By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

As American settlers explored the Northcoast during the mid 1800s, they noticed a tall cliff that ran along the beach from about 10 miles south of the mouth of Klamath River.

Soaring up to 1,000 feet and made only of compacted sand, the bluff fronted the ocean for about six miles.

With the recent discovery of gold in California close to most people's thoughts, it didn't take settlers a long time to consider the possibility of gold in the cliffs.

They had noticed heavier black sand washed from the cliff's face by strong waves and streaked across the beach. They realized that the ocean was eroding the cliffs like miners in the mountains using sluice boxes to wash the gold from ore-bearing stream gravel.

A group of men formed an association to work the black sand, claiming possession of parts of the area and the beach areas where they could camp.

Their supplies were brought up from San Francisco via steamer and hauled across and through the surf at low tide.

And they found gold.

The cliffside became known as Gold Bluffs.

Because the washed out gold was very fine in texture, and the black sand very coarse and heavy, the men couldn't use placer mining techniques.

Instead they put quicksilver in riffles and pools, ran the gold sand across it with a slight stream of water and harvested gold from the mercury.

The ebb and flow of the tides dictated when the association could work. Strong tides also competed with them, sometimes beating them to the valuable sands.

However, that was nothing compared to the highly embellished descriptions of the andquot;Gold Mountain,andquot; and expectations of gold lying in piles on the beach.

Gold Mountain and Gold Lake descriptions, however, paled when compared to the Gold Bluff swindle.

Hundreds of would-be miners landed at Trinidad to head for the area and scoop up their fortunes. Most simply returned to San Francisco without mining anything.

Some stayed in the budding young towns of Klamath, Union Town and Trinidad.

The swelling population moved into territory long inhabited by indigenous tribes. Bloodshed followed, and the U.S. Army arrived to protect miners and settlers.