✔When asking seasoned miners about this year’s so-called gold rush in Northern California, it can be a challenge to obtain trustworthy information.
✔“People who are smart don’t advertise what they’ve found,” said Bob Van Camp, better known as “Digger Bob.” “If you’re finding nuggets in an area, you don’t tell anyone about it; I’ve made that mistake before.”
✔After all, if you’re a professional miner looking to make your fortune, it’s the nuggets you’re after. Flakes and dust are milquetoast – and altogether worthless – compared to heavy chunks of the shiny yellow stuff.
✔Northern California was pelted with record rainfall this winter, and miners predicted that once all the water washed away, gold would be left in its wake. It appears that their predictions are panning out.“Folks are finding more gold — ‘flood gold’ — than usual this year,” said Diana Clayton, president of the Shasta Miners & Prospectors Association, which owns seven claims throughout Northern California and boasts about 350 members.
✔“Many of our members have been mining for decades,” Clayton said. “They really know the area. And they know there’s been changes.”Bryant Shock, co-owner of Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown, Calif., estimates that there’s been a quarter increase in professional miners heading up north – a sure sign of a legitimate gold rush, he says.
✔So too, Shock has seen bigger chunks of the mineral unearthed this season than in recent years, and not just near streams and rivers. Heavy rainfall triggers slides, he explained, which create cutouts in the hills and deposit small bits of gold in gulches and ravines.
✔“I’ve heard of people walking along, kicking the dirt and finding a piece of gold,” Clayton added. She said a Shasta Miner recently uncovered a nugget half the size of her pinkie finger – that’s a biggie.
✔Clayton wasn’t about to let SFGATE in on the location of the prized chunk – “That’s like asking fishermen where they found their best catch!” – but she did mention the prospects surrounding the Oroville Dam, where miners believe gold is buried in the bedrock and dirt washed away when the spillway flooded.
✔“There’s good gold in that gravel,” said professional miner Mike Abernathy definitively.
✔ Aspiring miners should take pause before heading to Oroville with a pan in their hand and visions of riches on their minds. The region surrounding the spillway is completely inaccessible to the public, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) vehemently refutes the treasure hunters’ chatter. The river channels affected by the flooding were extensively mined during the late 19th and 20th centuries, and having high flood waters would not expose additional gold,” a BLM spokesperson told SFGATE over email.
✔Nonetheless, a miner can dream — that’s what this gold hunting business is all about anyway. Odds of making a fortune in the goldfields of California are slim-to-none, but that’s not really the point.
✔Said Clayton, “It’s about having fun and maybe getting lucky.”
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