Friday, July 6, 2007


In 1849 Gold was discovered in California, and the 49ers came. In 1886 though, the gold plumb run out, so the 49ers were 86ed! But during that golden era a legacy was born.

Actually, It's estimated by geologists that only 30% of California's gold has been found and 70% remains in the ground. Hot cha cha cha! How do I get me some of that?

So us argonauts packed up the Sienna and headed to the Sierras to the Mother Lode region for the weekend.

And made our way to Tuolumne County. California's gold region has the best county and town names doesn't it? Tuolumne, Calaveras, Stanislaus, Amador, and Mariposa counties, and the towns of Angels Camp, Chinese Camp, Copperopolis, Mokelumne Hill, Fiddletown, Placerville, Folsom, Clipper Gap, Secret Town, Gold Run, Rough and Ready, Malakoff Diggins, French Corral, just to name some of my favorites.

We are going to start out in Jamestown, or as the locals call it, Jimstown, situated roughly between San Fransisco and Yosemite on California State Highway 49.

Jamestown was home to the Harvard Mine, operated as recently as 1994, but as an open pit mine. It was closed due to falling gold prices.

Some of the folk that operated the old Harvard Mine.

Jamestown is home to some beautifully restored hotels.

We moseyed into Gold Prospecting Adventures on Main street for our guide to finding gold.

Here is their 1849 Mining camp on Woods Creek. This is where we are going to pan.

After “booting up” we jumped right in to panning.

Cindy's searches her pan for her early retirement.

Let Prospector Parkie learn ya the finer points of panning:

First, shovel some oar from your diggin's into your pan and take it down to the creek for “processin'”. We's going to let the water do most of the work.

Submerge the pan at an angle into the water careful like so's not to let any oar slosh out.“Massage” the silt out of the oar. Let the water work for ya, not against ya.

When the water runs clear, agitate the pan so that the heavier material settles to the bottom, again careful not to let any of the oar fall out. Gold is heavy, so it will settle to the bottom.

Lift the pan out of the water at an angle, allowing the lighter oar to wash out. Do this 3 or 4 times. Remember: Water is your friend.

Using a little bit of water left in the pan, swirl the water lightly over the remaining sand, gently washing it away to reveal that the pan contains absolutely no gold whatsoever. Repeat said steps until your at your wits end.

Oh boy~ this is going to be a long day. I guess I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon.

Next, we moved on to using a sluice box. Now this is the way to go. The average one can pan is about 5 pans per hour. Using a sluice box, we can now process an average of 100 pans per hour! Heck yeah! The odds have got to be in our favor now.

Your friend, the water, is now doing all the work. In this photo, the water is flowing left to right. Those metal ridges help trap the heavier oar behind it while the lighter stuff tumbles on down. There is a screen and a mesh that will hopefully trap the gold. Old timey prospectors learned this from finding gold trapped in moss growing in the water. Clever old timey prospectors.

After running oar through the sluice for an hour, the sluice is carefully removed from the stream and disassembled. Each part is then rinsed into a bucket. Now all the oar in the bucket has to be panned. Since Rachelle is the only one out of all of us who had any luck finding gold while panning, she gets the honor of panning the bucket.

Eureka! Gold! Now thats more like it.

Well, here it is, our haul for the morning. About $30 - $35 worth of gold. Of course it cost us over $100 to find it!

A warm sunny day. A cool, shaded creek. Fresh Sierra Nevada air. The prospect of finding gold. Away from electronic entertainment. All the ingredaments for a great family outing. Now thats the real gold, ain't it?

Next blog on A California Adventure:

After spending the morning doing the equivalent of about 100 squats while panning for gold, we were ready for a relaxing ride on the “Movie Train”. See ya then!