California Placer Areas: Keyesville Recreational Mining Area (Part 3)
In my last post on the Keyesville Recreational Mining Area I said I'd provide you with a few tips on getting the gold there, so here goes:
Getting the Gold at Keyesville
Dredgers: If you decide to use a suction dredge at the Keyesville Recreational Mining Area I highly recommend you follow the basic principles of stream hydraulics and gold deposition physics. Most importantly, sample, sample, sample! I realize that many of you out there can only get away for the day or for a weekend and you want to make every free minute count. But remember, Keyesville is an "open" area which means it can get worked over (notice I said worked over and not "worked out") pretty hard by other dredgers each season. So thorough sampling will be your best ally in determining where to start serious dredging operations.
Gold Prospecting Books
If you sample a likely area (bedrock with tightly packed gravels, the downstream side of large boulders or obstructions, inside gravel bars, etc.) and get little or no gold working downstream from your dredge, stop and try elsewhere. Waste no more time on your present location. It's probably already been cleaned out. Keep sucking sample holes until decent gold values start showing up. Once they do, then hit it hard until your gold values taper off again.
Cautionary Note: Be careful working downstream from Isabella Dam. In years past dredging or sluicing on the Kern below the dam at Lake Isabella could be dicey because the folks running the dam would periodically increase the water flow downstream by releasing additional amounts of water. When this happened both the water flow and the water level in the river could increase rapidly.
I actually witnessed a 3" suction dredge being swept away from its moorings and downstream during one of these "releases." In the old days there was a very loud horn-type signal from the dam (at various locations downstream) to warn everyone that water was going to be released upstream. How they handle this today at Keyesville I couldn't tell you (the years have passed too quickly, I am afraid!). You may want get online and research this a bit or ask the locals, including area rangers.
Sluicers and Panners: If you don't have a dredge or wish to forgo the hassles of getting a permit and trying to set up complex mining gear, then sluicing and panning at Keyesville can be productive if you get your gold-bearing material from good spots. What are those spots? One of the best spots to get gravel to pan or sluice is bedrock (no surprise, right?).
At various locations you will find areas of exposed bedrock along the banks of the Kern that have been left high and dry as the water level lowers later in the season. If you find one of these stretches of bedrock make sure you bucket up and run all the material sitting atop the bedrock, including the looser "overburden." However, the best stuff (including large flakes and small nuggets) will come from tightly packed gravels or dirt that has been forced into the various cracks, crevices, depressions, and potholes.
Additionally, keep your eyes open for good-looking auriferous "bench" gravels along steeper banks of the Kern River. These can be very productive for a panner or sluicer if you hit the "right" one, so make sure you sample these sorts of gravels thoroughly too.
Get a Safety Kit and Stay Safe!
Drywashers: Try taking samples from the front, back, and sides of the many granitic boulders or larger rocks that lay scattered about at Keyesville. Most of these can be found high and dry some distance from the river itself. Additionally, I've recovered some good gold from the root systems of the larger and older trees in the area, especially those with river rock cemented tightly about their root systems (remember however, that the rangers at Keyesville don't take kindly to folks who dig up or otherwise harm trees or other substantial plant life). Finally, bucket up and run any and all bench gravels found above the present day stream course.
What Sort of Gold Can You Expect at Keyesville?
There are many variables to answering this question, including what sort of material you are running, what sort of equipment you are using, how efficiently you sample, and how hard you are willing to work. Most of the gold you will recover at Keyesville will come in the form of flat placer flakes of varying sizes and fine gold. However, small nuggets still abound in certain locations and if you get into one of those hotspots, work it hard and even harder still! Those of you who try drywashing may end up with a bit less gold overall but the heavier and coarser pieces of gold you'll find in your clean-up pans will make up for it in weight.
That should do it. If you have questions don't hesitate to ask me.
Good luck out there!
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "California Placer Areas: Keyesville Recreational Mining Area (Part 2)"
(c) J.R. 2009
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org