BLOG Keli Gwyn Author Photo-LgKeli Gwyn here to whisk you back in time. Imagine this. It’s 1866. You own a hydraulic mining operation in California. It’s the middle of the summer. There’s been no rain since May. Rivers are running low. Streams and creeks are drying up. But you need water to operate your mine. What do you do? Read on to find out how two bright men of yesteryear, who lived where I do now, came up with a solution.

The easy-to-find placer (surface) gold had been mined in the early years of the Gold Rush, forcing miners to use different methods. In 1853, hydraulic mining came into play. Water cannons with streams of water shooting up to 500 could blast away entire hillsides. The gold-rich quartz veins were revealed, the ore crushed and the precious metal extracted.

BLOG Keli Hydraulic MiningMine owners were happy…provided they had water. In order to get that precious commodity, ditches (canals) were built to divert water from the sources to the mines. The ditches might be able to supply enough water for smaller operations, but the big hydraulic mines needed more than that. John Kirk, an engineer from Pennsylvania, had anticipated this need. A forward thinker, he bought the water rights to many Sierra lakes high above the Gold Country. He and his partner, surveyor Francis A. Bishop, envisioned a canal that would bring water from the mountains to the foothills below. Although their plan for the canal was well thought-out, they’d completed less than one mile when they ran out of funds in 1871.

Kirk and Bishop sold their water rights and property to the newly formed El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Company for $60,000. Incorporated in 1873, the Company assumed control of the project, following the plans laid by Kirk and Bishop.

The building of the El Dorado Canal was one of the most ambitious undertakings in the state of California up to that time. When it was completed, just in time for the U.S. Centennial celebration in July 1876, the canal was about thirty miles long. Four miles of that was wooden flumes resting on elevated rock walls.

BLOG Keli El Dorado Canal WorkersThe monumental task required a massive workforce. Over one thousand Chinese laborers came up from San Francisco, assisted by about a hundred Euro-Americans, mostly Italian. The canal cost the Company between $650,000 and $700,000, or about $25,000 per mile.

When I learned about the construction of the El Dorado Canal, I was impressed. Every time I turn on the tap to fill my glass with water, I’m benefitting from the work done one hundred forty years ago by engineers who had nothing more than slide rules and workmen wielding hammers, saws, shovels and pickaxes. Although the canal has been renovated and upgraded numerous times, the path the water travels today is much the same as it was then.

El Dorado Canal - FlumeI was so impressed by the men who designed and built the El Dorado Canal that I decided to honor them in my August 2016 release, Make-Believe Beau. The hero and heroine of my latest book, Flynt and Jessie, work for the El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Company. I took fictional license in staffing the engineering department. Flynt is the engineer. Jessie is his newly hired draftswoman, which creates a stir in the office. While the story focuses on their romance—both the feigned one and the real one—I worked in as much of the history of the El Dorado Canal as I could. I’m sneaky that way. 🙂


Question fBLOG KELI bookcoveror You:

Drinking water today has become far more sophisticated than it used to be. Here in the U.S., many people prefer bottled water to tap water. There are flavored waters, carbonated waters, energy waters and more. We can also add ice if we like. I’m a tap water gal myself, since we get clean, clear water from the Sierras delivered right to our home, and I add plenty of ice.

When it comes to drinking water, what is your favorite kind?


I’m so excited about Flynt and Jessie’s story that I’m offering not one, but two print copies as giveaway prizes. Leave a comment, and be sure to leave your contact info in case you win!


Paisley Kirkpatrick Says "WAGONS HO!"


Wagons Ho! Those two simple words won the west. Thousands of Americans traveled across country to find their fortunes in gold. Grueling days under the penetrating sun, inhaling dust, facing dangers beyond what we can imagine today, didn”t dampen their spirits. Gold! A fever to find that elusive fortune brought miners to California by the thousands. Some came by wagon train, some through the Isthmus of Panama when it was still a jungle, and others sailed around the Horn. Sailors abandoned ships in San Francisco Harbor, leaving a graveyard of useless sailing vessels. Sails made great tents in the Sierra Mountains.

My hubby and I live in California”s Sierra Mountains where the 1849 gold rush happened. There are still relics found in the wild, romantic town of Placerville, which was called Dry Diggins and Hangtown during that time. Tunnels twist and turn under the town”s streets, Victorian homes are scattered throughout the surrounding hills, several buildings that housed saloons back then still share the history in their interiors, and a Chinese bordello building is now a business office. My favorite building is The Cary House, a hotel built in 1857 which is still functioning as a popular hotel. I used this four-story brick hotel in my first story, NIGHT ANGEL. We still have staged gunfights during festivals and a wagon train that comes over the Sierras replicating the most popular way of heading west. At Christmastime, we have Doc Weiser drive an old Wells Fargo stagecoach through town, giving rides to visitors. Doc secures a Christmas tree on top of the coach and delights both residents and visitors. How could I not have become obsessed with sharing all of this history with my readers? The information is everywhere and I can”t get enough of it.

My great, great grandfather, Charles Kirkpatrick, was one of those men who traveled by wagon train from St. Joseph, Missouri to California. He was a doctor and his plan was not to dig for the gold, but to set up a medical practice. He kept a 45 page journal along the way and it is now sealed in a glass case in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. My Mother was able to get a copy of the journal and I consider it a great family treasure. He gave me a lot of information that guided me on my own wagon train ride west in my story Marriage Bargain.

Now, let my family”s rich history be your first step into a past full of adventure and, as always, what is life without a whole lot of romance. Come ride the trails with me and I”ll guarantee you the ride of a lifetime! I”d love to hear your stories on keepsakes you”ve inherited from your ancestors and what they mean to you.

Stop by and leave a comment.  I”m giving away a copy (in electronic format) of Night Angel, the first story in my Paradise Pines Series, to one of my visitors.

In Night Angel, sassy Amalie Renard, a poker-playing saloon singer, shakes up Paradise Pines, a former gold-rush mountain community by turning the saloon’s bar into her stage. Her amazing voice stirs the passions of the hotel owner, a man who anonymously travels tunnels at night providing help to the downtrodden as the mysterious Night Angel. Declan Grainger agrees to subsidize the building of a music hall to fulfill Amalie”s dream, but a bounty for her arrest could spoil his plans. Distrust and jealousy stir flames of malice and revenge threatening to destroy their town. Drawing from past experiences, Declan and Amalie turn to each other to find a way to save the community.

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