Reader's Query on Where to Prospect Prompts Response (Part 1)

Many of you out there are loyal readers and over time we've come to know each other pretty well as far as distance and the Internet are concerned. In some instances, I've even had one-on-one conversations with a few of you over the phone, usually to answer a direct question or two.

Learn More About Placer Mining Equipment

One of the "Bedrock Dreams" readers that fits into the above category is California miner who calls himself  "License Guru." The "Guru," who is fairly new to small-scale mining asked me this very pertinent question last week:

"How is it Possible to Prospect?"

"J.R., I have a question that might make a good blog post, unless it already is.  But I was wondering, with every square inch of the California Motherlode under claim, how do people like myself go prospecting without being claim jumpers?"

"Obviously there are exceptions. Permission from the claim owner, pay as you go, etc. But those exceptions aside, how is it possible to prospect without being a claim jumper? Thanks."  

Any Number of Reasons

Unfortunately "License Guru," these days it's extremely difficult to find open areas to prospect and mine, not only in California but nearly everywhere in the West and Southwest (and probably in the Southeastern U.S. as well). I've been doing this small-scale prospecting and mining thing for a little over 32 years now and I've watched with frustration and dismay as once-open areas have become off limits again, and again, and again over time.

There are any number of reasons for this:

Increased population and urban sprawl: Essentially, "more rats in the cage." With more people come more demands for housing, business, name it. Many open mining areas get swallowed up this way (including one here in Northern New Mexico that I used to work for many years, for example). Private property issues become much more amplified in this regard.

Anti-mining legislation and agendas: California (my home state) is the "poster" boy or girl for this madness, which is spreading to other nearby states. The once-Golden State's anti-dredging moratorium is a classic example of this BS. Self-proclaimed "greenies," including some "hippie-dippie" radical factions, have  been very active in pursuing their agendas and forcing the hands of weak-willed, self-serving politicos in fostering anti-mining attitudes...yep, even toward small-scale folks like us.

Bureaucratic interference: This follows hard on the heels of the previous section. Many panning or mining locations that were once fully open and free wheeling have been taken over and are being "managed" by the states or the Feds under all sorts of restrictions and limitations. In some instances, no panning or mining is allowed at all and in others you have to get a permit just to use a garden trowel and a gold pan. I crap you not.

Gold Panning Kits
Gold Concentrators

Mining and claim frenzy: Record high gold prices today have not only increased the interest in both placer and lode gold mining but have drawn more prospective miners in to the fold, so to speak. In  the broadest sense we all have more "competition" to contend with at time when fewer mining locales are available or open. Tie this in with the fact that unpatented mining claims are hard to find these days in most historic or productive areas because everyone wants a slice of the pie, including claim scammers. The end result? More areas off limits.

Okay, okay...I know. I haven't answered "License Guru's" question. Forgive me for that, but I wanted to set the stage. I'll have a response for  the "Guru" and you the next go around.

If you'd like to touch base with "License Guru" and compare notes on this topic, he can be reached at:

Good luck to all of you.

If you liked this post, you may want to read:
"Gold Mining Questions and Answers: Part 10"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. There are streams that run through cities and the states ,most are called navigable waterways.You can use a small raft tow your dredge behind you only crank it when you are alone.There is no way someone will be there to arrest you and if you are caught do not get out of your boat or float just remove the sluice part of your dredge and pore it into the water then see what they want.They cannot do a thing.The laws has come full circle what can they do pulling a dredge behind your float and with no evidence there is no way to take you to court.It would cost to much to charge you with a crime,plus you can sue them for false arrest.Most of the time they only want to rattle their swords even tho they will never do anything with any gold that might be there.As the streams flood they replenish themselves so what you get today would be off there part in a week or so anyway.Its gotten to much out of hand to worry about.Go have fun that all you are going to do anyway.Let Them Do The Crying.

  2. Very interesting perspective and suggestions. Thanks for commenting. J.R.


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