Seven Suggestions for Finding Workable Gold Ground (Part 2)

 (Getting the gold is what it's all about.)

In my previous post on this subject I mentioned a number of reasons why I think workable gold ground (especially in the public mining arena) is on the decline. With this in mind, I've come up with seven suggestions that may help you find a way to counter this ongoing problem and at the same time help pull you out of that mining "nowhere to go" blues.

Again, times is tough for small-scale gold miners and prospectors these days. Unless you possess your own gold ground in the form of private property or a placer or lode mining claim, you're probably out there scrambling like everyone else when it comes to finding workable (and decent) ground. And, whether you like it or not or choose to face the fact or not, the Great American West ain't what it used to be from a small-scale mining standpoint. Where miners and prospectors once roamed freely, "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out!" signs now proliferate and the few public panning and mining venues out there are not only churned over or nearly beaten to death, more often than not they force you to labor under increasingly stringent or nonsensical rules and regulations.

Rather than folding up like a cheap suit, you may want to consider the following:

2) Trying your hand at "pay-as-you-go" gold mining, detecting, or panning sites.

The way I see it, there are basically three major types of "pay-as-you-go" mining sites out there these days. Let's take a look at them one-by-one:

State or County Historical Mining Sites
These types of venues are typically associated with gold mining history or are located in historical mining districts scattered throughout the Western, Southwestern, and Southeastern United States. Most of these types of sites charge a small daily entrance fee ($10.00-$20.00) and allow panning and sluicing but rarely (if ever) do they allow the use of motorized mining equipment of any sort. That means you'll probably have to leave your suction dredge, motorized dry washer, or highbanker at home. Additionally, the emphasis at these sites is on the historical aspects and education, and not based on you going at the mining thing full bore. Since they are also more family oriented, they provide a good opportunity to take the wife (or hubby) and the kids along with you.
 (One of the "actors" at Coloma State Park.)

So if your family members have been hounding you to take them along on a gold-mining foray, "pay-as-you-go" sites like these can take the heat off of you for a bit and perhaps provide a relaxing day (or weekend). Many of these sites also have camping on site or nearby, which may prove an additional asset. The state-run site at Coloma, California where James Marshall's discovery of gold in a mill race triggered the California Gold Rush is a good example of a historical site. Be advised, however, that not all historical sites are the same. Some DON'T allow any panning or small-scale mining whatsoever and instead have demonstrations or panning troughs manned by would-be actors doing their best to look like old sourdoughs. Kids and camera-laden tourists love this sort of thing though.

Family Oriented Privately Owned Mining Sites

Next up on the food chain of "pay-as-you-go" panning and mining sites, these types of locations tend to cater to a broad range of interests, with gold panning and mining being the main focus but other activities such as horseback riding, hiking, swimming, rafting, picnics and barbecues, and campfire storytelling and singalongs. Yep, you got it pard. Lots of excited, screaming kids and "koom-bah-yah'ing" are involved in these venues. Now if you're a "miner's miner" don't shake your head in disgust quite yet. Some of these types of "pay-as-you-go" sites can contain very good gold ground and be excellent producers where all sorts of mining gear can be employed by the diehards among you. This gear can include suction dredges, highbankers, drywashers, trommels, and just about any sort of small-scale, motorized mining equipment you can think of. Another plus to these sorts of venues is that they allow camping on site and often have rental cabins available.

(Gold panning at Jamestown, California.)

Before you purists out there start swallowing your chaw or begin loudly "pooh-poohing" this idea, let me tell you a thing or two. I know a couple of experienced old timers in California who have forsaken the placer claim route and who instead focus their mining activities at these sorts of locations each and every season. The gold values they recover more than compensate for all the screaming kids and various other distractions and general craziness around them. Some of these sites use heavy equipment to turn over or dig up gold ground to accommodate their paying customers and at least one veteran miner I know in California spends his summers running this material through his highbanker to good effect. One "pay-as-you-go" site like this near Jamestown, California in the Southern Motherlode region of California has produced exceptional gold values over time for miners like him, season after season. The main problem here, is of course, cost. I'm not exactly certain as to how much "pay-as-you-go" locations like this charge, but you can bet that last nugget you found it'll be more than the governmental-run historical venues charge.

Privately Owned Sites that Target Experienced Miners and Nugget Shooters

At the top of the heap are the privately owned "pay-as-you-go" mining sites. These sorts of venues have gained great popularity in small-scale mining and nugget shooting circles in recent years. Most of these are in more remote locations such as Alaska or parts of the West where you actually have to  be helicoptered in, or at the very least, must pack in to locales where the unwashed masses are never going to be found. Herein lies the main advantage to working this sort of mining site. Very good gold ground and lots of it, far away from the maddening crowds and the typical marginal gold recoveries found at most club and historical sites. In this sort of "pay-as-you-go" venue you are often allowed to use the site's gear (dredges, highbankers, etc.) and can even get a crash course in using the newer model gold detectors for nugget shooting.

 (Nugget shooter with find at Ganes Creek site in Alaska.)

Although I've seen some exceptional amounts of placer gold recovered from these sorts of "pay-as-you-go" sites using conventional mining methods and equipment, what has really impressed me are the gold nuggets recovered by nugget shooters using the latest VHF, UHF, or PI types of detectors. Many of these nuggets have been in the multi-ounce range or larger, with lots of smaller nuggets recovered as well. Sites like these tend to "stage" the auriferous material by scraping or excavating using heavy equipment, thus providing new material to work or scan on pretty much a continuing basis. For conventional miners, site operators and owners have things wired when it comes to where the gold is and how to get it, so you don't have to spend much time sampling or doing preliminary work. That's a big asset, by the way. In my view, these types of "pay-as-you-go" sites are about as close as you're going to get these days to virgin ground. Don't expect feather beds or other plush accommodations though. You'll more than likely be sleeping on a cot in a tent or, at best, staying in a prefab structure of some sort. Price wise, these places are EXPENSIVE. Ain't no two ways about it. I'm talking into the thousands of dollars at be advised. But like the old saying, "You get what you pay for." last thing. Locations like these in Alaska have become so popular you'll have to reserve your time and spot way ahead of time.

That's it for now. Good luck out there.

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

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  1. JR, Sad what things are coming to. Here in the Western States there is so much public ground, it seems this should never be a problem.....but it is. In the old days, you had to keep an eyeball peeled for Indians and it is the Forest Nazi's.....not sure which one is worse. Those other "pay as you go" places have their place, it ain't for me, but as a kid, I recall the panning troughs and what a thrill it was to find a speck of planted gold. Gets kids interested and hopefully creates a new generation of prospectors......that can't be a bad thing! The city folks with their "green religion" will win in the end, they outnumber us backwoods types a dozen to one. I feel sorry for kids growing up today. They are missing out on the best life has to offer.


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