California Placer Areas: Keyesville Recreational Mining Area (Part 2)

(Kern River placer claim.)

In my previous post on the Keyesville Recreational Mining Area I alluded to the fact that I once worked a claim on the Kern River and that I would pass along additional information on the area and a few tips on the hows, whens, and wheres of getting the gold there. So, I've ordered this information using a series of responses to typical questions:

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What's the Gold "Set Up" at Keyesville?

The gold "set up" at Keyesville is essentially the same as in any other auriferous stream where hydraulics are consistent. In many ways the Kern River placers remind me of some areas of California's Motherlode region, especially the granitic batholith geology that underlies the entire locale.

Additionally, the Kern River offers up plenty of Motherlode-type gold recovery possibilities, including good stretches of reachable bedrock as well as consistent placer deposition behind large granitic boulders, inside bends, low-pressure area gravel bars, and in some bench gravels. Bear in mind however that some spots in the Keyesville Area are better than others in terms of gold deposition, and certain areas can be a bit hard to get at or work in some instances.

What Equipment Works Best at Keyesville?

This is somewhat of a "loaded" question so I will answer in similar fashion: "it depends." In the past I had success at the Kern River crevicing (during low-water periods) and panning, sluicing, dredging, and yes, drywashing (which I will discuss next). Obviously, one of the most important factors to bear in mind here is that the more gold-bearing material you can move at Keyesville (and on the Kern), the more gold you'll get.

That is, providing you have done some good sampling first and are processing what I call "good dirt." In the past I did quite well in some areas with a 3" suction dredge and, at times, almost as well running exposed bedrock gravels through a portable sluice box.

What's the Deal with Drywashing at Keyesville?

Believe it or not, some miners who work the Keyesville Area or various Kern River claims focus their mining activities on drywashing almost exclusively. Others combine suction dredging with drywashing. Why? Well, first and foremost, it's a "two-fisted" mining approach that is well suited to the Keyesville Area and the Kern as a whole.


Many bench and old river gravels in the area now sit high and dry some distance from the water. As already noted, no high banking is allowed at Keyesville so you can't pump water up to these locations to work them. Voila! Enter that hardy little desert workhorse, the "puffer" or bellows-type drywasher. I can tell you from personal experience that, on occasion, very good gold recoveries can be had by drywashing these pockets and paystreaks.

In my final post on the Keyesville Recreational Mining Area I'll provide you with a few tips on getting the gold there. Until then, be safe!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Placer Mining Equipment: Drywashers"

(c) J.R. 2009

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