Good Spots for Gold in California's Motherlode: El Dorado County

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).

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits

(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.)

El Dorado County

American River: Since the earliest days of the California Gold Rush the American River and its forks have been the sources of huge amounts of placer gold. Although its richest days are long past, the American and its forks continue to produce consistent gold values, including many nice nuggets. (Note: Many of the areas near the county seat of Placerville have been hit pretty hard over the years or are currently “claimed up.” J.R.)

Middle Fork of the American: You may want to try the Middle Fork first since it has been producing quite well the last few years, especially around the Michigan Bluff area.

South Fork: Alternately, along the northernmost reaches of the South Fork of the American there are many good spots that have been consistent gold producers over the years.

(Note: I've only been on the Middle Fork so I have to take this info about the South Fork at face value. J.R.)

American River Tributaries: Nearly all the smaller tributary streams and creeks above Slab Creek Reservoir are good areas for panning, sniping, highbanking, and sluicing. Try running bench gravels or sniping behind or underneath larger rocks or boulders. You might want to take a snipe scope and crevicing tools along with you.

Rock Creek: If coarser flakes, “chunkers,” and decent-sized nuggets are what you’re after I recommend you try Rock Creek. Over the past few years the word through the mining grapevine has been very positive about the Creek. However, don’t expect to find the best gold by being lazy. You’ll need to some work to get at the best gold values.

Carhartt Wear
Wolverine Boots
Dickies Work Clothes

Consumnes River: The Consumnes River runs through southwestern El Dorado County and is noted for producing lots of very small nuggets and “chunkers.” From what I understand, areas in and around the community of Nashville are the best producers.

That’s it for this round. Be safe out there and keep the faith.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: “Bedrock Gold Recovery Tips: Focus on Fractured Bedrock”

© J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. My father does a lot of research on mines in El Dorado County, if anyone is interested in reading up on the history or finding out more about about the mine of el dorado county you can visit his site Doug Steps Out

  2. Thanks for this info Steve. Take note all. J.R.


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