Where to Prospect for Beach Placers in California and Oregon (Part 3)

 (A stretch of Oregon coast.)

Undoubtedly many of you are wondering when the hell I'll actually get to the specific beach placer locations in California and Oregon that the title of this series of posts alludes to. Calm thy troubled hearts, OK? Those locations are coming your way but I have to establish some basics first. Otherwise, you may not what to do or where to prospect at any given location. (By the way, I must use this intro paragraph to send out a message to Justin in North Carolina. Thanks for the very kind e-mail Justin, but each time I try and send you a reply my emails come back as "undeliverable." So I'm not ignoring you, OK? Also note that I will be in North Carolina in October...all things considered and the creek don't rise!)

 OK, let's get back to beach structure.


This type of structure is essentially the middle area or strip of any given beach depending on tidal action. In a an extremely high tide situation there may not be any foreshore structure discernible, only offshore and aftershore (we'll talk about the latter soon). In my experience (beach mining and beach hunting for jewelry and coins) foreshore structure has little value from a gold or "goodies" recovery standpoint. Of course, each beach is different and so are its overall wave deposition factors. But in general, foreshore structure is not your best bet for finding beach placer gold. Can you find gold and "goodies" in foreshore areas? Of course you can. This is especially true if the foreshore structure contains lots of cobbled rock or gold trapping points. Here's a case in point. Back in the early 1980s when I was doing my winter season beach hunting thing in Southern California a succession of powerful Pacific storms battered the coastline, stripping off most of the sandy overburden, and turning those beaches into veritable treasure troves. One of my very best finds that season was a huge, 14K gold man's ring with a 1.25 carat diamond in it! It was a heavy, ugly ring (ostentatious...something a Mafia wiseguy might wear) but guess where I recovered it? Yep! From the foreshore strip of that particular beach. But bear in mind that foreshore strip of beach was heavily littered with cobbled rock. In general, however, most sandy (heavily overburdened) foreshore structures will not produce much in the way of placer gold or "goodies." (As soon as I typed this last sentence I knew I was opening myself up for criticism from certain beach miners and treasure hunters who will claim just the opposite is true. Really? If so, good on ya mates. But I still won't exert one lick of effort on a sandy foreshore. You have your thing and I have mine so let's just agree to disagree on this point. And remember, I'm talking about West Coast beaches, not Florida, the Gulf Coast, or the East Coast in general where there are "goodies" but NO beach placer gold.)

 (The foreshore is the lighter colored sandy area in this photo.)


Now we're talking pards! Aftershore structure is where you're gonna find the bulk of your beach placer gold in California and Oregon (as well as jewelry and coins). This is particularly true after heavy storm or tidal surges. The aftershore is that part of a given beach that is farthest AWAY from the wave action under "normal" conditions. The best gold (and "goodie") bearing aftershore structures are those with cliffs or slopes immediately behind them. Why? Because those formations provide either real or "false" bedrock below them and, as you know, gold is heavy and will work its way down until it can travel no farther. In California and Oregon beach placer deposits were formed from gold traveling toward the ocean via streams and rivers farther inland. Where's the first place that gold is going to land when it hits the beach? You got it. In the aftershore structure areas. Yes, some of it will be pulled by wave and tidal action into foreshore and offshore structures, but the bulk of that yellow will be deposited near aftershore structure. If cobbled rock, obstructions, boulders, and the like are part of that aftershore structure then by golly...you're golden! The best time for working aftershore structure (or foreshore structure for that matter) is after a big storm, tidal surge, or any other significant natural event that has the power to strip off sandy overburden. Keep your eyes open for rusty metal pieces, nails, brass fittings, fragments of water-worn glass, or fused iron-oxide "clumps" all mixed together. If you spot those things on the surface or just below the surface that's where the gold will be. Or, any sandy overburden that has iron staining on the surface. The latter means oxides are leaching out from iron items below. Examine any iron-oxide clumps closely or break them apart. You may very well find placer gold or "goodies" fused in there with the junk metal. I know I have...both on the beach and in my regular inland mining activities. As always dig down as deeply as possible and clean out real or "false" bedrock pockets and/or crevices. And what about black sands? Don't let those guide you. Northern California beaches in particular can often be covered with heavy black sands or streaks of the same from the aftershore right down to the water's edge.

(The aftershore area is to the right and in the background here. Also note the presence of heavy black sands all over this beach.)

What Gear to Use

This is pretty much your call but in most instances a highbanker is going to be your best bet for beach gold recovery in California and Oregon. You can set up in the aftershore area and run a hose to your water source. If it's the ocean, things will get dicey if the waves are rough breaking on the beach. Nothing much you can do about things then, although where there's a will there's a way. Be creative. Sometimes you can dig a shallow hole, widen it, and let it fill with sea water and use that as a water source. You'll have to figure out the water pumping routine which is not easy at times despite all that sea water out there. If a stream or creek is emptying out nearby you can use that source. Be creative. Or, you can simply pan material or use a conventional sluice box or rocker...which means you'll have to flush both of the latter by hand unless you are pumping water. If that's the case, you might as well have a highbanker running. Whatever the case, remember to keep one eye on the tide and wave action both for safety reasons and to prevent your gear from getting swept away. The fine sand on beaches can wreak havoc on motorized gear and so can the salt water over time. Be aware of those things as well. However, the main thing to remember about mining California and Oregon beaches is that the gold is going to be very small in size...finely grained stuff for the most part. To get the most gold you gotta be moving material and lots of it. Just like inland mining.

(Nome, Alaska. Yep, they're working the foreshore but Nome is a very rich anomaly and can't guide your actions in California and Oregon.)

Next time we'll take a look at actual spots or locations to mine for beach placer gold in California and Oregon. Oh! And let's not forget beach platinum in select locations.


(c) Jim Rocha 2017

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


  1. Are there any changes in the laws for Ca&Or since this article that readers should be aware of?

    1. Calif. and Oregon are problematic these days in this regard. Check with state or fed offices to get the real low down. I haven't been on the beaches in years...

  2. Is the regular slice box set up able to catch fine beach gold?

  3. Yes, a regular sluice box will work well enough for you. But I suggest you periodically pan some of the fine tailings coming out of the end of the box to see if you're losing anything. Also, save all your black sand concentrates after clean ups...then run them again through a micro sluice, spiral wheel, or Blue Bowl at a later time.


Post a Comment