Mining a coyote hole

The gold deposits in many places, especially in dry diggings, could be very deep, reaching down to the bedrock, and a well or shaft had to be dug to reach the pay dirt. When these holes were too deep for a man to throw the dirt out with a shovel a windlass and bucket would be used to remove the dirt, much like one would hand dig a well in those days. For very deep deposits men would often join forces but in places where the ore was not so deep each miner would have his own hole where he would … [Read more...]

What are wet and dry gold diggings?

In the early days of the gold rush miners worked the gravel bars and streambeds where water to wash the gold from the ore was plentiful and readily available. But soon some of the richest deposits were found in ravines that only carried water during the rainy season or, in some cases, on high slopes or elevated flats where there was no water at any time. The first miners had to carry the gold bearing ore to a steam or wait for the onset of winter rains to process their gold. These places were … [Read more...]

Modern mining with a long tom or sluice

Placer mining hasn’t changed that much since the time of the 49ers. Sure, you drive close to some of the many good spots to look for placer gold but you will still have to walk into the river and carry your equipment with you, so it needs to be light and easily portable. Here are some examples of modern miners using over the counter gear you can pack in and back along with all the gold you find. Notice how the two guys with the long tom are taking their ore from somewhere on the hillside above … [Read more...]

Modern claim jumping

One night early in January of 2009 the owner of a mining company waved down a sheriff's deputy on the road near his mining claim. Using night vision equipment the officer then saw three men with flashlights working in a steep, rocky canyon. When confronted one of the men managed to flee but the other two were arrested carrying a metal detector, rock picks and a hammer and were taken to jail where they were charged with attempted grand theft from a mining claim. According California Penal … [Read more...]

The sun sets on California gold miners

With the huge rise in the price of gold, mining was poised to become a significant contributor to an economy desperate for help when the two year ban on suction dredge mining ended later this year. Now most miners expect this type of mining by individuals is over for good. But make no mistake, plans to mine the rivers are underway and have been for some time. According to the web site of the Sierra Fund, an environmental organization heavily involved in cleaning California’s rivers, in … [Read more...]

Gold miners help clean up rivers

Joseph C. Greene, a former research biologist for the US Environmental Protection Agency, in his plea from February 2010 for Governor Schwarzenegger to veto the anti-suction dredge gold mining legislation, made a number of key points that seem to have been ignored by the California legislature. Mr. Greene’s entire letter can be found at He first sets forth the facts: “Looking for gold in California streams and rivers is a recreational activity for thousands of state residents, … [Read more...]

Who owns the gold in California?

There are still millions of dollars of easy to mine gold in California, most of it on public land. The mining laws are clear. All gold and other valuable metals belong to us, the public, in contrast to Russia or China where this wealth belongs to the government. All one needs to do is file a claim and any gold found belongs to the claim holder. But in California this is about to change. The most available placer gold has always been in the rivers. From the early days of the gold rush men … [Read more...]

Millions in gold still lies in California’s rivers

California’s attempt to ban suction dredging for gold in the rivers and streams of the Sierra foothills will be costly to an already fragile economy. Gold has been washing down these rivers for untold eons. Because it is heavy it falls to the bottom and settles in crevices in the bedrock. Early in the gold rush miners realized that the riverbeds were loaded with wealth. Then, in 1850, a large group of men pooled their energy in order to mine the bed of the Middle Fork of the American river at … [Read more...]

California gives gold miners the shaft

Dredging for gold, that’s the problem. It ruins the rivers they say. It kills the fish. It’s going to drag up all the harmful chemicals leftover from the gold rush. So say's California. You picture in your mind a monstrous machine that scoops tons of crap from the river bottom and would, no doubt, ruin any environment it was allowed to exist in. But those rigs aren’t the dredges in question. California doesn’t have a problem with those ecological terrors. Heavens no! I mean you have to … [Read more...]