold!

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Such strikes were largely phenomena of the early part of the gold rush, however, when men were prospecting virgin ground. Even as early as 1850 such surprises had become quite rare, and by the end of 1852 the gold rush was just about over. By that time all the rivers had been prospected, almost all the big strikes made. The gold fields no longer had much place for a man operating on only a dream and a shoestring. Hard-rock mining, beginning to become common, involved tunneling into rock and crushing and treating gold-bearing quartz, and so necessitated tremendous capital outlays. Hydraulic mining, a new development, was making it possible to recover gold from very low-grade placer deposits, but it required tremendous amounts of water under very high pressures, which were obtained from the high Sierra by complex canal and flume systems far too costly for an independent prospector.

But the gold seekers kept coming, though in rapidly diminishing numbers, until 1859. That was the year the great Comstock Lode was discovered in what is now Nevada. Virtually every miner in California dropped what he was doing and headed through the passes of the Sierra Nevada to the new Eldorado. It was a great rush, but it was anticlimax after the one in California. But then, so has been every other gold rush since.