It’s no secret that California is one of the best states to prospect for gold. In fact, some would consider it the best place in the country to look for gold.
In recent years there have been some frustrating restrictions on some mining methods, most notably suction dredging. This has hampered many prospectors ability to find decent quantities of gold.
Metal detecting is still an open and viable option though. In fact, I would consider it the best option, with a very real potential for finding nice sized gold nuggets.
California has been mined hard, but there is still a lot of gold being found. If you plan on doing some gold detecting in Northern California, you will need to focus on the best areas.
Here are a few tips.
1. Hunt the Hydraulic Pits
California was famous for its hydraulic mining back in the early days. This mining technique literally washed away mountains. They recovered a lot of gold, but the crude equipment during that era meant that they lost a lot of gold too. Detecting the old hydraulic pits is a great way to find gold nuggets.
2. Hunt Smaller Drainages that Feed the Well-Known Gold Rivers
Most everyone knows that the American River, Feather River, Yuba River, and many others were rich with gold and mined hard back in the day. There is still good gold in the rivers, but sometimes the smaller drainages that feed into the rivers were ignored. Explore them with a metal detector and you might just find some hidden deposits.
3. Explore the Higher Country
It seems natuaral to gravitate toward the major rivers in gold country, but sometimes exploring the higher elevations can be productive. There are good spots in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada that were very rich with gold. Do your research and seek these places out.
4. Do Some “Gold Buggin’” for Small Nuggets
If you are having difficulty finding gold nuggets, I would suggest you do some “gold buggin,” meaning you get yourself a trusty Fisher Gold Bug 2 and work a known gold area. These detectors are so sensitive to small gold, that I can find little nuggets even in the most hammered areas if I am patient enough.
5. Hunt the Trashy Locations
Sometimes if you exercise enough patience to work the areas that are super trashy it will pay off. There were thousands and thousands of miners throughout the Mother Lode during the gold rush. They camped right along the creeks and in some places they left behind amazing quantities of rubbish. Hunting these places can be very frustrating, but there can be some good gold scattered amongst those old camp sites.
6. Identify Smaller Placer Diggin’s
The big gold mines obviously produced the most gold, but for the average guy with a metal detector, even small deposits of gold area worth looking for. One way to find them is to locate those smaller placer diggin’s in little creeks and gulleys. There is evidence of old mining all throughout Northern California. Find these lesser-known areas and you might be surprised with the amount of gold you recover.
7. Get Away from the Roads
There are lots of good areas to hunt in the Sierras that are way in from the roads and not easily accessible. Its no surprise that these spots are hunted a lot less than places near the road. Don’t be afraid to strap on a good pair of boots and explore new country.
There’s Plenty of Gold Left!
Never let someone convince you that the old-timers got it all. In fact, there was a 6-pound gold nugget found in Butte County just a couple years ago by a prospector using a metal detector.
There are many, many more out there just like it. For every one that gets attention in the news, I’m sure there are several that are found and never reported.
Keep your coil low and keep on hunting. Your next nugget is just one swing away!