Good Spots for Gold in California's Motherlode: Calaveras County

(A stretch of the lower Calaveras River.)

I use the term mining broadly in this series of posts to include a range of small-scale mining approaches such as sluicing, drywashing, sniping or crevicing, and highbanking. What is not included here is, of course, suction dredging. Dredging activities are not allowed in California under the repression and idiocy of the current state moratorium.

However, you can still grab your trusty gold pan or a piece of the above-mentioned mining gear and try your hand at recovering some color in the once-Golden State. In this series of posts I’ll provide you with a few tips on some good spots to try and what you can expect to recover from them (providing you already have some basic mining/prospecting skills).

(DISCLAIMER: It is highly possible that at least some of the locations mentioned here are now claimed up, on private property, or are otherwise off limits. Therefore I make no promises as to their accessibility as of the publication date of this post. Do your research up front, talk to the locals, and above all DO NOT trespass or claim jump. J.R.)

Calaveras River: Nearly every river, stream, creek, and wash in the entire Motherlode Region carries some color and the Calaveras River is no exception. This is also true of its tributary or “feeder” streams. Your best bet these days is sniping areas of exposed bedrock or processing gravels sitting directly above clay layers. It might interest you to note that there are reports of astute small-scale miners running sluice boxes or highbankers pulling 1/3-1/2 troy ounces of placer gold a day from unnamed locations along the Calaveras. That's a lot of gold for small-scale, non-dredging mining operations my friends.

Campo Seco: The drainages (wet or dry) around Campo Seco continue to be consistent producers of small nuggets and flakes. You should take your time, sample thoroughly, and try all likely deposition points, including bench gravels.

Angels Camp: My main problem with Angels Camp and the gold areas immediately surrounding the townsite can be summed up in one word, crowds. This can be problematic on weekends when sightseers and weekend panners flock in from the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley. That said, the Angels Camp area remains a good area for recovering coarse “chunkers” and nuggets (if you can find a place to work or don’t mind brushing elbows with other miners and gold panners).

Gold Concentrators

Calaveritas Creek: This is a good steady gold producer of placer gold in the form of fines and flakes (however, few nuggets have been reported in recent years). Pay attention to basic gold deposition physics here and if you find exposed bedrock underwater try using a snipe scope.

That’s it for this round. There’ll be more to come in this series of posts at a later date.

Good luck and may lots of yellow metal find its way into your pan.

© J.R. 2010

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