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Saddle Hill gold reefs


I’ve become quite interested in the Saddle Hill gold mining operations a few KMs south of Dunedin. At the south end of Fairfield, behind the old Coach and Horses hotel, the old Main South Road winds up the hill to East Taieri. On the left hand side of the road is a gully and a adit (mine opening) can still be seen. There are also old adits on the right hand side of the old motorway across the narrow gully. There was a dam and a stamper battery in close proximity and the reefs were reportedly very promising and contained gold up to 17dwt to the ton in places. I also read somewhere that the gully was worked for alluvial gold and a 2 ounce nugget was reportedly found. Vincent Pyke, who was the Otago Gold Commissioner, mentioned in his book ‘History of Early Gold Discoveries in Otago’ that a group profitably worked a gully in Chain Hill until they were forced out by the property owner.
The reefs were numerous and well defined and were up to 20 feet wide in places and several feet high. They were traced for several KM and when the rail tunnel between Wingatui and Abbotsford was cut they cut across a reef that contained gold.
I will download some of the newspaper articles over the next few days. It looks like it could have been an important gold field but wasn’t worked well.
The reefs are still there.


There is still evidence of alluvial workings on the creek bed itself you refer to. Actually a lot of the gullies around the proximity you refer to contain gold.Essentially it is believed the reefs are a continuation of the reefs around Mullocky gully further to the west. The mullocky reefs are basically a continuation of the Barewood reef system near Hindon.
Gold is also found out near Larnachs castle and in the Leigh. Good sized nuggets and alluvial gold are found in the silverstream watershed near Whare flat as well. There is still evidence of alluvial workings in the spurs of some of these feeder streams in that vicinity.
No many people actually realize Dunedin is actually built on a gold field


Indeed. I read recently that Lawyers Head had a number of gold bearing reefs in it. Also gold could be mined in the ruby sands at the Tomahawk Lagoon and also at Hoopers Inlet. Many years ago I actually saw a nugget that was found on Chain Hills. It would have weighed half an ounce and I don’t know if it was glacier carried or from the local reefs. I lived in Fairfield for many years and I remember an elderly neighbour telling me he had a friend who who go up Chain Hills when it rained and would come back with a small bottle of gold. A recent article I read spoke about a gold specimen being found in Serpentine Avenue of all places.
We do live in a gold field.


There are many stories and accounts of the Fairfield gold reef. The mine was reopened by the University Geology Department I think many years ago - maybe in the 1960s or 70s but the assay was more or less minimal. Gold was found as Nasebygold states at Mullochy Gully and a friend of mine in the War years got a nice nugget there. A fellow also used to go into and maybe beyond the headwaters of the Silverstream from Whare Flat and was known to come back out a fortnight or so later with a very appreciable amount of gold. The Gold on the Otago Peninsular was not really economic but it certainly existed. Otago within close proximity to Dunedin City is actually very interesting geologically and it is almost impossible to believe that within view of the Waipori Cemetery more or less depending on the undulations of the land but within 10ks there existed lodes or reef containing Cinnabar, Chalcopyrite, Antimony, Scheelite, Rhodonite/Manganese and of course Gold.
My dream as a kid was to get into the Fairfield mine but it is watered up and to date I have not been to the site. To the best of my memory the Battery was referred to as ‘The Government Battery’ and Quartz specimens from different locations were taken there for crushing on occasion.


I might add here that I found two small gold nuggets of 0.3g and 1g at Brighton beach. The nuggets were found on bedrock hard against the gravel / soil bank.


That is interesting, presumably you were detecting?
They say there is gold on the beaches all the way up to Moeraki.
I must get down to Coal Point sometime. It is on the Coast over the hills from Kaitangata and a few miles north of the Clutha Mouth. I have heard that there is gold there although presumably not in payable quantities. There is a deposit there of the same material as the Blue Spur in Gabriels Gully and it sounds like an interesting area.
Alex McKay wrote a very interesting book called ‘The Auriferous Gold Bearing Drifts of Central Otago’ and he mentions areas where you probably wouldn’t expect gold to be. It is an 1897 report and available in electronic form on the internet. It is very interesting although hard to comprehend if you don’t understand geology - and I don’t.


Very interesting info there Graham. You mention about reefs around Waipori containing other minerals as well as gold. It reminded me of the gold at Mullocky containing high amounts of copper and maganese. I have detected up in the watershed of the Silverstream near powder creek and the biggest piece I pulled out was approx 9.3g just after the big floods we had last year. It had a red hue too it. Very hard ground to detect due to the bush and the old gold bug 2 was struggling with the mineralisation of the ground.
Some of the gold found in Dunedin particularly if you go to the top of north east valley where the road cuttings are is from the quartz gravels which are classified as the Taratu formation. These ancient quartz gravels are all throughout Otago and Southland and make up some the likes of the Waipori deep lead, St bathans deposits and even deposits like Mount Criffel near Wanaka.
Geologically Dunedin was covered in these ancient auriferious quartz gravels before they were covered by volcanic series of rocks which caused the formation of the harbor and some other important volcanic structures around Dunedin.
Another creek to check out is the Semple burn in Blue Skin bay near the pistol club. Lots of fine gold and the lower part was worked by the old timers.
I quite often head out to Blueskin bay on the Waitati river in the domain and setup the sluice and can get some good color.


Saddle Hill Reefs ODT January1932.pdf (139.4 KB)
Hopefully you can read this.


The blue spur deposit goes all the way to the coast however its gold content drops as you head towards the coast. The source of the gold around the beaches north of the Clutha mouth are attributed not just to the gold from the Clutha but also from ancient quartz gravel deposits that cover much of the district.
Hamden beach was incredibly rich with gold of up to 1 oz to the ton in places. Its of a very fine character and was believed to originate from the gravels that cover the area of the trotters gorge catchment. This deposit of gravel is of similar nature to the blue spur deposit with angular schist and quartz making up the conglomerate that is eroding and liberating the gold. Some of the gold that comes from these gravels is thought to originate from the Macreas shear zone which this ancient river cut through This deposit was part of an ancient river system that flowed a similar path as the modern Shag river but of a larger capacity. These old river gravels have subsequently been up lifted along the Waihemo Fault which has given rise to the mountains you see on your right as you travel from the coast to inland towards Ranfurly on the pig root.


A bit more, and a bit more to come


Great information there and dont forget the fine gold in the stream that flows into Blueskin Bay at Evansdale. The head of it was also mined in the early days - Its name is Carey Creek.

Further up in the head of the Waitati River into which Semple Burn flows they found calcareous sandstones and oil shales and a seam of coal.

Re Otago Penisular gold - Geology of Dunedin - ‘As has been stated, an instance of an exceedingly interesting auriferous rock occurs at Harbour Cone, near Portobello, on the Peninsula. Although frequently spoken of as a quartz reef, this is in reality a dioritic rock, richly impregnated with iron pyrites, and apparently occurring in very large quantities. Several attempts have been made to work it, but all have, so far, proved ineffectual. Some years ago trial crushings were made in Victoria, which yielded 7 ½ dwts. to half an ounce per ton, and other samples from a portion of the deposit a little lower down the hill gave 8 dwts., 1 oz., 2 dwts., and 6 dwts. per ton respectively. Some doubt was felt as to the probability of finding gold in such a matrix, and other samples were tried in Dunedin, all of which yielded the precious metal. Inlateyears, about 1886, another attempt was made to develope the field, but without success’

Re Green Island/Fairfiled - ‘In addition to the above instance, there is at Green Island a series of quartz reefs, known as the Saddle Hill Reefs. The stone is of considerable thickness, up to 14 feet, and strikes S. 76 deg. E. It dips northward at an angle of 55deg., and is enclosed in soft phyllite. Several of the reefs carry gold, and some attempts have been made to work, but so far no success has attended the efforts, and the place is now let to a party of miners who are working surface stone’


Very interesting stuff Graham, that reminds me of Carey’s creek there is actually an antimony reef there not far from the Quarry as you head up the Kilmog on the left heading north. A lot of the ground around that area including around Bucklands crossing contains some good gold. A few years back I actually dredged Bucklands crossing at the bridge there. 5 g for the day with a 4 inch dredge with some nice size flakes. Further inland there is a place called Elderado on the Mt Watkins road and my biggest bit out of there was a 3 g nugget.
Whats interesting is that area heading towards Elderado and Nenthorn is actually still within the Dunedin city limits.
I think alot of those creeks particularly around the Stoneburn and eastern side of Macreas have been totally overlooked by most people.


Yes Dunedin City is New Zealands largest city - by area that is. I had a lot of gold from Bucklands back in the 1970s and also further over off the Pig Root at Stoneburn I got some great nuggets - that might have been between 1971 and 1973.

A friend of mine who is dead at the moment got 8 dwy (12 g) of gold one day in the creek on the left hand side of the road heading up from Dunback t0 Macraes.

My uncle got just under 200 grams one day in Three oclock Creek (6 ounces)

As a kid I spent a lot of time around El Dorado when the Paynes owned it - that was in the 1950s About 1974 I actually got very fine colours out of a small area where there were cracks in the sand stone bottom in the one tiny area where there was bed rock in the Waikouaiti River at Karitane where the tall cliffs are and the first houses when heading into Karitane fromthe main road.


Good old Three O clock. I was in there a couple of years ago as I know the farmer on the station there sniping and found an old wing dam. Started looking under it and feeling for the bottom and reached my hand it what felt like something soft and could feel a bite pull down with what felt like half way up my arm. Got a bloody hell of a fright and pulled my arm and this giant black eel that I kid you not was attached to my arm trying to do the death role. Me being a female and weighing a lot less than you blokes made for the surface like a cut cat with this bloody eel attached to me. This thing would have been a good 7 foot attached to my arm.
By this stage my hand is bleeding and the eel is going no where. Lucky i had a geo-pick attached to me which I had to use to stab the eel on its head to release.


I think I may have been the first person (or at east one of the first) with a suction dredge at Quartz Reef Point on the Clutha River above Lowburn. I had a spot that I did quite well out off but I have a terror of eels, which I have never got over, and I never did as well as I should have. The eels have a way of creeping up on you and suddenly appearing and scaring the crap out of you. The worst I ever experienced was at Tuapeka Mouth where the Tuapeka met the Clutha. I had a couple of pans and I noticed the water level was rising - the gates at Roxborough must have been opened. I was concentrating and I saw two gigantic black eels about a foot away from my pan. I backed off quickly and they swam into the Clutha.
There is a really interesting story about night dredging and eels. It can be located at -

The whole thread is really interesting.
The think, Nasebygold, that your story is much worse than theirs. You poor thing, it would be my worst nightmare


Dammit…I am trying to reply on my phone…Eels? Well yes I know them well from dredging days in Deep Stream! As soon as I can get my computer fired up I shall relate a few but in the meantime sufficient to say that the old Bible story of Jesus walking on water is something I have reprocated…rest assured that the reason that he walked on water is because he came face to face with a large eel…I know because I been there done that!


I was speaking to a friend of mine who lived on the east slope of Saddle Hill until a year or two ago. I asked him if he knew about the reefs and mining. He said that his property had a lot of piles of stones (tailings), rail tracks and mine shafts which he assumed were coal mines. When it was wet the water flowed out of the shafts like rivers. They thought it was from springs and they got the water tested - they probably thought they were onto a gold mine - and they were told the water was very similar to that in Central Otago. Supposedly similar minerals.
Anyway, I attach another old newspaper article about Saddle Hill. It also mentions the specimen in Serpentine Avenue.OUR FUTURE GOLDFIELDS.pdf (99.2 KB)


Yes the Clutha is renowned for its giant eels. I recall an incident a number of years ago whereby a car drove off into the river with its occupant. The body was recovered a number of days later completely intact with no visible injuries apart from superficial abrasions. When they went to weigh the body they were surprised at its low weight and during autopsy found that all of the internal organs had been removed and the inside of the chest and thorax was completely clean and smooth. It was found that eels had entered the body by way of the rectum and and or reproductive tract and went to task on the internal organs etc leaving the skin and skeleton intact. From the outside one could not tell this had happened until the chest was opened up.


That is a truly awful story NG…
My family had a holiday home at Lowburn close to the Lowburn Bridge. One one side was the Clutha and on the other side was a dredge hole. My parents bought it from an old chap called Bill Hooper who was the father of Lance and Neville Hooper who had the Bell/Hooper mine at Scotland Point on the Kawarau. The dredge hole was full of perch - no idea how thy got there - but some of the other dredge holes had trout and eels of enormous size. They got in there (trapped or through underground stream) and grew and couldn’t get out. I saw a trout in one of the holes which was huge but no one believed me. A few years later someone caught a trout in that hole and it was something like 28lb. I also saw a couple of eels that were unbelievably big. The trout bred in the dredge holes but the eels couldn’t.
I missed a huge opportunity up at quartz reef point. The area I used to dredge (mid 70’s) was a smallish beach with a clay bottom. Upstream was a very deep hole and the gold replenished itself each year. The first year or two I took a couple of ounces off the beach. The dredge was small but effective, it had a iron horse motor and floated on a rubber tube. it worked under water but I was always standing above water. I could see the gold lying on the clay and the flacks were often the size of my little finger nail. Only once did I go through the clay and I was getting nuggets over a gram. I never exploited that and now I look back on it. In those days it was a hobby and I think gold was about $460 an ounce.
About 100m down stream was a sluiced area on bedrock covered in tailings from the workings above. I used to play around there and I would get 8-10 colours per pan about pin head size. I put a basic sluice box in there a couple of times and used my iron horse motor to sluice the tailings and could easily get 2-3 of grams in a mornings work. My set up was probably ineffective, there were unlimited quantities of tailings and with something like the modern high bankers I it would have been very viable. I wish I had exploited those possibilities more. I lived in Mosgiel and I worked for four hours, went fishing for four hours, spent four hours cleaning the concentrate and that was it. It was a hobby.
But, every time, I drive through the Kawarau gorge I look at the areas on the other side of the river and wonder what it would be like to process some of those tailings with more modern gear.
This summer I intend getting out there again. I would like to get up to Powder Creek and have a look around. Last year I worked out where the reef workings were at Mullocky Creek (Taioma), went up there but couldn’t get close as the forestry operations were in the exact area. (Wenita Forestry have a good internet site for Mullocky Creek which is something that they may have to do to preserve history of what they encroach upon.) I also have an area close to where Deep Stream meets the Taieri that I want to visit.
Sorry, this started off small but has become huge and I have got away from the Saddle Hill topic. Perhaps I wanted to stop thinking about eels.


Ok so the thread has turned to eels - my father was never scared of them despite tickling trout sometime prior to going off to WWII and an eel latching onto his fingers! Well that would have driven me insane - well more insane than I am. I was told that he never panicked but merely held his hand where it was until the eel let go - if you try to drag your fingers out THEN you are in trouble.
In Deep Stream at Wallaces Ford one day I was sitting on the bank watching Dad diving. I saw an absolutely collossal eel come up behind him and yelled out but Dad took no notice. The eel glided up near to beside him and Dad kept quite still…and then he struck with his pick…he impaled the eel and it was all on - the water churned up mud and from the turbed water a hand broke surface - eels tail - another hand - foot - eels tail - Dads head - more eel - more dad until finally Dad managed to get out of the water with the eel wrapped around his arm like a snake - not for me thanks.
It was also around that time that I was Gold mining about a mile down from Wallaces Ford and saw another very large eel - well that was it - I was out of the water. I decided that it had come out of under the bank in the near vicinity so the next weekend I took up about ten sticks of gelignite and breaking them in half threaded them onto cordex, attached a detonator and let rip - now that was fun. The river more or less headed skywards together with rocks - and then it rained - the water didnt do any harm but the rocks crashed down on the trees and around me with me running around trying to dodge them. When it was all over I KNEW it was safe to enter the water and start gold mining because every eel from that point toPurgatory would be concussed - doomed and dead. No one had told me that if you churn up the mud and sediments the eels will come for miles and they did just that! That particular spot yielded some great gold over the years and I know that there is a great deal there yet.
I quickly learnt that I could take care of the eels by getting a bolt action single shot .22 rifle and when an eels come up slide the rifle under the water and up to its head - that nailed them - stone dead.
One of the three or four biggest I ever saw in Deep Stream was a worry - when I saw it I headed WELL UP the river to cross over the get the rifle - when I shot it I heard it thrashing and crashing in the willows below me for ages and was worried later that it might head back up with a bullet hole between the eyes seeking revenge!
The biggest eels I saw in Deep Stream was a monster - in fact it almost looked like a swimming telephonepole - I kid you all not! That is what it seemed like to me. I never mined gold within close proximity of that spot!
It was about that time I told two gold mining partners of the eel I saw in Three Oclock Stream in the 1970s but they were determined to mine in the Taieri near the confluence of Three Oclock Stream. They later came and told me that they had actually been attacked by eels and would NEVER go back there - I have no reason to disbelieve them but I do know that they would never have worried my father. Personally I dont think they would ever attack me BUT I simply dont want to find out!
Yes sir - just call me Chicken Man!
I cannot recall having seen eels at Mt Allan in the Taieri - that was a favourite area of two early 1960s mining friends Stan Rainsford and John Dean - both are dead at the moment. There was some nice gold there. I found a wee spot there I always wanted to go back to - but never went. I am sure no one will have worked it. I got some great flakes there but it was not in the river itself.
I also never ran across any eels in the Taieri at Annetts Creek between Middlemarch and Hyde but I did get a large amound of fine gold there. That would have been through the 70s.
My gold mining partner knew of a spot near Hyde where there was good pickings and on each occasion he went there he got an ounce or two…his grandfather averaged two ounces an hour gold mining, year in and year out - any guesses where that claim was - if any one hits the nail on the head I will confirm - I do believe that there will be a good amount there yet…not near Saddle Hill though!