In around 1873, John Goler was out prospecting in the El Paso Mountains. Goler, was a member of the Bennett-Arcane party, the party that had narrowly escaped Death Valley back in 1849. While on the southern slopes of the El Paso Mountains he discovered gold nuggets while soaking his feet in a spring. He filled his pockets with the nuggets and made his way to Los Angeles to sell what he had found. To mark the location he partially buried his rifle so that he could later re-identify the location on his return.
In Los Angeles, Goler found a partner in Grant P. Cuddeback. The two men returned to the El Paso Mountains, but were never able to relocate the original location of Goler’s discovery. They did however find gold in the Red Rock Canyon area, a short distance to the west. Oddly enough the gun that was left by Goler was found in 1917 by Will Munsey, a homesteader with a ranch near Goler.
Gold was again discovered in Goler Gulch in 1893. In March, the first official claim was placed called Jackass Placer, and with that, the Goler Mining District had officially been born. The placers at Goler were extremely rich, nuggets weighing up to 10 ounces were recovered from the canyon during the early mining rush. The deposits found at Goler are due to secondary enrichment from the erosion of an ancient river channel that runs alternately along the top and below the ground.
Shortly after the mines opened, a stage began to run between Goler and Mojave (Mojave was the nearest railroad at the time), and a camp sprang up around the mining activity. The number of businesses that occupied the camp is not well documented, but it is known that a boarding house, several saloons, and a store were once located there.
The amount of gold that was removed from district is unknown because many of the claims were individually owned and mined, so much of what was recovered went unreported. The Wells Fargo in nearby Garlock reported that nearly $500,000 in gold had shipped through its offices from Goler, leading the experts to believe that over a million dollars in gold was removed from Goler from 1893-1905.
In the 1930s a resurgence in mining activity at Goler took place. Enough so, that a one-room school was build up the gulch, and about a dozen children attended school here from 1932-1936. Much of the resurgence had died off by the end of the 1930s, but there are still several private mining claims that are currently operating in the area.
So what is there to see at Goler today?
Between Garlock and Goler is the old cemetery. There is a mixture of older burial plots, and ones that date up to current years. Some years back the cemetery had been washed out by a flash flood, so there is no real knowing to how extensive the cemetery is. The older plots are decorated with old mining tools.
From Garlock Road, you can see up on the hill the area known as Goler Heights. Much of Goler Heights is now private property. Please respect this and do not disturb. If you wish to drive up to Goler Heights there is a small mining claim with some fallen stone structures, which sits outside of the private property boundaries. Be careful, there is a large open shaft in this area that is not caged off.
Just inside Goler Gulch, there is the Edith E. Mine. The Edith E. was one of the more profitable mines in the 1930s. All of the shafts and adits have now been closed off by equipment backfills, bat gates, and chain link fencing. One of the original cabins remains standing.
About a quarter of a mile past the Edith E. is the old camp site. There are several small stone structure ruins along the wash. This was also the location of the school-house, a shot up sign marks the location. A quarter of a mile past the camp, there is a stone wall on the right side of the canyon. If you hike up the hill to the stone wall, you find what appears to be a large swimming pool, this was actually the camps reservoir.
From the reservoir you are roughly .85 miles from “the narrows.” During this .85 miles you will come across various mines, caves, and an old abandoned automobile. Much to my surprise when entering one of these caves, I found one that it was being inhabited. The cave was clean, had carpet, a bed, table, and chairs.
At “the narrows,” pay particular attention to the wall on the left. Here you will find a few petroglyphs, they aren’t the easiest things to see, but they are there. (If driving, please note that “the narrows” can only be passed with a high clearance 4×4 vehicle). Past “the narrows” there is a side canyon on the left, a short distance up the canyon there are the ruins of several stone structures.