Gold prices and the economy are fueling a new gold rush. Are you ready to head to the hills and find the mother lode?
Staking a Claim: Gold Prospecting in the New Millennium.
The gold rush is back on! Gold prices in the triple to quadruple digit range coupled with a major economic crisis have prompted many people to don their dungarees and head to the hills in search of gold. Is there gold in them thar hills? These new gold prospectors are betting on it.
Before you dig through the attic in search of your great grandfather’s gold pan and axe, you’ll need a plan. The days of the Wild West are long gone and today’s gold prospecting opportunities require finding suitable gold prospecting locations, applying for permits, paying applicable fees, and lowering expectations.
First, where do you plan on going gold prospecting? Most casual gold prospectors focus on mining placer gold, so finding a productive placer deposit is the goal. Placer deposits are alluvial deposits of gravel and debris that has been chipped away from the mountains and deposited elsewhere. Erosion, rockslides, glaciers, snowmelt, rainwater, and other forces separate the gravel, minerals, and gold from the host rock, moving these chunks downhill where they eventually settle before moving on when other natural forces kick in.
Because of gold’s nature, as the rocks and debris move, the chunks become smaller and smaller. Larger nuggets are found closer to the original source while smaller nuggets and gold flakes can be found hundreds of miles downstream. Understanding where gold lodes are located helps in identifying potential high-yield placer deposits. Streambed placers are often favored by gold prospectors however, desert gulches, outwash fans, outwash areas of streams, and even the beach yield gold, too.
Both California and Alaska are well known amongst gold prospectors for their placer gold. Other states with gold deposits include Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and Idaho. The Black Hills of South Dakota is also notable. A handful of eastern States have yielded gold; however, the gold placers are sparse and the gold is of a lower grade than that found in the western states.
Once you have a gold prospecting region, such as California’s Placer County, in mind, you’ll need to find out where gold prospecting is allowed and if you must apply for a permit or stake a claim. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Forest Service are all excellent sources of information.
If you find gold on public land and want to stake a claim, you may be able to. Though the new millennium has arrived, staking a gold mining claim hasn’t changed much since the 18005. You must make sure that the land that you are claiming is public land that does not have an active claim and is not held under patent. The land should be clearly marked if an active mining claim is in place. To be certain, check with the local county courthouse.
The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn some land frc mining law, designating it for recreational gold mining. For example, the Keysville Recreational Mining Area in Califomia’s Kem County, is made up of about 400 acres of land stretching along the Kern River. Permits are required for suction dredges and camp fires and an extensive list of rules must be followed.
In the Sacramento area’s Mother Lode Region, several areas have been specifically set aside for casual gold prospecting including the south fork of the Yuba River and the lower Merced River. If you want to avoid the hassles of applying fora permit, these areas allow for permit-free gold mining using traditional gold pan and shovel methods. If you’d like to dredge in the area, you’ll need permits from the Bureau of Land Management as well as the State of California Department of Fish and Game.
Depending on where you will be mining for gold, you may be required to pay fees. For example, private gold mining operations exist, allowing gold prospectors to mine for gold for a fee. Fees can range anywhere from a simple $2 per pan experience and hourly rates for gold panning to more expensive guided gold prospecting expeditions.
While gold prices have been dancing around the $1000 mark in recent years, don’t expect to hit the mother lode. Most gold nuggets are miniscule. It takes a great deal of time to mine even the smallest sample of gold. Approach gold mining in the new millennium as a hobby that could yield rewards and you won’t be disappointed.
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