National Register of Historic Places in Amador County
As early as 1854, farm lands in Ione Valley and Jackson Valley had been damaged by debris carried in streams from placer gold mines. Later, hydraulic gold mining caused damage as far as the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Finally, quartz mining released even greater residue into nearby streams.
The Caminetti Act of 1893 created the California Debris Commission, but enforcement was weak. In 1913, two decades later, litigation forced mining companies to control debris or cease operations.
Many stamp mills were located far from potential disposal areas. The Zeile Mine, near Jackson, closed in 1914 for lack of a disposal area. The Argonaut Mine moved its mill from a location below what is now Highway 49 to the top of the hill where its tailings could be carried to a controlled area.
Prior to 1914, Kennedy Mining and Milling Company deposited tailings south of the mill where much of the debris found its way into the North Fork of Jackson Creek. To remain in business, Kennedy Mining adapted a wheel system used in Montana to lift mining debris to higher elevations.
The Kennedy Tailing Wheels used gravity to convey tailings via holding dams and flumes to a series of four wheels which lifted the tailings over two hills. The tailings then flowed downhill to an impounding dam. The distance from the stamp mill to the dam was about four thousand feet.
Adapted from the NRHP nomination.