By David Kier
Gold was discovered in the central region of Baja California at Calmallí in 1882. One pure gold nugget reportedly weighed fourteen ounces. Hundreds of miners and twenty stamp mills were extracting the gold in the next few years. The Calmallí rich ore that had produced over a quarter million dollars in revenue soon played out. However, new pockets of gold were being discovered in the surrounding hills.
Five miles south of Calmallí, gold was found at Campo Alemán (German Camp), later called Pozo Alemán (German Well). This was about 1890 and was active at least to 1910 when photos were taken that show the town and some underground homes for miners who used them to escape the heat.
Gold from these mines was originally hauled by wagon west to Puerto Santo Domingo on Laguna Manuela. Many years later, it is possible that the gold was flown out from the airports (dirt runways) that were at both Calmallí and El Arco, just over two miles away.
The El Arco gold fields began being worked in the 1920s and it grew to be an important mining and supply center located just north of the border between the north and south political regions of Baja California. The original automobile road to La Paz passed through El Arco. That route was replaced by a paved Highway One in 1973, which totally bypassed El Arco to service the newer town of Guerrero Negro. At the time, El Arco was deemed still important enough to get its own paved access highway, Mexico #18. The thin pavement soon dissolved back to the dirt roadbed it was put upon. Copper discoveries at El Arco may someday bring it back to its days of glory.
The ghost town of Pozo Alemán is now just north of the graded road between El Arco and Punta San Francisquito and its old wooden buildings can be seen from this road, ¼ mile away. An interesting cemetery is along the driveway to Pozo Alemán. One home in town seems to be maintained and occupied the others are not. The underground rooms used over 116 years ago are fascinating and one can imagine the hardships these miners endured both by day and by night.
To reach Pozo Alemán, go 2.4 miles northeast from El Arco, branching left off Highway 18 just before it curves right, to cross the arroyo. If coming from Bahía de los Angeles or Punta San Francisquito, Pozo Alemán is about 15 miles past Rancho Piedra Blanca. Calmallí is 5.2 miles north of Pozo Alemán and was a larger town. Many relics have been photographed there that date back to its days of glory in the 1880s. Many mines are in this highly mineralized region of Baja California. Do some exploring but be careful of any unmarked mine shafts!
David Kier is a veteran Baja traveler, author of 'Baja California - Land Of Missions' and co-author of 'The Old Missions of Baja and Alta California 1697-1834'. Visit the Old Missions website.