Heavy Rains Mean More Gold

This winter and spring have been wet, but not slow and steady wet. Atmospheric rivers have come through dumping downpours, especially in California's gold country. We've caught the edges of the storms here in southern Oregon, but California bore the brunt.

Heavy rains, all at once, are terrible in some senses with flooding, mudslides, and other problems, but the west is also in the midst of a 1000-year draught, so the rain and added snowpack are also welcome.

For gold prospectors, the rain also means a re-seeding of the streams.

Gold moves in high water, especially the kind of torrential onslaught brought to bear on California this year. Whole hillsides can wash downstream, with gold depositing along the way like in a natural sluice.

An April NY Times article even picked up on the fact: Eureka! After California’s Heavy Rains, Gold Seekers Are Giddy. For the record, the NY Times doesn't tend to pick up on what's going on in the west, so the fact this caught their eye is telling.

NYT focused on Placerville (as in placer gold), but as one commentor pointed out, the county name (El Dorado) means golden, and that's hardly the only county in California loaded with gold.

With place names like Oroville, Fortuna, and Eureka, you get a sense for the state's relationship with gold, and it's not just the north. The East Fork of the San Gabriel River outside of L.A. has good gold, and there's even gold in the L.A. River (not recommended)!

We've got plenty here in Oregon as well. In fact, the entire west coast on up to Alaska is gold country, but this season, with the incredible rains in California, El Dorado and Trinity Counties, the high Sierras, there will be some great opportunities to be had.

If you do make a trip out west to do some prospecting, we wish you the best of luck, also some suggestions:

  1. Respect nature - Snowmelt means cold water year-round, and hyperthermia sucks (trust me). There are also critters to keep an eye out for. Rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions, wolves, even spiders, scorpions, and wasps can all spoil a day out, so keep your distance and your eyes open.
  2. Respect the locals - Trespassing on private property, leaving trash behind, and claim jumping are all big NOs. I always try to pack out more than I pack in. Upset locals is how we get to bans and whatnot, so be good citizens.

That said, grab your gold pan and get out there. There's gold in them thar hills!

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