the rising price of gold and the drought-related exposure of river beds and adjacent geologic formations could result in record numbers of recreational gold seekers rushing to streams and rivers in Northern, Central and Southern California for the upcoming holiday weekend.
the pool at the base of fish canyon falls is normally about 10 feet deep. Because of low water flows the pool is nearly dry now.
photo by fellow Azusa Native David Castillo
Drought conditions are a boon to the several thousand California hobbyist gold miners getting ready to swarm the banks of the Sacramento and San Gabriel River systems.
up on the South Fork of the American River On a short vacation last month, I mapped six normally submerged crevices in a two mile stretch of this fabled waterway downstream from the tiny village of Rescue, CA. Despite carrying only a pie tin, garden trowel and other minimalist tools (ncluding a long-handled plastic kitchen spoon) in my improvised day pack, I was able to fill a small pill bottle with about 20 nice gold flecks in two hours of panning.
One of the gold prospecting methods that was suggested to me by my grandfather a long time ago is very productive in stream beds during drought years. It requires a long handled tire iron or metal spoon.
The technique has a couple of names, “sniping” or “coyoting “ and was successfully used in the California gold rush by Mexican Sonoran miners who rushed to the banks of the American and San Gabriel Rivers.
Sniping is very simple. you insert your sniping spoon or iron into a crevice and begin removing clay, gravel and other material that’s been washed into the space. The trick as it was taught to me is to make sure you get all the material in the crevice, paying extra attention to anything that’s resting on the floor of the space.
The specific gravity of gold is much greater than most other minerals, which means particulate gold and nuggets are most often found in the lowest part of any space.The best tool for sniping and scooping is something I want to create later this year in a shop. the excavation tool I have in mind would have a two foot handle, be capable of articulation and have a clawed bucket on its end.
On a quick trip up the upper San Gabriel River East Fork last week, i passed about 20 people panning for gold downstream from the Bridge to Nowhere. but most were on the trailside of the East Fork.
Panning from the easy side of the East Fork may be fun and you’re likely to pick up a few flakes. but take a moment to look across to the less less inviting rocky side of the stream.If you are anywhere near the Bridge to NoWhere there may be no more productive place to pan or snipe for gold than the base of the cliff under swan rock, which is loaded with crevices that have gone unexplored for years simply because it’s more difficult to work than the trailside of the East Fork in this stretch of the Canyon.
Public domain photo of Swan Rock, downstream from the Bridge to NoWhere on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River.
I’m not a fan of combat gold panning, so I tend to go four miles farther up the East Fork to small feeder streams such as Iron and Fish Fork. The geology of the upper East Fork has always seemed much better suited for gold exploration above Iron Fork than it is on lower stretches of this auferious stream and bedsides, in the 160 years since the big Azusa Gold Strike the mother lode that produces the clinker nuggets and placer gold that recreational gold seekers still find has never been discovered.
I have just as much fun looking for artifacts if 18th and Depression era gold mining camps as I do looking for gold--and it’s time for me to get ready to go off to the Diggings for the 4th of July weekend.Jim Forbes on July 2, 2014,
(NOTE: A Forest Service Adventure Pass is required for camping and hiking in the Angeles National Forest and it’s qise to let friends and family know where you plan to hike and when you expwct to return before going in to the San Gabriel Mountain wilderness.)