Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gold in the West: Wyoming

(Be advised that Wyoming has recently enacted regulations that severely restrict mining activities in the State.)

Although placer gold is not as abundant in Wyoming as it is other Western states, the gleaming yellow metal can be found in a number of locations in both the southeastern and west-central parts of the state. If you are a small-scale or recreational miner in Wyoming (or are anticipating a trip there soon), I'd recommend you concentrate your activities in one the state's two main mining districts, the Snowy Range or the South Pass/Atlantic City area.

Snowy Range

Although the gold discoveries and production in the Snowy Range were primarily of the lode vein or hard rock variety, a number of fairly substantial placers were also worked in this area.

Recreational miners still recover placer gold west of Laramie in Albany Creek, one of the first placer strikes in the area.

Placer gold can also be mined or panned from the Middle Fork of the Little Laramie River.

You might also try your hand a panning for gold in the drainages downstream from the old Cliff Mine workings.

Although the gold recovered on and along Centennial Ridge was lode gold, there may be small amounts of placer gold in low-laying areas or drainages below the Ridge.

South Pass/Atlantic City

Wyoming's main gold production area is in the South Pass/Atlantic City/Miner's Delight area of Fremont County.
 
The Sweet Water River was a historic producer of placer gold and continues to be worked today in selected locations.

Most of the streams in the South Pass area contain placer gold and are worth further investigation.

The best streams or gulches to try your hand at gold recovery are Rock Creek, Big and Little Atlantic Gulches, Spring Gulch, and Yankee Gulch. All of these locations are known placer gold producers. One word to the wise here though, accessing some of these locations may mean transiting private lands. Please do not trespass.

The State of Montana's Department of Environmental Quality oversees much of the mining activities and issues conducted in the state, including panning, sluicing, and dredging. In the past they were pretty low key and accommodating. But if you are looking to pan or placer mine in Wyoming, things are getting tougher...much tougher.

As of June 2008, the State of Wyoming is no longer issuing gold suction dredge permits. And, as best I can determine, everyone (no exceptions) must file a "mining plan" before conducting ANY type of gold mining operation, including gold panning. Yes, you heard right. Even a simple gold panner has to jump through these restrictive governmental hoops. But if you're willing to "play" the State's game, you will eventually be able to recover a bit of gold in Wyoming.

So there you have it. I've mentioned a number of times in Bedrock Dreams posts that recreational gold mining opportunities are rapidly disappearing in the West. Unfortunately, Wyoming is yet another example of that malaise.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2008

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