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California Drought watch: It is tempting to go for the gold, but take care

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The national, international and local news is abuzz about the low waters in California. The low rivers and record temperatures created so many prime gold prospecting opportunities that a small gold rush is going on. According to a Jan. 27 article in the Sacramento Bee, historically low rivers, creeks and streams offer areas that have been underwater for over a hundred years. This might be tempting to new and experienced prospectors, but everyone should be extremely cautious for many reasons.

Bear River Campground at Colfax and the Confluence at Auburn State Recreation Area are the two hottest spots in Northern California. The South fork of the Yuba River offers two other popular spots: Malikoff Diggins and Bridgeport state parks.

These hot spots offer newly exposed nooks and crannies where gold, the heaviest mineral, is likely to be. A lot of silt and black sand covers the gold, which has had a lot of time to be buried deep.

Those hot spots, and prospecting in general, come with hazards, legal restrictions and hard facts. Here is some information that will help.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND WARNINGS

Motorized dredging was outlawed years ago. This leaves "hand and pan" or sluice methods for placer mining. This is the only legal way to extract gold from the waterways. Motorized vacuum dredging, once a booming equipment sales business, was stopped because it disturbed the egg laying areas and other parts of underwater riparian habitats.

Animals and rattlesnakes are also moving into newly exposed areas to find water and food. They might not be happy about human incursions into their increasingly limited habitats.

With low water, look for warnings about high concentrations of fecal and other disease causing bacteria.

Be in good shape before attempting to work with heavy rock and sand. Do not go alone into isolated and rugged areas. Take plenty of water, even if it seems cool and pleasant.

Be careful in those low waters. The currents can still be powerful and treacherous.

Never go onto private property without permission. Go to state and public parks and follow the rules. Consider the high fire dangers in areas with bone dry grasses. Finally, leave the environment the way you found it by packing your garbage and waste out when you go.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WILD GOLD AND PLACER MINING

The final warning is to research the facts about gold and how it is valued. Placer mining is surface mining for "wild" gold. Wild gold (measured in Au) is usually mixed with other minerals. It is highly unlikely that you will find 99 Au gold in the wild. This is why the unmolested nuggets might be worth more than the refined result.

Gold Fever Prospecting is a good information resource. It will help with finding safe public parks, facts about gold prospecting and more.

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