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New "Gold Rush" Sparked in California After Record Rainfall and Forest Fires Reveal Uncovered Deposits

Only 10% of California's gold may have been discovered.

When California was in the depth of drought last year, few would have predicted that a winter of record rainfall would fill rivers and reservoirs and grow grass in previously barren fields. But all the precipitation is having a truly unprecedented side effect: It may kick off a new gold rush in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Flood waters have flushed gold sediment down the rivers, bringing to the surface what prospectors previously had to dig for, the UK Telegraph reported this week.

"It's going to be a magnificent year," Tony Watley, president of the Gold Country Treasure Seekers club, told the New York Times.  Read on to find out why gold hunters say lucrative finds are out there for the taking this summer.

Weather Surfacing Precious Metal


"There's a fever in California's gold country these days, the kind that comes with the realization that nature is unlocking another stash of precious metal," the Times reports.

Not only has rainfall helped bring gold to the surface, two other factors are helping: Higher-than-usual snowbanks in the mountains have started to melt, detaching and carrying gold deposits into the rivers. And years of wildfires have loosened the soil, pushing "flood gold" downstream.  

Only 10% of California's Gold May Have Been Discovered


"It's not possible to say how much gold is still left in California," Don Drysdale, a spokesperson with the California Department of Conservation, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The state's geology is too complex. However, there is enough gold remaining that commercial mines are actively producing it."

Ed Allen, historian at Marshall Gold Discovery, estimates that only 10% to 15% of California's gold has been discovered. The park teaches panning, and the classes are increasingly popular.  "We see people virtually every day," he told Fox 40. "It's recreational. People literally like to go down there and pan for gold because it's so exciting. Literally, you do it awhile and you get gold fever. You want to keep doing it. You're hooked."

Treasure Seekers Finding More These Days


"Anytime you can stand next to a river, and you hear the boulders tumbling, you know the gold is moving, too," Jim Eakin, the owner of a local firewood business and an amateur gold hunter, told the Times. Four years ago, he found a gold nugget so big he bought a new Ford F-150 truck with cash, he said.  The Treasure Seekers Club of Placerville, California, meets the third Monday of each month. Each meeting includes a show-and-tell portion where members display their finds.

At the March meeting, members were amazed when someone showed off two pounds of gold nuggets he had found with a metal detector. "There was $50,000 of gold up at that table," Mark Dayton, a club regular, told the Times. "We've had more gold in the last two meetings than I've seen in the last two years."

"Unprecedented" Year Ahead?


Dayton told CBS California, "It's going to get crazy … It's the biggest event of my life. This year's going to be unprecedented."  He predicts the best time to start searching for gold deposits will be June and July when the river levels start to come down.

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Move Earth, Find Gold


California state law doesn't allow miners to use heavy machinery when searching for gold, so prospectors must search with their hands—the same tools the 19th-century gold hunters had. "The more earth you move the more gold you'll probably get," said Marshall Gold Discovery State Park employee James Holman. "If you don't move any earth, you don't get any gold."

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