But Don’t Expect another Gold Rush…
Everyone knows that the weather in northern California can be highly variable. Some years are continuous droughts with dry conditions and little moisture, while other years are record snowpacks in the Sierras and heavy spring flooding.
Whenever the water level rises in those rivers, is seems that the various media outlets like to recycle the same stories from previous years. Stories about the golden rivers of California being replenished with new gold, and a new modern day gold rush is in full swing!
Miners are heading for the hills to strike gold once again!
The Reality of the Flood Gold in California
Yes it’s true that these spring runoffs do indeed add gold to the river. It’s called erosion, and it has been happening since the beginning of time!
To anyone with even the most basic knowledge of gold mining this isn’t really news. Placer gold deposits form in creeks and rivers over time, as erosion releases gold from the surrounding hills and mountains. These gold particles (whether they are a tiny speck or a 10+ pound nugget) work their way down until the eventually end up in the river.
Of course this process happens everywhere in the world, but since much of California is in gold country and the major rivers flood with such frequency, media outlets seem to like to focus on it.
How Much Gold do the Floods Bring?
The false premise that these stories continually try to sell about a modern “gold rush” are that a large flood is going to add so much gold to the river that it will be like 1849 all over again. As if one year of floods, no matter how big, will add millions of dollars worth of gold into the river gravels.
Think about that. The rivers that the early miners discovered were completely untouched. They had endured literally millions of years of flooding and erosion that had deposited gold into the richest rivers like the Yuba, Feather, and American. Millions of flood occurrences that would each deposit a bit more gold onto the river bedrock.
Does a flood bring new gold to the river? YES! Absolutely it does. And a good high water event can definitely help replenish an old worked out area. No doubt about it!
Is it going to be like 1849 all over again? No.
Placer Mining in the Rivers
Placer mining techniques after a flood aren’t much different than any other time of the year. You will have to wait for the water to recede before you can really get in the water and start finding gold anyways.
It can be beneficial to have a look at the river during the height of the floods in the springtime. You might notice some certain areas where gold that look promising for gold that you can return to at a later date. Sometimes this will key you into areas that you might overlook if you were there in the summer.
Aside from that, its as simple as packing along your gold pan and sluice box and start prospecting! Even after a large flood you aren’t likely to hit the “Mother Lode” like the first miners in California, but you can certainly recover some gold that has been freshly released from the mountains. The rivers will continue to be refreshed with new gold for years to come.