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Raging California rivers are replenishing historic Gold Rush spots – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Kevin Bell, California Director of Gold Prospectors of America, mining for gold at Moore Creek near Buck Meadows, California, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Tuesday, May 9, 2023. A winter storm blew water onto the rocks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, leading to what is widely predicted. It will be the biggest discovery season in recent history. (Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Buck Meadows — For 170 years, the gold deposits along the Sierra riverbeds have been plucked so hard that easy supplies of precious metals are scarce and hard to find.

This spring’s raging river gives them a gift.

“There it is!” said Kevin Bell of Sacramento, spinning a pot in the cool waters of Moore Creek as a sudden glow lit up the pitch-black sands. From half a bucket of material, you’ve harvested 12 flashy specks. That’s nearly a tenth of a gram of gold, worth about $7, and about double the normal catch for the year.

Prospectors call it “flood gold.” Fine-sized flakes carried by alluvial waters and deposited as the current recedes.

Kevin Bell, California director of Gold Prospectors of America, which mines for precious metals along Moore Creek near Buck Meadows, California, stands out among the black sand on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Shiny gold flakes. (Photo: Carl Mondon/Bay Area Newsgroup)

This winter’s violent storms caused heavy erosion, with rain pounding rocks near the source of the vein and washing gold downstream. Heavy spring currents hoist up riverbeds, dredging gold out of deep pits and dense clays where the largest chunks may hide. The river is moving gravel bars from one place to another. Cleared the undergrowth to make it easier to access. Nothing moved during the drought.

“What happened this winter was amazing,” said director Kevin Hoaglund. American Gold Prospectors Associationwith over 50 claims on 6,000 acres of land exclusively for members.

“It takes a very significant event to move money,” he said. “But this was nothing special. It was a series of important events.”

The news comes in step with the surge in the price of gold, from $1,700 last November to a near-record over $2,000 an ounce this week, increasing the number of amateur prospectors.

“People come from all over the world. Some languages ​​I don’t understand,” said Albert Fausel. placerville hardwarefounded in 1854, is the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi.

“They buy all the basic necessities: pans, crevice tools, snuff bottles, metal detectors,” he says. “I sold gloves to a man who wanted to keep his hands warm.”

With the cool spring weather continuing, many of California’s most famous rivers, including the Yuba, American, Cosamnes, Tuolumne, Merced and Klamath rivers, are still too fast to pan safely.

So prospectors are exploring small streams and scanning riverbanks with metal detectors.

“People don’t realize how powerful the water is. They put their feet in it and they just get sucked in,” Bell, 61, said. AsWith slow strides and a voice as rough as 40 sandpaper, he killed the prospector. “You have to always think about safety.”

Bell parked the truck near the end of a long dirt road, near an old stagecoach stop. Wearing hip waders and carrying a shovel and bucket, he trudged through a tangled forest of cedars, pines, oaks and blackberries before descending to Moore Creek.

Cold and clear, like ice cold gin, this creek begins in a drainage channel outside Yosemite National Park and flows into the North Fork of the Merced River. Beneath the area are ore-rich quartz veins.

According to the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society, gold mining here began in 1849 when James Savage, led by Native Americans from the area, discovered gold near the present-day towns of Big Oak Flat and Groveland. It says.

Seeking wealth, thousands of miners flocked to the pine-clad western foothills of the Sierra Mountains to help found the nation. By the 1870s, the supply of easily exploitable gold was nearly exhausted. Improvements in technology led to a second small commercial boom in the early 1900s and a third boom in the 1950s. Then it stopped.

Today, the area thrives primarily on tourism.

A former owner of a municipal power company, Mr. Bell’s motivation is spending time outdoors with friends rather than making big bucks. Indeed he did well. When found nearby in 2012, he found 2.5 grams of gold in one pot, including a staggering 3/4 gram nugget. But he doesn’t sell the gold he finds. Rather, he’s building a collection of memories, each vial representing an adventure in a dear place.

As he walked along the stream, he examined its banks for signs of high water. Debris, flattened bushes and grass, and new gravel deposits on high benches may have pushed the gold up and deposited there. “It tells you the extent to which water is working,” he said.

A prospector’s eye is trained to look for opportunities. eddies, sudden changes in direction caused by fallen trees, and “drop-out zones” of dripping water where gold 19 times his weight in water falls as the flow slows.

“The key is to let people speak to you naturally and understand the nuances,” Hoagland says.

“Just one small change, little pieces of sticks pushed by the water and all pointing in the same direction, those are what we’re always looking for,” he said. “Because it tells you the pattern of flow and where the energy was at a particular time. You ask, ‘Where did this water slow down?’ How is the gravel laid down?” ”

Bell focused on eroded levees blown by water. The water level surged into the grass, then dropped, then deflected by the logs.

“This is a natural choke point in the water,” he said, shoveling mud into buckets and then into blue pots. “Now the gold has a place to hide.”

He bent over, filled the pot with water, and stirred the muddy mixture. He sorted out the large pebbles and washed the light dirt off the edges.

He lowered his face into the pot. The yellow spots glistened in the sunlight. Arizona Gold has a bronze tint. Alaskan Gold Trend Silver. Californian gold is usually flattened with a buttery yellow by beating it with water.

“Can you see the gold shining in the light?” he wondered. “There is an unchanging aura”

“It’s about exploration,” he said. All winter long he watched and said: And so it was. “

Kevin Bell, California Director, Gold Prospectors of America, holds gold flakes collected at Moore Creek near Buck Meadows, California, Tuesday, May 9, 2023 (Photo by Carl・Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

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