California’s drought may spell bad news for farmers in downstream agricultural centers, but it’s igniting a latter day gold rush in the seven northern California gold country counties.
Hobbyist and recreational prospectors can be found stream side, on both forks of the American River, up on the Feather River and on most of the water courses that were mined more than 160 years ago.
With the price of gold now averaging more than $1,200 per ounce, and stream bed features that have been submerged for more than 160 years now exposed, there’s never been a better time to be a latter day argonaut camping, washing and sluicing river bed sands in Northern California.
On a recent trip north of Sacramento to El Dorado, Placer and Sierra counties, I counted 55 prospectors heads down over washing pans.
Like many Golden State natives, I soaked up stories of gold miners and the merchants who mined that group, as young student studying California history. But, unlike most of my fellow students, I continued reading about the Gold Rush years and have gradually built a cache of maps and other printed material detailing specifics and locations of 1850’s gold strikes.
That’s why I’m planning a trip north to the Gold country in November.
I have no illusions about making a fortune panning gold, or flipping over boulders, searching for overlooked nuggets.but while I’m there, exploring for gold is the opening I need to reopen my search into the nature of gold prospectors.
I am fascinated by contemporary gold seekers, how where and why they look for gold, plus how they sustain themselves camping by the side of a river for weeks on end.
The Drought driven flood of prospectors may be the last chance I ever have to closely look at this culture.
The covered wagon for this adventure is my Kia Soul Hamster van. It has a built in power inverter, and its rear seats fold forward, allowing me to sleep on my four-inch thick foam pad in the back of my car, snuggled up in toasty-warm insulated sleeping bag. the other essentials on my trip to get past the elephant include an ultrabook that delivers almost eight hours of battery life and which has an above average graphics subsystem, an indexed collection of ordnance maps stored on 32 GB flash drives I’ve been annotating for the last two years with historical gold prospecting information, and a collection of four reference books. A new digital camera with a telephoto lens is packed in my backpack too. th gold washing pan and a folding entrenching tool, plus my trusty metal detector are part of my camping load too.
It goes without saying I’m taking a sherpa stove, camping pot, frying pan and an ice chest loaded with comfort food, navel oranges, a seasonal selection of avocados, and two gallons of bottled water.
If you’re interested in exploring contemporary and historical California gold mining the startinug point I recommend is a topographical map site called Topozone.com. This site offers a 14-day free trial period for accces to its detailed, accurate, maps.
The one thing I don’t have yet are photogrammetry aerial maps of the areas I want to explore. Photogrammetry images of the flora found on mountainsides and river courses can be used to detect mineralization of soils.
SO, in mid November, if you see a tan Kia hamster van parked by the side of a stream or near old mining sites, that will be me on my continuing quest to learn everything i can about latter day forty-niners pinning their hopes on the adventure to find California’s gold.--- California here I Come,jim Forbes on 10/17/2014
(nb. do not enter abandoned mines. or take tailing from working mines. Most gold prospectors and miners take a dim view of claim jumping or mineral theft. but this is not to say that mine operators won’t show you ore and tell you about hiw its extracted.
Finally, one of the most interesting working gold mines in California is the Original Sixteen to One mine in Alleghany CA. from tiime to time the owners of this working gold mine give tours, it’s worth the effort to try to get a place on one of the tours. for more information click on https://www.origsix.com.