The "A" List: Top States for Placer Gold in the USA (Conclusion)

In this post I'll be finishing up the "A" list of the best placer gold states in the U.S. for you. So read on and find what states still have it going on for small-scale miners.

Rolling in at number five is...

5. Oregon

Oregon offers some excellent placer gold opportunities with, once again, reservations on my part. Like its neighbor to the south California, Oregon has its share of cult-like green weenies most of whom are ex-pat hippie-dippies from the once-Golden State. Anti-mining agendas are at work in Oregon these days and have been for some years. Although the state hasn't fallen as far in this regard as California, the writing may be on the wall especially when it comes to suction dredging. That said, nothing is etched in granite at this point. But be aware of the anti-mining trend there, OK?

The Beaver State's placers are located mainly in the southwestern part of the state, particularly in the Rogue River Region and on the rivers, streams, and tributaries in or near the Klamath Mountains (which also provide good gold opportunities in extreme Northern California just across the Oregon border). Good placer gold-producing areas can also be found in the Greenback District in Josephine County and the Applegate District in Jackson County. Additionally, placer gold occurs in many of the streams draining the Blue and the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The Sumpter and upper Powder River regions had important historical placer gold production and should be considered if you're in Oregon or thinking of heading there to do a little placer mining. You might also try your mining skills in placers along the Burnt River and its tributaries and at selected locations in the John Day River Valley.

 (A nice collection of Oregon placer gold. Image courtesy Bedrock Prospectors.)

The sixth place finisher is...

6. Colorado

Most Colorado gold placers fall into the residual category and are typically found on slopes and hillsides in the immediate vicinity of lode gold veins. The state's placers are usually confined to narrow canyons below historic lode gold mining areas within the Rocky Mountains. However, nearly every historic gold district in Colorado has produced placer gold and most of the streams draining the Front Range, the headwaters of the South Platte River, and the Arkansas River and its tributaries contain varying amounts of placer gold. Residents of the Denver area can actually pan gold in selected spots along Cherry Creek where gold was found back in the 1800s. I took a prospecting trip to the Centennial State some years ago just to check things out. I turned up color in every creek and stream I sampled. Still, when I think of Colorado I think of lode gold and silver mines which were its main precious metals producers in the old days.

 (Old lode mining site in the Colorado Rockies.)

And the runners up are...

Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and South Dakota

I must admit I'm a bit surprised that Arizona isn't ranked higher than Colorado in historic placer gold production. I've written at length about Arizona's gold potential and history here in Bedrock Dreams so if you're interested in mining and prospecting there you might want to use the search function in the blog's right sidebar.

 (An Arizona gold pan.)

Ah, now we come to New Mexico where I've lived for the past 26 years. My reaction to placer gold here is bittersweet and I'll tell you why. Despite the fact New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the U.S. in terms of square miles, there are very few placer areas you can freely access here. Private property issues seem to be the main culprits as very few gold areas are freely open for access. There are both wet and dry placer districts in New Mexico but again, accessing many of them is an issue. For example, I live within 10 miles of one historic placer area and within one-to-two hours' drive from a number of others. There's good gold to be had in the area closest to me but access is a big no-no due to private property restrictions. Ditto for some of the areas farther away to the north and east. So, as difficult as it is to say this, if I was one of you out there considering placer mining in New Mexico I'd head for greener pastures elsewhere, truth be told.

 (My erstwhile mining pard Kane Fisher cleaning bedrock at a New Mexico placer location.)

Harder and Harder

I've never mined or prospected in Nevada, Washington, or South Dakota but decent gold placers exist in all three states. If you're interested in gold in those states do your research because I know little about them gold-wise except for selected posts I've written about them in the past. Again, use the blog's search function.

All in all things are getting harder and harder these days to access certain placer areas and deal with some of the BS restrictions thrust upon small-scale gold miners here in the West and Southwest. So be aware of that fact but also know that some states have many open areas and you just have to find the ones that aren't already claimed up!

Best to all of you.

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, it surprises me to hear about New Mexico. One thing about Idaho I like is that it is about 3/4 public ground. That doesn't mean they "let" you use it though.
    I guess the bottom line is to make the best of what you have......and don't get caught!
    If it's private, I respect that, but "public" belongs to "We the people" not just the folks we put in charge. Hopefully some of that will change for the better, but I won't hold my breath waiting.

  2. I won't hold my breath either Gary...


Post a Comment