This year's heavy winter storms sent water blasting through rocks and rivers in the Sierra Nevada, making a banner spring for California gold seekers. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article.
An amateur gold seeker, Mr. Fausel used his gloved fingers to sweep aside the sand and gravel at the bottom of the creek and then, still under water, let out a cry that was audible through the tube of his snorkel:
He emerged with what gold seekers call a picker — not quite a nugget, but big enough to pinch in your fingers — and he delicately handed the glinting object to his fellow prospector, a friend with a long white beard who goes by Uncle Fuzzy. In just 20 minutes of rooting around the creek bed, Mr. Fausel had found about $100 worth of gold.
There's a fever in California's gold country these days, the kind that comes with the realization that nature is unlocking another stash of precious metal. California's prodigious winter rainfall blasted torrents of water through mountain streams and rivers. And as the warmer weather melts the massive banks of snow — one research station in the Sierra recorded 60 feet for the season — the rushing waters are detaching and carrying gold deposits along the way. The immense wildfires of recent years also loosened the soil, helping to push downstream what some here are calling flood gold.
It has been nearly 175 years since the Gold Rush that drew countless wagons and ships filled with prospectors, but the foothills of the Sierra Nevada are still home to a quirky group of gold seekers, heavy on beards and flannel, who pore over old maps for the site of a now-vanished saloon or walk the back country searching for nuggets and other artifacts.
Placerville is a 15-minute drive from the valley where James Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, was building a sawmill in January 1848 along the American River when something shiny in the water caught his eye.
Some kind of mettle, wrote one of his workers in his diary in the quirky spellings of the time,
that looks like goald.
The big chunks of the easy-to-find gold that had been lolling around in rivers for millenniums were gone after the first years of the Gold Rush, and Marshall himself died penniless. But miners resorted to spraying powerful jets of water onto hillsides and sorting through what flowed down, leaving giant piles of mining residue still visible today.
That kind of extraction is now heavily restricted in California, yet gold seekers say the recent battering of successive winter storms has produced a similar effect. It is as if Mother Nature had aimed a pressure washer onto the hills and delivered some of the precious minerals still embedded in the rock and dirt.
Anytime you can stand next to a river, and you hear the boulders tumbling, you know the gold is moving, too, said Jim Eakin, the owner of a local firewood business who tells the story of finding a nugget so big four years ago that he bought a brand-new Ford F-150 pickup truck with cash. Like many of his gold-seeking friends, Mr. Eakin, who often wears a nugget around his neck, is cagey when asked about exactly where he unearthed the chunk of gold that got him the truck.
Somewhere north of Los Angeles, south of Seattle and west of Denver, he said.
With the price of gold hovering near highs of $2,000 an ounce, Mr. Eakin counts himself among a group of gold seekers who can
read the ground and profit from the fortuitous winter weather.
It's going to be a magnificent year, said Tony Watley, president of the Gold Country Treasure Seekers club, which meets at the American Legion hall the third Monday of every month.
Everywhere we are seeing new erosion.
To read the complete article, see:
Eureka! After California's Heavy Rains, Gold Seekers Are Giddy.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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