Where to Prospect for Beach Placers in California and Oregon (Part 2)
(Head north from the Golden Gate for the best beach placers.)
In this post I'll be concentrating (no pun intended!) on beach structure and its importance to beach placers and general "goodies" (coins, jewelry, etc.). Just as things work in streambeds and washes, the deposition of gold on beaches is dependent on the structure of a given beach. Get that point ingrained in your mind as we move forward here, OK?
Let's go right to the heart of the matter. There are three main beach structure placer components you should be aware of: 1) OFFSHORE, 2) FORESHORE, and 3) AFTERSHORE. If you watch the reality TV series "Bering Sea Gold," you are already aware of offshore structure because that's where the boys (and girls) in Nome, Alaska perform the bulk of their beach placer gold recovery. The beach gold deposits at (and off the beaches) at Nome were once stupendously rich in yellow metal and still hold great potential for offshore dredgers. You won't find this same level of richness along the beaches of California and Oregon, but there is still gold (and platinum) to be found there.
OK, let's talk structure:
Offshore beach structure is simply that part of the beach that typically lies underwater, with the possible exception of extremely low tides. Let me say right off the bat that working offshore structure for placer gold in California and Oregon is not the route to take for small-scale gold miners (or commercial ventures, for that matter). Why? Simply because the beach placers in the once-Golden and Beaver states are not that rich or extensive. Granted, there are probably some very rich locations offshore in both states that have never been exploited (the old timers didn't have suction dredges, diving suits, or regulators) but the problems and expense involved in finding and exploiting those isolated locales are too great. Rough seas and surf at times, cold water, deeper working depths, permitting, and equipment expenses to name but a few. Common sense, right?
The worst form of offshore beach structure is a sandy bottom. If you're bound and determined to work offshore beach placers, avoid sandy bottoms like the plague. Just as you've seen in offshore dredging at Nome ("Bering Sea Gold") a sandy bottom is not going to carry much (if any) placer gold. That sand is simply overburden and you know how overburden works in regular placer mining. It covers the good stuff. Sandy bottoms on potential beach placers in California and Oregon could reach depths of 10-30 feet or more, depending on the exact location. If there are no boulders, reefs, cobble fields, etc., to break up those sandy offshore bottoms you're simply pissing into the wind if you're on the hunt for gold. It's like trying to mine gold in a slow-moving, sandy bottom river or stream in a valley or low-laying area. Nix on that.
Not the Best Idea
The nice thing here, however, is that as you go up the Pacific Coast from San Francisco northward into Oregon you'll find relatively few offshore structures that are simply sandy bottomed...go to Southern California and mostly just the opposite is true. So if you're heart is fixed on working offshore placers in Northern California and Oregon you're most likely to end up with offshore structures that are broken up to a great degree by obstructions, reefs, and even bedrock in certain locations. Those are the offshore structures you want to be taking a look at...not sandy bottoms, OK? But if you're serious about working offshore structures, make sure you have the right gear, are a good swimmer/diver, and have a stand-up dude or dudette as your back-up buddy. Safety is numero uno when it comes to working offshore beach placer structures and...once again...I don't think that's the best idea for California and Oregon beach placers. Have I ever worked offshore structures? Only up to my waist and even then I was buffeted and thrown around by the surf coming in. Too dangerous in my book, especially as you head farther north along the California coastline.
(Some decent offshore structure but check the offshore bottom for sand levels.)
I guess I'd say that if you're interested in offshore beach mining and getting decent gold from that enterprise, your best bet is Alaska. Pure and simple. Pack it in and head for Nome where crazies abound and try your hand at offshore dredging. But be aware of the potential dangers to your body, mind, and soul and your pocketbook or wallet as well. There are no "free lunches" or get-rich-quick deals in Nome or in any other place where small-scale mining activities take place. Just like the old days, most would-be miners "bust out" and greenhorns with dollar signs dancing before their eyes are the first to succumb. So take heed...
My best to one and all.
(c) Jim Rocha 2017
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org