Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gold Prospecting on the Arkansas River

This year saw a noticeable jump in gold prospectors on BLM land bordering the Arkansas River and of course in the river itself. I counted 6 miners along a stretch of river I used to fish and whose willows were home to the infamous super beaver story of a few years back. Some were just panning, others had gasoline pumps set up on the hillside for pumping river water uphill and then gravity feed their sluices. One elaborate rig was a self contained floating unit, complete with pump and sluice. Wish I had had my camera for that contraption - it was really something. Pictured above is a man from Missouri who travelled all the way to Oregon this year to prospect for gold. He is using the small creek at the Sugarbush campground to set up his sluice because he could not proper water current speed in the big river. Apparently the Sugarbush creek is flowing at just the right speed. So, he brought back two buckets of "gold dirt" and is pouring it into the sluice to be filtered out. Next he will take apart the sluice and pan the remaining minerals the old fashioned way. He is headed to Georgia next where apparently the purest gold in the US exists and the site of the first gold mint in the US (according to him).

While in Oregan, this man's wife learned a trick from an 84 year old woman: you use a turkey baster to suck out the dirt behind large rocks in which there is fast current on both sides and slow water behind. Then you pan that dirt for gold. Apparently, it works quite well.

It is still possible to stake claims on BLM land. From conversations I had, it is not required to post the land but I don't know if it is illegal to do so. Apparently, if you are prospecting, you had better know where you are and if there is an existing claim. Also, panning is free, but you need a permit for a gasoline powered pump as there are some use requirements. I think the permit is like $20 or and can be purchased in Salida.

With gold over $930 an ounce and a US economy on the rocks, it's not surprising more and more Americans are becoming interested in prospecting for gold. I am going to try my luck on the Arkansas next year.

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