California's Main Gold-Bearing Rivers, Part 1

(Map of the Consumnes River watershed.)
Since the days of the California Gold Rush, the Golden State has produced more placer gold than many other Western states combined. The majority of this gold has been recovered from the state's main gold-bearing rivers and their various forks:

Southern Motherlode Region

Merced River: The Merced runs through beautiful Yosemite Valley where it attracts many sightseers and fishermen. Despite being considered "worked out" long ago, the Merced still carries placer gold values for the astute panner or small-scale placer miner.


Tuolumne River: Although dammed up at various locations along its length, the Tuolumne is still a reasonable prospect for small-scale or recreational placer miners.

Stanislaus River: The Stanislaus produced a large amount of gold over time and is now a recreational playground for all sorts of rafters, kayakers, fishermen, and recreational miners. Lots of good bedrock is available on the river's North Fork.

Gold Concentrators

Mokelumne River: Another big gold producer of the Gold Rush, the Mokelumne is a very popular spot for recreational and small-scale miners. The upper reaches are best for gold recovery.

Consumnes River: The Consumnes is actually a tributary of the Mokelumne River. Once rich in placer gold, the Consumnes and its surrounding creeks and gulches still contain good placer gold values.

American River: One of the richest placer gold rivers in the entire Motherlode, the American is still a very busy place for all sorts of recreational and small-scale gold miners. It also marks the "demarcation" line between the Motherlode's Southern and Northern Regions, with the North Fork of the American River actually considered part of the Northern Motherlode.

For additional or more specific information on small-scale mining opportunities along these rivers and their forks, I suggest you contact one of the following:

Merced, Stanislaus, Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Sacramento, or Placer Counties

California Department of Forestry

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

California Department of Mines and Geology

Local prospecting/mining supply shops

One important thing to bear in mind when planning a mining trip or venture in California's Motherlode Region is that many stretches of these gold-bearing streams are currently "claimed up" and off limits, mostly due to the current high price of gold. So if you want to avoid possible disappointments later, I suggest you do a bit of research up front before loading your gear and heading out.

Get Rugged. Visit Today!

Good luck out there!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Publications on Placer Mining in the Yukon, Part 2"

(c) J.R. 2009

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