Historic Blue Nugget #4 Sapphire/Gold Placer Claim
20 Acre Lode Claim – Yogo District – Judith Basin County, Montana
Gold Rush Expeditions, Inc. is proud to present the Historic Blue Nugget #4 Gold Mining Claim. This is a 20 acre placer mining claim for sale exclusively through Gold Rush Expeditions, Inc. The claim is located just outside of Great Falls, Montana and has been properly staked and marked at all corners. All Gold Rush Expeditions, Inc. claims have been meticulously surveyed, mapped and researched. Field work is completed by our own experienced, well versed Mine Survey Team.
The Blue Nugget #4 Claim is located directly on Yogo Creek in Yogo Gulch. This is the first area where the miners were panning for gold in the 1800s. The same areas where they kept coming up with blue pebbles. The claim area encompasses roughly 1320′ of Yogo Creek, exactly as pictured below. Please view images carefully as they document exactly what claim you will be receiving title to.
There is excellent 2WD access to the claim. The roads may get a little slippy when wet. 4WD is always recommended. There is a good staging and camping spot on the claim that will facilitate 3-5 vehicles. Its shaded and sheltered by the large trees on the claim. Some wide sections, some narrows and some pools and falls. Sapphires and small gold nuggets are common in the creek. The real gem to find will be the blue “Yogo” sapphires as they break out of dykes and vugs along the creek path. Yogo sapphires have been found in Yogo Creek from its junction higher in the canyon, all the way down to the patented land.
Gold Rush Expeditions owns all of the mining claims on Yogo Creek that are not private. If you are looking for Yogo sapphires, look no further. Yogo sapphire mining claims rarely if ever come up for sale. This recent batch of mining claims for sale represents the only remaining claims on or around Yogo Creek.
The Yogo Sapphires are only found in one place in the world, and that’s in Yogo Gulch, Montana. A small area where sapphires have been appearing for years. The sapphires break out of vugs and sedimentary formations, mostly dykes, in the vicinity of Yogo Gulch. This particular claim lies north of the patented sapphire claims that have been worked over for years and years. These patents have been worked and over worked and the story goes that the yogo sapphires only are found in the Yogo dike. If that is so, its interesting that sapphires have been found up to and near the head of Yogo creek. Sapphires and Gold. It’s not a bad return for spending a few days at some of the most beautiful Montana country you will ever see.
Sapphires are a color variety of corundum, a crystalline form of aluminium oxide. Corundum is one of the hardest minerals, rating 9 on the Mohs scale. Corundum gems of most colors are called sapphires, except for red ones, which are called rubies. The term “Yogo sapphire” refers only to sapphires from the Yogo Gulch. The cornflower blue color of the Yogo results from trace amounts of iron and titanium. Yogo sapphires are unique in that they are free of cavities and inclusions, have high uniform clarity, lack color zoning, and do not need heat treating because their cornflower blue coloring is uniform and deep. Unlike Asian sapphires, they maintain their brilliance in artificial light. Yogos present an advantage to gemcutters: since they are found as primary constituent minerals within an igneous bedrock rather than in sedimentary alluvial deposits where most other sapphires are located, they retain a perfect or near perfect crystalline shape, making cutting much easier, as does their lack of inclusions, color zoning, or cloudiness. Yogos also exhibit a triangular pattern on the basal plane of the flattened crystals, with thin rhombohedral crystal faces, a feature absent in sapphires from other parts of Montana.
The location of most Yogo sapphires within igneous rock rather than from alluvial placer deposits requires difficult hard rock mining. Coupled with American labor costs, this makes their extraction fairly expensive. At least 28,000,000 carats (5,600 kg) are estimated to still be in the ground. The Yogo dike is “the only known igneous rock from which sapphire is mined”. This again, is an interesting statement since the Yogo Sapphire have been found up and down Yogo Creek. Maybe they like to travel upstream, or maybe there is another dike higher up just waiting to be discovered.
Yogo Sapphires are extremely rare and desirable. A good 1 karat Yogo Sapphire can sell for upwards of $20,000.00. Yogo Sapphires are routinely found in the area but there are no active commercial Yogo Sapphire mines anymore. The last one closed in 2012 with the death on an underground miner who was credited with finding another large deposit of Yogo Sapphires.
Yogo Sapphires as found in the rough. These recovered from Yogo Creek in 2011.
History of the Mines
Mining of Yogo sapphires was exceptionally difficult and remains sporadic today. Even so, Yogo sapphire mining turned out to be more valuable than several gold strikes. The Yogo area also produced small amounts of silver, copper, and iron.
Yogo Gulch lies in a region originally inhabited by the Piegan Blackfeet people. Gold was first discovered at Yogo Creek in 1866, but the small numbers of early prospectors were driven off by local Native Americans. During a Gold Rush in 1878, about a thousand miners came to Yogo Creek, which was one of the gold-bearing streams in Montana not yet actively mined. “Blue pebbles” were noted along with small quantities of gold. The mining camp at Yogo City only flourished for roughly three years, and eventually the population dwindled to only a few people.
Yogo City was briefly known as Hoover City, after Jake Hoover. Hoover was part of a partnership that had been placer mining for gold and is credited as the discoverer of Yogo Sapphires. For several years, he also owned a ranch in nearby Pig-Eye Basin. He later prospected for gold in Alaska and was a deep-sea fishing guide in Seattle before eventually returning to the Judith Basin. Western painter C.M. Russell arrived in the area in 1880 as a young cowhand and was hired by Hoover. Russell stated that he learned most of his frontier skills from Hoover, and the two men remained lifelong friends. Millie Ringold, a former slave born in 1845, settled in Fort Benton, Montana after having worked as a nurse and servant for an army general. When gold was discovered at Yogo Creek, Ringold sold her boarding house in Fort Benton and left for the Yogo gold fields, setting up a hotel, restaurant, and saloon in Yogo City where she sang and played music. Ringold later cooked for the English mine, but also worked her own gold claims, even after gold mining was on the decline. She was known as a superb cook and ultimately died in Yogo City in 1906, the last resident of the community. The nearby town of Utica was featured in Russell’s 1907 painting A Quiet Day In Utica, which was originally known as Tinning a Dog. Hoover, Ringold, store owner Charles Lehman, and Russell himself are all depicted in the painting, placed between the hitching post and door of the general store.
The first claims along lower Yogo Creek, in the area of the sapphire dike, were gold placer claims filed in early 1895 by Simeon S. Hobson and Jake Hoover. Hoover did the bulk of the exploratory work, while Hobson, a rancher and president of the Fergus County Bank in Lewistown, arranged much of the financing. The pair enlisted Jim Bouvet in a partnership. Bouvet, a Chicago veterinarian, provided most of the $38,000 operating money needed to construct a ditch to divert water to their sluice operation. They built the Bouvet Ditch to increase water volume through their gold sluice assemblage on lower Yogo Creek west of the Ogg placer claim. The $38,000 investment proved worthless in terms of gold production; the first season’s work netted $700 in gold. Instead, they persisted in finding a bluish rock when they cleaned the sluice.
In 1894, the “blue pebbles” were recognized as sapphires. One story credits a local school teacher for recognizing the blue pebbles as sapphires. A variation is that the teacher lived in Maine, but was a friend of a local miner, who had mailed her a small box with some gold and a few “blue pebbles” in it. Another story credits a miner named S.S. Hobson for surmising that the blue stones might be sapphires, and his guess was confirmed by a jeweler in Helena. Ultimately, in 1895, Jake Hoover sent a cigar box containing those he had collected while mining gold to an assay office, which in turn sent them via regular, uninsured mail to Tiffany’s in New York City for appraisal by Dr. George Frederick Kunz, the leading American gemologist of the time. Impressed by their quality and color, Kunz pronounced them “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States”. Tiffany’s sent Hoover a check for $3,750 (approximately $106,700 as of 2016), along with a letter that described the blue pebbles as “sapphires of unusual quality”.
During the rise and fall of companies from 1899 to 1983, many tried to find success with the old American/English property. But there was a new mine that had started at Yogo Gulch. In January 1984, four local residents, Lanny Perry, Chuck Ridgeway and their wives, Joy and Marie, made their own discovery at Yogo. They followed a wood cutting trail that led them to an untouched section of the dike that had been previously disregarded by Gadsden as not worth mining. They staked their own claims on property not belonging to Roncor, and began to mine. This new area was called the Vortex Mine, and the mining was to be done underground. In time, they sank a shaft 280 feet down and discovered two different veins of Yogo-bearing ore.
The group operated this mine successfully for several years. Knowing that further capital was required and greater mine expertise needed, the mine was then leased to Small Mining Development (SMD) of Boise, Idaho. SMD came in and drove a spiraling decline shaft down to a depth of over 300 feet. SMD tried advanced mining techniques, such as high pressure water jets, to cut away the ore-bearing rock. Ultimately, SMD was dissatisfied with their production and profitability at Yogo. When SMD pulled out, they removed their wash plant and there was talk of possibly filling the spiral shaft with concrete and sealing the mine forever. The Vortex Mine became dormant and essentially closed in 2004.
The future for Yogo Sapphires looked very dim until the spring of 2008, when it was announced that Mike Roberts, a second-generation hard rock gold miner from Alaska, successfully acquired the Vortex Mine and its claims. He successfully commercially mined underground at Yogo, through the Vortex portal, utilizing the wash plant originally built by Pacific Cascade Sapphires. The mine shaft was around 300-foot deep but it had not been greatly explored by previous miners to determine the amount of Yogo Sapphires present. Mike worked diligently in the mine reaching a depth of over 400 feet, all the while following a vein of Yogo Sapphires.
Tragically, on March 19th, 2012, Mike Roberts died in an accident while working underground in the Yogo Sapphire mine. Mike died doing what he loved, searching for Yogo Sapphires. He was full of life and among his favorite things to do were to drill and blast, and spend time with his wife and family. His generosity to the Special Olympics is well known and was greatly appreciated. He was a great friend to all that knew him and he is greatly missed.
Roberts Yogo Sapphire Company, now operated by Mike’s wife and family, still owns the Vortex mine but mining has been limited due to the extenuating circumstances. It is undetermined if either mine will ever reopen for full operations or if the Yogo Sapphires brought to the surface in the last 100+ years will be the only ones the world gets to enjoy.
Summary material courtesy of “Yogo: The Great American Sapphire,” Stephen M. Voynick, Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula MT, 1985
Aerial view of claim and boundaries.
|Number of Mines||N/A|
|Nearest city with amenities||Great Falls, Montana approximately 80 miles away.|
|Access to the Claim||20 miles outside of Utica, MT on very easy 2WD dirt roads.|
|Parking and Staging on the claim||Parking for up to 10 vehicles and or equipment. Large open flat grassy area.|
|Structures on claim||None|
|Relics on the claim||None|
[learn_more caption=”Top Pictures”]
Dense tree growth on the claim.
The stream is rough and hasnt been touched in years.
The creek near a crossing.
A turn in the creek bed.
Pics shown at a low run off time.
Another bend in the creek.
Campsite hasn’t been used in a long time.
Good bet no one has been in this section of the stream.
Various colors of rocks throughout the creek.
Sapphires are lighter than gold, so they will travel a little farther.
A creek bank.
Interesting rock formations tumbling down.
Many turns and pools in the creek on the claim.
Camp site road is in good repair and offers good seclusion.
A wide, unworked section of the creek.
View of the creek bed.
Another turn in the creek with some tree fall.
Sapphires and gold are going to be small and collect under larger rocks.
A vuggy sample of rock filled with little pebbles.
Swift running portion of the creek.
More of the vuggy rock formations.
This is the road into your claim. Hop in the Honda and lets go!
Marker on the claim showing the relative location of old Yogotown.
[learn_more caption=”Claim Rating”]
Greater than 2600 sq feet of workings estimated. This assessment based on what surveyors observed while on site.
Accessibility and Location
2WD vehicle can get to claim
Free milling gold, gold nuggets or gems
Weather data from nearby city – Sapphire Village, Montana
[learn_more caption=”USGS information on the mine(s)”]
Disclaimer: This MRDS information is provided for reference only and does not represent the actual mine or the current state or mineral content or value. It should not be perceived as accurate or definitive. MRDS information should not be relied on as decision data, the MRDS system has not been updated in over 20 years. The US Bureau of Mines, who was responsible for mining site assessment was disbanded in 1994. USGS and MRDS information has not been updated in over 66 years.
- Gold – Primary
- Gemstones – Primary
USGS Database – 10124526
[learn_more caption=”Mining District Overview”]
Yogo District Information
The Yogo district is located in a relatively remote area east of Neihart and south of Stanford on the east slope of the Little Belt Mountains along Yogo Creek. Placer gold attracted the initial rush of miners, while deposits of silver, lead, and iron ore supported small scale lode mining for a number of years. It was the discovery of sapphires, however, that brought fame to the Yogo district.
Following the initial discoveries of placer gold in Montana, miners fanned out to locate new deposits. Some evidently found gold on Yogo Creek about 1865, but did not stay long when Native Americans became hostile. Other prospectors later returned to the area, and their discovery of gold along Yogo Creek in 1879 brought a rush to the remote region. The short-lived town of Yogo mushroomed to a population of 1200-1500 at its peak.
Miners constructed a number of miles of ditches to bring water to work their claims, which extended along the main creek for six miles on either side of the camp. Remnants of these ditches remain, including a section near Morris Creek.
While most worked claims along Yogo Creek, others worked ground in tributary creeks such as Skunk Gulch. At the end of the first season, however, the return was so small that the population rapidly dwindled. Just four years after its discovery, Yogo Gulch was all but deserted. A few miners continued placering in the alluvial gravels, and two men reported making fair wages in 1897 working a small hillside claim. A small population remained in the area for many years.
While the placering did not pay off, a number of prospectors staked lode claims in the Yogo district. Discoveries concentrated in the area north and west of Yogo camp, especially in Skunk and Elk gulches. The Blue Dick mine was located in 1878, the Gold Bug (Weatherwax) the next year, and most others in the following decade. Aside from the Gold Bug, there was little development work on the mines until the late 1880s and 1890s. The Blue Dick, California, Della and Quaker City, Gold Bug, Little Emma, and T. C. Power were all worked during this period. None contained much high-grade ore, however, and apparently most activity ceased by the turn of the century. The Blue Dick, California, and Gold Bug all experienced revivals during the 1930s and 1940s, and the New Deal was probably worked during the same time.
Due to the remote location of the Yogo mines, there were a number of small mills set up in the district to process the ore. Elias Shelby operated a water-powered arrastra at Yogo, grinding ore in two “tubs.” He processed ore from the T. C. Power mine in 1889 and may have been responsible for milling ore from the Blue Dick four years later. Accounts differ for the arrastra associated with J. D. Weatherwax’s Gold Bug mine. Robertson and Roby (1951) claim that he built an arrastra on Skunk Creek, while Hay (1975) recalls that Weatherwax packed the ore to Yogo where it was crushed in the same arrastra that processed ore from the T. C. Power mine. Weatherwax later replaced the plant with a five-stamp mill.
Operators in the 1930s and 1940s also established local milling facilities. While the owners of the New Deal mine erected just a small gravity mill, the Blue Dick Mining Co. built a 50-ton gravity flotation mill in Elk Gulch to work ore from the mine. Lessees at the Gold Bug took a different approach, shipping ore to the smelter at Anaconda. In addition, both sapphire mines had milling facilities that are described in detail below.
Continued placering for gold led to the unexpected discovery of sapphires in Yogo Gulch. Different versions of the story provide details and often conflicting information. A group of men worked the gravels of a bench east of Yogo Creek during the summer of 1895, constructing a $38,000 ditch to bring water to the claims; remnants of this ditch and flume can be traced for several miles from west of Bear Gulch east-southeast to the sapphire mines. Weed (1900) does not provide names of the miners; Robertson and Roby (1951) lists the men as G. A. Wells, S. S. Hobson, Matthew Dunn, and J. Hoover; and Wolle (1963) names a partnership of Jake Hoover, Frank Hobson, S. S. Hobson, and Dr. J. A. Bouvet. The investment failed to pay, however, since the season’s cleanup amounted to only $700.
The sluices lacked gold, but the men noticed that they contained a number of blue pebbles. Weed (1900) reported that these were identified as sapphires and New York’s Tiffany & Co. paid $3750 for a cigar box full of the gems. Robertson and Roby (1951) claim that Tiffanys paid only $1800 for the rough sapphires. Wolle offers still two other versions. In one story, Frank Hobson sent a sample of gold to a teacher friend in Maine, including some of the blue pebbles for interest; she wrote back to thank him for the sapphires. In the other account, Jake Hoover asked other miners about the strange stones; S. S. Hobson’s initial identification as sapphires was then confirmed by a Helena jeweler. Unlike other Montana sapphires, those from the Yogo deposits are valued for their cornflower blue color and exceptional brilliancy.
While Hoover and others set out to wash the creek gravels for sapphires, a local settler named John Ettien accidently stumbled on the sapphire lode when he was prospecting near the placer operations. He found a fissure in a limestone outcrop with a soft filling that looked like a vein. Ettien staked two claims, washed some dirt, and immediately found blue sapphires. Hoover and others quickly recognized the dike as the source of the Yogo sapphires. Miners traced the vein for at least five miles and staked claims along its length.
New Mine Sapphire Syndicate, a British company, purchased claims along the eastern end of the dike in 1897, while American Sapphire Co. (succeeded by Yogo Lapidary Co. and Yogo American Sapphire Co.) bought claims about the same time at the western end. The two companies mined the vein until 1914 when the British syndicate bought out its competitor, controlling all 33 patented claims. It continued operations until 1929.
Sedimentary rocks underlie the area and include limestones, shales, and sandstones from the Precambrian to Carboniferous periods. Igneous rocks have intruded into the host rocks, and mineral deposits are found at or near the contact zone. The primary minerals are galena, pyrite, and chalcopyrite, along with their oxidation products. Iron ore is found in lenses and bands within the Madison limestone near the zone of contact. Sapphires are found “in a minette or lamprophyre dike that cuts flat-lying Madison limestone”.
|Noted Commodities||Sapphires, Gold, Silver, Lead, Iron|