The Happy Camp gold mining district extends over 1200 acres and includes several miles of ditches, dams, reservoirs, placer cuts, tailings piles, prospect pits and associated habitation sites (see Figure 4). Most of the placer mining here was conducted using a technique called ground sluicing. This technique involved cutting a channel from a ditch above the area to be mined to sluice boxes below the mined area. As water was run through the channel the miners shoveled gold bearing earth and gravel into the channel where it was washed down to the sluice boxes which separated out the gold. Although labor intensive, ground sluicing required much less capital investment than hydraulic mining, which used extensive networks of riveted iron pipe (called penstock) and specially made nozzles (called monitors or giants) to handle the highly pressurized water. Archaeologist Laban “Scotty” Steeves (1984) noted that Chinese miners were masters at scaling the techniques they used to the productivity of the mines. This allowed them to make substantial profits from gold deposits considered too meager by other miners.
The remains of three cabins occupied by the Chinese miners at Happy Camp have been partially excavated by archaeologists in an effort to learn more about the lives of the miners. They are located about 0.5 mile apart and associated with distinct parts of the mining operation. One is located near a reservoir that controlled the flow of water to several individual placer mines. Another is located near the head of one of the placer mines. The third is located at the base of the mine near where the water exited the mine. Figure 1 shows a partly reconstructed cooking feature made of unmortared stone. This feature formed one wall of a cabin and when excavated it produced quantities of charcoal, mammal bone fragments, and Chinese ceramics that confirm its use for cooking. Winter Green style Chinese rice bowl fragments were recovered from all three cabins (Figure 2). Other Chinese diagnostic artifacts recovered at the cabins include Bamboo and Four Seasons ceramic tableware, Chinese Brown Glazed Stoneware food and liquor vessels, and Chinese cooking oil cans. Steeves (1984) has identified mining artifacts that are diagnostics of Chinese miners. These include Euro-American shovels with intentionally shortened blades, water nozzles fabricated from sheet metal and gum rubber boots with hob nails added to the soles (Figure 4), all of which have been documented at Happy Camp.