Last Words on Gold Mining Claims (Part 1)

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more into the breach. I've spoken quite a bit about the ins and outs of gold mining claims in the past and this info can be found in the Bedrock Dreams Archives or by using the search function on the home page. I'm not going to lay out all the parameters of the claim thing here. I've already done that. Instead I'll be speaking to you in general about claims...their benefits as well as their pitfalls.

A Pain in the Ass?

First off, I've owned a number of claims throughout my 40-year small-scale mining career. These were all placer claims, some wet and some dry. My most recent claim, a 160-acre site along Northern California's North Yuba River turned out to be a great spot but county taxes and increased annual Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fees (I went from paying less than $200.00 a year to over $1,200.00 a year) forced me out of the picture in 2012 since I was only able to get out that way once a year from New Mexico where I've lived these past 26 years. Oh, and lest I forget, there were some inconsistencies in the previous owner's claim paperwork that I was constantly trying to iron out with the county clerk's office. All in all, this claim turned out to be a royal pain in the ass for me, despite the good gold it contained. Just laying that out for you folks who want to file a claim from out of state. Sometimes what you envision as a haven and good working locale can turn into a nightmare of sorts. With this said, I don't recommend you buy or file on a gold claim when you live out of state or can't work it consistently and keep a close eye on it. Oh, and the bureaucratic horseshit you're gonna have to deal with as a "distant" claim owner. Even if the claim is close to you, the latter factor will rear its ugly head anyway and so will the increased fee and tax thing. Now I know some of you out there have claims already and perhaps haven't seen them as problematic in the above regards. If so, more power to you. I'm speaking primarily here to those who've never owned a claim and are thinking of filing on or buying one. To the latter I say clear the stars from your eyes and realize the reality of your dream claim can sometimes be deflating. Not always, but sometimes.

Be Prepared

Many folks who are thinking of acquiring a gold mining claim often don't think of certain eventualities, one of which is claim jumping. This is especially true if you are only able to hit your claim intermittently or once or twice a year like me and that North Yuba claim. After driving outlandish distances to get to your claim I damn well guarantee you'll find evidence of others having been there while you were out of the office, so to speak. You'll find their garbage and the holes and excavations they've dug, as well as evidence of their having camped out on your ground. If you're an absentee landlord (like I was) there's not much you can do about these intrusions and desecrations except grit your teeth and strap that pistola tighter to your thigh. In the Northern California Motherlode Region, for example, some of the local yokels know the routine and also know when you're not around. When that happens, your claim is considered fair game by them. These are the same doggie turds who will get in your face right quick-like if they think you're edging onto their own claims or gold ground. Go figure. Now most "real" miners (locals or otherwise) would never claim jump or pull this sort of crap, but there's always that segment of low lives who will. So be prepared for this eventuality and don't act like you weren't forewarned.

 (Someone was here while you were away.)

Be VERY Careful

While I'm at this, don't get too heavy handed with the fishermen or hikers or even campers who decide to use your claim for their activities. You DON'T own the land on standard or unpatented mining claims...just the mineral rights. So if these dip shits decide to call your claim home temporarily, then you'll just have to grin and bear the indignity of it all. However, if they break out a gold pan, sluice box, dry washer, highbanker, or metal detector and start working your ground you've got them by the balls, figuratively speaking anyway. That's why most claims in Northern California have numerous postings warning against this very thing. One more item. Be VERY careful about how you approach anyone who is claim jumping on your ground or even conducting non-mining activities. Most recreational type gold panners and the like don't know much about mining claims and often end up on yours by accident, not by design. Then, of course, there are those who simply ignore your claim postings. If this sort of stuff happens to you, the best road to take is the high road, not angry or threatening vitriol, no matter how hopping mad you are. Be calm, firm, and as fair-minded as possible under the circumstances. Why? Things can quickly escalate our of control and the county sheriffs aren't going to get there quickly enough to help you out nor will the forest service guys or gals. In fact, don't count on any of these law enforcement types showing up at all unless something terrible goes down. What's terrible? The shoot outs I was privy to back in the 1980s when two people lost their lives over claim disputes. One incident took place at a hard rock claim in Southern California and the other right close to where I was working the North Yuba. You don't want to go there, brothers and sisters. So put that rifle down and don't yank that 9mm out of its holster unless the other party is truly threatening your life. If the latter happens, then by God do what you gotta do. Just know there are stiff consequences either way.

 (Be prepared for the consequences if you draw that gun.)

Just a few things most would be claim owners never think about. And there are more to come so stay tuned...

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, I know I've told you about this before, but there is a claim I have tried to file on for nearly 20 years now. The guy that had the claim last, told me there wasn't much gold on it, but the next one up the hill had a pretty good hard rock deposit. He died about 10 years ago, and nobody had filed on either of these claims since. Every time I have tried, all I get is hassles, and the run-around treatment. I am very fond of the place, there is a cabin there we have been using for about 20 years, and I have buried 5 of my dogs there. After all these years, I may have found his hard rock diggings...need to check it out better this summer. (still 3 feet of snow there now).
    The cost here is about $200 per year, but all this time we have used it for free. I guess what I'm getting at, is this worth dealing with the government BS? Mainly, I don't want them to destroy the cabin, but it sounds like they could if I had the claim or not. I sometimes wonder if my filing on it would put that cabin on the "hit list" to be destroyed. I have heard that because of the sage grouse, no new mining claims will be allowed soon, so I think it's "now or never". Anyway, I'm rambling here......

  2. That's a tough call Gary. I guess if I thought my filing a valid claim on it might endanger the cabin I probably wouldn't. If you have access to this spot and no hassles yet, why file?


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