Letting the Cat Out of the Bag (Part 2)

In this post I'll be telling you how best to work one of my old sweet spots, Ramshorn Creek. As I progress in this series and reveal more good areas to work that I've discovered over the course of 36+ years, remember that accessing some of these locations may prove problematic for any number of reasons. I apologize, but I'm sure you understand I have no control over that particular issue.

Accessing Ramshorn Creek

As my introductory paragraph already underlines the fact, accessing Ramshorn Creek may be a bitch (for lack of a better term). In 2010 when I last stopped by to visit it, the creek was heavily overgrown with new growth of all sorts, including numerous blackberry bushes. Those blackberries are delicious, by the way. This new growth was so extensive and wild I had a hard time distinguishing old landmarks I relied on many years ago. Active claim signs abounded along the creek but I saw no real signs of any work being done. Like many locations in the Northern Motherlode, everything got claimed up once gold prices rose above the thousand dollar mark eight years ago. What the purpose of the active (2010 status) claim was or is I can't say. I suspect it was claimed and set aside to sell, lease, or to simply keep Ramshorn from being worked by anyone. Should you pursue the idea of accessing the creek with the intent to work it, the very first thing you should do is drive the few miles north along Highway 49 to Downieville, your main supply and info point in the immediate area. A fairly new county complex has been built there as well as a small medical center. Head for the Sierra County clerk or recorder's office and find out the current status of Ramshorn Creek. If it's still claimed up try to get the claimant's contact information if you can and contact that person or persons. If you're lucky, the claim owner is a local individual or group.

However, be prepared to find that the claim owner lives elsewhere in California or even out of state. You just never know these days. If you do track down the claim owner try to work out a simple and fair access deal like a lease or pay-as-you-go deal. Who knows? You may run into a claim owner who will give you permission to work Ramshorn without any cash considerations. It's happened to me up there in the past and it could happen to you as well. If you fail in tracking down the current claim owner (if the creek's still claimed, that is) then your next step is to start talking to the local miners or shop owners in Downieville and/or Goodyear's Bar. Some very valuable info can be gleaned this way. One thing you MUST remember here, however, is that I don't recommend you "sneak" onto Ramshorn Creek or claim jump, if you will. Claim jumping or trespassing is a big deal in this area and actually resulted in a murder one summer back in the 1980s when I was dredging the North Yuba River not far from Ramshorn. Whatever good gold you can recover from Ramshorn ain't worth dying over pard. Remember that.

 (Campgrounds along Highway 49 north  of Nevada City.)

Tools to Work Ramshorn Creek

So through performing your due diligence you've managed to gain access to Ramshorn. Bully for you pard! Good job. Now it's time to get the gold from that little feeder gem. First off, leave your suction dredge behind 'cause it won't do you any good. In case you didn't already know, California is chock full of little leftist libtards, hostile LGBT storm troopers, and the perennially dope-addled greenie weenies of the New Green Church Cult. No dredging is allowed here any longer and you can pretty much thank these self-righteous assholes for that sad state of affairs. But not all is lost. You don't need a dredge to work Ramshorn although a 2.5-3.5 incher would help things along the way. How about a highbanker? I don't what powers-at-be in Califa think of those terribly destructive pieces of small-scale mining equipment (yes, I'm being sarcastic) these days but it can't be good. So here's what you need:
  • Sturdy "come along;"
  • Pry bar or heavy duty crowbar;
  • Miner's pick and a shovel; 
  • Portable sluice box;
(Your best tool for working Ramshorn Creek.)
  • Five-gallon bucket (or two);
  • Gold pan and classifier;
  • Industrial-strength insect repellent; and
  • A strong back and hands accustomed to hard work.
That's pretty much it. Don't forget the insect repellent above all. In the early morning and evening hours the mosquitoes along the creek are absolutely horrendous. They'll swarm you in vast squadrons, dive bombing and biting you, getting into your mouth, ears, and eyes, and eventually driving you mad (like coo-coo crazy "mad"). However, by late morning and afternoon they pretty much cool their jets and you'll only have to contend with the occasional horsefly. Once while working Ramshorn I made the mistake of imbibing too much alcohol (my past life...) and fell asleep outside on a cot in my sleeping bag. When I awoke the next morning I could barely see as my face and eyes were so swollen from mosquito bites I looked like an updated version of the hideous sun demon, a monster from the Grade B horror flicks I grew up with as a kid. I shit you not.

(Your arch enemy at Ramshorn.)

OK, next time I'll tell you how to use your implements of destruction on Ramshorn Creek and get the good gold that feeder holds in its treasure box.

Until then, be good to one another.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R) 2016

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. It's always a pleasure to indulge in your articles Jim. I've never been into Mother lode country outside of a sojourn into Grass Valley, but the gold there was a beautiful red head. I did manage to stop by and see the Yuba river, and an old mine that was turned into a museum of sorts. Quite fantastic actually. They had a cart (rather more like a sled with seats 4 across and if I recall about 6 deep)that ferried the miners down into the mine. It was closed because they hit the water table. It had an old stamp mill. This was a few years before I got into gold mining. I haven't been back since. It was an absolutely beautiful area, but insects could make you insane! It's a 6 hour drive from here but I might saunter up there again. You got me thinking.

  2. It's worth the drive Jeff. Some of the most beautiful gold country you'll ever see.

  3. Jim great vwrite. I agree with you about the Keene sluice box.On Crow Creek in Girdwood Alaska my wife and I found several ounces of gold with one before I converted it to a highbanker and went on to find a couple of pounds of beautiful Alaska gold. We were close friends with the claim owner and that always helps. However I will say this: if you are not able to recover significant amounts of gold with a hand sluice working ground by hand (I'm referring to wet ground) I would be hesitant to invest in more equipment until you find better pay. I have see many people think they could make up the difference by running more gravel and rarely are their backs tough enough.
    Keep it up and lets pray our country makes a turn this fall.
    Jack McDade

  4. You make a great point here Jack and it shows you know your mining. I couldn't agree more. I'm always telling folks to hold back before they start laying out big bucks for gear. Like you say, if you can't get it with a simple sluice box you ain't gonna get it...period!

  5. Just spent 4 days at Ramshorn. The creek is all claimed up and I double checked with the county.. bunch of folks from Las Vegas and other places. Would upload some pics if I could. The stream is completely overgrown with blackberries and they are good made some bread out of them. Went up to the Union Flats area where the Forestry service has claims but it was an unholy mess. Didn't see a lick of work getting done on the creek but with no cell service, never got a call back from the claim holders. No potable water at the site so we were melting ice for drinking water... cheaper than bottled and plenty of fuel up there :) Wish I could give an encouraging report but the place is all built up and caters to the Mountain Bike crowd. Locals were very stand-off-ish and when the ranger saw my classifier and pans, he felt the need to come over and remind me about claim jumping and my "responsibility" to the forest and such. Didn't feel like a lecture or to educate this young fellow on my 50+ years of "responsibility" and my understanding of the Mining Act. The mosquitoes are alive and well but we went prepared with long sleeves and good ol' Coogans Head Nets. Thinking about an attempt on the Middle Yuba but don't have much info on what it may be like.

  6. I'm sorry to hear this news Jensen. But I'm not surprised. Downieville and Sierra City used to make their money off the gold miners dredging the N. Yuba but when I was there last in 2010 the mountain bikers were everywhere so I guess that's where the money is. They and the LGBT crowd come in on the weekends and holidays from the Bat Area of San Francisco. In the old days this bunch could've cared less about the area but now they flock there. Sad tidings my friend...


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