US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Environ Monit Assess (2010) 163:313–326; DOI 10.1007/s10661-009-0836-6


This study examined mercury concentrations in whole fish from Camp Far West Reservoir, an 830-ha reservoir in northern California, USA, located downstream from lands mined for gold during and following the Gold Rush of 1848–1864. Total mercury (reported as dry weight concentrations) was highest in spotted bass (mean, 0.93 μg/g; range, 0.16–4.41 μg/g) and lower in bluegill (mean, 0.45 μg/g; range, 0.22– 1.96 μg/g) and threadfin shad (0.44 μg/g; range, 0.21–1.34 μg/g). Spatial patterns for mercury in fish indicated high concentrations upstream in the Bear River arm and generally lower concentrations elsewhere, including downstream near the dam. These findings coincided with patterns exhibited by methylmercury in water and sediment, and suggested that mercury-laden inflows from the Bear River were largely responsible for contaminating the reservoir ecosystem. Maximum concentrations of mercury in all three fish species, but especially bass, were high enough to warrant concern about toxic effects in fish and consumers of fish.