If there’s one positive aspect of the current historic drought, it’s the emergence of previously submerged gold-rush era mines and towns in reservoirs and lakes across the state.
Locally, in Don Pedro Reservoir, which is owned and operated by the Turlock Irrigation District, a historic mining facility known as Eagle Shawmut Mine is now fully visible along the shores near Chinese Camp.
The mine was located on the Tuolumne River and produced gold, silver and copper. It opened in 1850 and operated until an idle period between 1926 and 1936. The mine was shut down permanently in 1947, and in 1971 it became submerged with the completion of the Don Pedro Dam and Reservoir. The last time the mine was visible was in 1992.
According to WesternMiningHistory.com, the mine produced $7.4 million worth of products during its lifetime. It was the most historically productive mine in Tuolumne County until the Jamestown mine opened in the 1980s.
Eagle Shawmut Mine was largely an underground operation. As of 1940 the vertical depth of mining had reached about 2,400 feet and there were about seven miles of mining activity.
Local legend says there is a mansion and railroad at the bottom of the lake. Don Pedro is currently at 51 percent of capacity.