Seven Suggestions for Finding Workable Gold Ground (Part 1)

(My old stomping grounds...the North Yuba River in Northern California...sigh...)

Well it seems to me that whatever goes around eventually comes around again. I wrote this series of posts about three and a half years ago but I'm resurrecting them in new form and re-publishing them for your perusal. That way, you newbies or greenhorns out there won't miss out on these pearls of mining wisdom from yours truly (who apparently is a legend in his own mind!).

Here's the Bad News

One of the saddest and most troubling aspects of small-scale mining trends today is the scarcity of open or public areas to prospect and mine. When I use the term open area I mean a gold location or area that's open to the public for small-scale gold mining activities. Now some of these open areas are on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands while others are are set aside by the state as parks or recreation areas. A good example of the latter would be the South Yuba Recreation Area just north of Nevada City, California. While I'm on this track, there's some really good gold to be had if you follow the South Yuba downstream a ways from the main parking area of this recreational spot. This is especially true if you're a decent gold sniper or crevicer.

Getting back on the theme of this post, over the past 10 years or so I've witnessed more and more open gold ground being withdrawn from public access. Coincidentally, many of the state or county run parks or recreation areas are operating with increasingly restrictive rules and regulations that seem (at least to me) to be thinly disguised attempts to drive small-scale miners away instead of attracting them. Additional issues fueling the fires of perdition in this regard include the exploitation of historic mining districts by private real estate developers and an upsurge in claim staking since gold began its run over $1,000.00 USD a troy ounce around seven or eight years ago. Claim “scamming” and other forms of mining claim abuse also factor in here.

Whether you like it or not, most of the self-proclaimed and (even more) self-righteous "environmentalists" out there view us as the lowest level of pond scum ever to be placed on God's green earth. And, since they hold sway nowadays from the hallowed halls of the Federal government on down, we are a definite minority in more ways than one. A classic example of this lunacy can be found in my home state of California where a vast array of left-wing politicos, hippie-dippy "naturalists," rabid, spittle spraying "greenies," and erstwhile Sierra Club types have been very successful at attacking small-scale mining in the once-Golden State. You see, they think they hold the moral high ground and we are the willing tools of Satan himself. Know what I have to say to these loons and self-serving assholes? "Screw you and the lame-ass horses you rode in on."

What’s a Miner to Do?

So what’s an aspiring miner (or even an old timer for that matter) supposed to do? Aside from being claim owners yourselves, how can you continue to do what you love to do and, at the same time, not be herded around like so many sheep into the few beaten-down, churned up, and worked-to-death public panning or recreational mining venues left out there?

Along the way I'll be presenting you with seven separate suggestions (I'll cover each one in individual posts) for countering these restrictive trends and perhaps finding your own workable gold ground. Here goes:

1) Join a mining or prospecting club.

OK, OK. I know some of you veteran miners out there are rolling your eyes at this one and I readily admit I'm not the biggest fan of mining and prospecting clubs either. By the way, the adjectives mining or prospecting or mining and prospecting as applied to clubs seem to be interchangeable. From my own knowledge and experience the majority of these clubs or associations are long on the mining part and very short on the prospecting part. There is a difference between the two, ya know? And if you don't know what that difference is, behooves you to find out.

Whatever the case, clubs do offer a valuable service to the small-scale gold prospecting and mining community in general. So let's look at their plus and down sides:

Plus Side

Right off the get go the main issue of our discussion is resolved if you join a prospecting or mining club. Why? Simply because every club has a valid claim or claims that club members can use any time they wish. That means having accessible gold ground without the fear or paranoia of claim jumping or getting whipped down to bare bones under some state recreation area's BS rules and regulations. So that problem is solved to some degree or other (we'll talk more about this in the "Down Side" section).
Beyond the gold ground thing, one of the biggest advantages of belonging to a mining or prospecting club is the opportunity to see how a wide range of small-scale mining equipment and gear is put to use. This sort of hands-on, experiential knowledge is valuable beyond belief, especially for newcomers to small-scale gold mining. In a well-rounded club with both wet and dry claims (for example, many Southern California clubs are set up this way) a greenhorn has the opportunity to get a first-hand view of gold detectors, dry washers, high bankers, rockers, sluice boxes, and suction dredges in operation plus an array of do-it-yourself (DIY) gear that's pretty ingenious and amazing to see in action. Additionally, clubs offer a range of mining and prospecting experience and expertise that's as varied as the ages and attitudes of the individual club members themselves. Last but not least, if you like the camaraderie of belonging to a group and enjoy the commonality of interest that a club offers, then a prospecting or mining club may be just the ticket.

(Members from the First Class Miners Inc. Club going at it.)

Allow me to digress a bit here. You know, I belonged to a club way back when I was first starting out as a small-scale gold prospector and miner. Overall, I think it helped me to cut my mining teeth and I met a couple of people there who made a lasting impression on me and taught me a great deal. But I have to say that I'm essentially a loner when it comes to my gold mining and prospecting activities. That doesn't mean I don't welcome or enjoy the presence of a stand-up pard or two when I'm out and about doing my thing, 'cause I do. But count me out when it comes to big groups or associations. I don't like crowds and I'm a not a "joiner." Never was, never will be...

Down Side

OK, like all things in this life there are positives and negatives. I tend to think there are a lot more positives out there than most people think, but then I'm a firm believer that you are what you think (not what you eat!).

The first potential down side to joining a prospecting or mining club is the simple fact you're going to be paying membership dues (i.e., money, folding green, "moolah") for the right to belong and to use club claims. Club membership fees or dues can be quite cheap or very reasonable right on up to extremely expensive or borderline outrageous (and every step in between these polar opposites). In my experience your typical run-of the-mill club is not going to cost you very much cash for a membership. Again, most are quite reasonable in this regard. On the other hand, there are a few clubs who overtly or covertly consider themselves far above the unwashed masses and who charge thousands of dollars for an annual membership (most club fees or dues are monthly or annual, by the way). Some clubs also have an inner sanctum or club-within-a-club for members who pay more (one very well known gold prospecting and mining club uses this suck-'em-farther-in approach). These inner sanctum deals typically include access to much better gold ground and other "perks" not available to regular club members. Sound elitist? It is.

Based on my personal experience I have to make a very calculated and blunt statement here. Ready? Here it is..."Most club gold ground is utter crap. Or alternately...complete shit." Why? Well, most club claims are located in well-known mining districts or areas that have been worked, reworked, and then reworked again and again to the point that very little of that club gold ground HASN'T already been turned over at least once (if not multiple times). Now this really isn't the fault of the clubs themselves. Another thing to bear in mind here is that few really good gold claims are available to clubs these days (or even in the past, for that matter) and your run-of the mill clubs simply don't have the buying power to purchase a REALLY good claim. They take what they can get...or in this case, file on. All this said, you can still find a bit of gold on generic club claims. However, if you're a newbie lusting after multiple ounces in a weekend or those shiny, big nuggets you need both a gut and reality check. The big girl and big boy clubs that cost boo-coo bucks to join have some pretty damn good gold ground to offer you, but remember this. You're going to pay for that privilege.

 (Most club gold ground has been worked over pretty heavily.)

If you're considering joining a gold prospecting and mining club but are uncertain about all the issues I've addressed here, shoot me an e-mail and I'll try and help you out. There are also some clubs I can recommend to you (not publicly, but personally) and others I think you should steer clear of. Once again, hit me up.

Have a good one!

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Hello JR, I've never done the club thing mostly because I don't like people all that much. I prefer to struggle and learn on my own or with a few friends than a big crowd. It would be a good way to learn though. The one area I sneak into to mine had a big sign that said "Area withdrawn from mineral entry, prospecting of any kind prohibited." After asking around to folks that would know, it seems the sign was placed there illegally buy the BLM/Forest Service. It is not there, I didn't take it down, but I do know it needed to be cut in half before it would fit in a burn barrel!

  2. JR,
    One club for any on the Kalifornia Central Coast I CAN recommend, is the Central Coast Gold Prospector's Club out of Paso Robles, CA. (CCGP.US) I am not a joiner or frankly all that sociable, but this is a great group. NICE people who actually want to help and share in the hobby/business. We have a few good claims that constantly produce good (but small) gold, and are getting more. Membership is free. Just show up, join, STAY active and HELP others. That is it.
    Just wanted you know that there are good ones out there.
    Paul Andreasen

  3. I've seen some ridiculously high fees. For those fees I'll buy a claim, or several. I'm not much of a joiner but I don't mind sharing.


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