PLACER COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — After a soaking rain, the Mineral Bar campground is a treasure brimming with natural beauty on the North Fork American River, and the treasures are more than just visual.
“You always hope you find a nugget,” said prospector Ron Nelson.
FOX40 ran into Nelson, a prospector by hobby, on the riverbank. He agrees with what local mining shops are saying. Recent heavy rain has hobbyists excited about their prospects.
Hard rain loosens pieces of gold from the riverbanks and canyon walls, sending them downriver. The process essentially restocks popular prospecting spots with gold.
“It will fall into these holes if the river was up this high,” Nelson explained.
Nelson pointed to three natural pockets in the bedrock where gold can become trapped when swollen river water rushes over them. And he was a good sport, giving FOX40’s Dennis Shanahan a lesson in prospecting.
Like fishing, panning requires patience.
“And what I do is take the pan and turn it this way, like this, and it shakes it down,” Nelson said. “Just kind of pull the pan back from the water and then shake it back down. Anything that floats out of your pan is not gold.”
Panning must be done by hand as the Auburn Recreation Area, where Mineral Bar is located, does not allow machine mining.
Ron has made some money panning for gold.
“You could come up here and go camping for three weeks and pay for your food,” Nelson said.
“There’s a little tiny flake right there,” Nelson said, pointing to the pan. “That’s gold right there.”
It was just a tiny fleck of gold dust, but like a small payout on a casino slot machine, it makes a brand-new prospector want to go back.
“There’s gold in these hills,” Nelson said.
A local mining supply store is a good place to start for advice on where to go to pan for gold. The owner of Adventures in Prospecting told FOX40 he captured some good gold flakes panning on Butte Creek after last week’s storm. He also gives panning lessons inside his store in Oroville.
A gram of gold is worth about $60 right now.