With The Drought Over, "Gold Fever" Grips California

Tyler Durden's picture

The heavy rains that pummeled California this year ended the state’s historic drought in spectacular fashion, saving the state’s farming and tourism industries from an uncertain future. But the return of rainfall has had other less obvious economic ramifications, including, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the revival of an activity that’s been associated with the state for more than 150 years: Prospecting for gold.

Thanks to the rain, the yellow metal is once again being found in the state’s riverbeds for the first time since a judge’s controversial ruling prohibited the use of pumps and other equipment that were once required to extract gold from the state’s rivers.

Russ Tait

And now that word has spread, the possibility of discovering immense riches underfoot is inspiring entrepreneurial Californians of a variety of ages and backgrounds to venture to the state’s rivers and creeks in search of the shiny yellow metal, sometimes equipped with little more than a pan, as they hope to collect gold fragments buried in the muck under the water, according to the LAT.

Many have also taken to prospecting to suppliment their incomes, as wages in the US have stagnated and more than 90 million Americans aren't working.

Russ Tait, an elderly man who spoke with the LAT, insists om venturing down to Eagle Creek in Central California – not far from where the Detwiler fire broke out in Northern Mariposa County.

“Tait has bone cancer, so getting down to the creek isn’t easy. But even if his days are numbered, he isn’t above dreaming. He peers into the murky solution, hoping to glimpse something shiny.

 

“I guess you call it gold fever,” he says. “You get out there, and there’s times where you get tired and you don’t want to quit.”

Even in the middle of the drought, Tait, a longtime prospector, and several friends would venture down to the river looking for gold, only to return empty handed. The reason? Back in 2009, a state judge temporarily blocked prospectors from using motorized equipment near the state’s rivers after environmental groups complained that they could damage fish habitats. The ruling was meant to be temporary pending a study, but to this day, no final ruling has been made.

"The equipment was once necessary to separate gold from the slowing rivers. But now with water gushing forth from the state’s mountains, the motorized equipment isn’t needed.  

Now prospectors hunt for “irregularities” in rivers that could create “a backward eddy” that would allow the gold to drop to the water’s floor.

 

Excessive ria severe flooding, and very nearly the failure of the Oroville dam in Northern California, has changed that.

 

Geological gumshoes, they search for ancient rivers, for rounded boulders tumbled together, for orange soil tainted by rusted iron and veins of quartz hiding gold.

 

They read streambeds, imagining how the current flowed during floods, hunting for any irregularity — a riffle, a ledge, a waterfall — that could create a backward eddy for the gold to escape the water’s momentum and drop to the floor."

One prospector named Robert Guardiola helped organize an outing of nearly 40 miners to the Golden state's “Mother Lode." Guardiola and company are wearing waders and knee pads and equipped with pans and cradles.

“Late afternoon, after nearly an hour in the water, Guardiola totes two five-gallon buckets up from the creek. One contains trash collected from the shallows: a spark plug, a shotgun shell, a square-headed nail, a spatula and part of a car door.

 

The other contains his concentrates, less than a cup of dark sand sloshing about in water.

 

Panning it, he separates the lighter material from the heavier to reveal a few gold specks, each no bigger than a fat flea.”

As the LAT explains, the “Mother Lode,” which runs along the Sierra Nevada mountain range, was the epicenter of the 1848 gold rush, which saw $2 billion in gold extracted from the area in less than five years. For Guardiola, prospecting has become a second career of sorts.

“Guardiola, 52, purchased the right to mine these 20 acres in 2001. When he first walked out on this property, he knew he could be happy here. Ten deer, two bucks and fawns browsed beneath the oaks. A stream — Grizzly Creek — cut through the property, which already had two mines on it, always a good sign.

 

Seven years later, after losing his equipment rental store in Modesto to a broken plumbing pipe and a slow insurance claim, he began to work the claim more seriously.

 

Prepped for the cold — insulated waders, booties, wool socks and sneakers — Guardiola wades into a pool of 55-degree water as deep as his thighs.

 

“We’ll see if Mother Nature was kind and restocked my bank,” he says.

According to the LAT, the stream was dry during the worst days of the drought. Last year it became a trickle. Then this year, the winter brought a torrent of water as well as two feet of new rock and gravel deposits known in the profession as “overburden.”

For the amateur prospectors, the hobby has brought with it a kind of hope.

“As long as I’m not sure what’s in the bucket,” says Tom Mutschelknaus to the LAT, “there’s hope.”

Mutschelknaus prospects near the South Fork of Stanislaus River, a few miles from where one lucky miner pulled nearly 800 ounces out of the ground. Many prospectors have been following gold’s climb this year, excited that an amount that would almost fill a lipstick case is worth more than $1,200.

While the LAT doesn’t touch on the parallels between the gold miners and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, often referred to as “digital gold,” Shannon Poe, 55, described prospecting in similar terms to the techno-libertarians who represent bitcoin’s most hardcore users.

“In his company, gold mining seems less a get-rich-quick scheme than a libertarian impulse, an exercise in independence and self-determination as much a part of the American heritage as the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

 

Ask him what his political party is, and he’ll say he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

 

“We are more constitutionalists than anything else,” he says.

With this framing in mind, the rush of amateur prospectors is hardly surprising. Since bitcoin first entered the public consciousness in 2013 thanks to stories of hobbyists becoming newly minted millionaires overnight, Americans everywhere are looking for the next easy score. In that respect, similar impulses appear to be behind both trends. But at least with prospecting, the only thing hobbyists are risking is their time.

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homiegot's picture

Finally, a sane gold article.

Looney's picture

 

Those guys in the pictures look more like BitCoin miners.  ;-)

Looney

D Nyle's picture

Its California, They mean Golddiggers (Women, Free Shit Army, Basement dwellers, etc...)

BaBaBouy's picture

The HFT Hedge Bots are trying to figure Out how to muscle in on the Action...

Déjà view's picture

Rip Van Winkle Caper...(GOLD)
Twilight Zone

"Poor Old Fellar" (WATER)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hW2XtG7hxF0

Juggernaut x2's picture

Russ Tait is what I imagine most ZH goldbugs look like

Dsyno's picture

"they're excited that an amount that would almost fill a lipstick case is worth more than $1,200."

Based on that quote, it appears the manly California prospectors of yore, have now been replaced by tranny prospectors.

dasein211's picture

If you're in Cali and your heading out to prospect don't end up one of the Missing 411 cases. Or the smiley face killer or the Manchester pusher. Not sure what the fuck is taking people but something surely is. Always bring a gun and a satellite beacon. Especially if your going to Yosemite.

Michael Musashi's picture

The Fart Smeller and the Twinkie Tickler, too. California is a scary place.

dasein211's picture

Yeah but my gut tells me that dying by whatever is taking people is worse than being burned alive or having your skin peeled off. Freaks me out.

rbianco3's picture

I bought a gold claim and someone at work warned me about the same thing. I do it to get away from this damn computer which brings nothing but anguish- now I'm enjoying nature and learning to live "off the grid"

I guess people being plucked from National Parks is reaching epidemic crisis. I don't bring GPS or satellite beacon, my only goal is to fill them with as many leaks as possible before going out - for my fellow citizens.

Ms No's picture

Paulides movie "mising 411 the movie" is out of vimeo now, but hard to find on there for some damn reason.  I imagine eventually it will be free.  Those things are more prevalent in AZ and Ca than just about anywhere else, in my opinion anyway.  ND has it too but it doesn't seem to do anything there.

If your out and the environment suddenly goes silent, almost as if time stops, put your back up against a tree, get your gun out and it will go away eventually.  Whatever is going on it's been around our whole lives but just now it's getting publicized. People really shouldn't go out by themselves and kids should literally never be left out of sight for one second.  I personally wouldn't even go into Yosemite but there are numerous areas that are just as bad in AZ, just less people, which makes it even creepier. There is a big spot with this problem in the four corners.  When Bigelow aerospace bought the ranch they had a scientific team including military and a second scientific team to review their evidence, and then kept most of it for themeselves.  George Knapp wrote a book about all of it.  This Colonal gave some interesting info in this interview though:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYMj1LHtOmw

 

 

vincent's picture

Missing 411 the movie....

Putlocker

creeko's picture

great stuff... thought you'd be interested in this lecture Paulides gave...

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_KWeUkPzIQ

Ms No's picture

I read all of those books and I have never before heard him say in any interview or book that it was bigfoot.  If he ever did come to that conclusion I would have to hugely disagree.  But I would guess that he knows that by now.

silverer's picture

Stay in the towns, climb the poles, and poke holes in the wires looking for those zeroes and ones.

Agstacker's picture

Seems like they are going to an awful amount of trouble for an old barbarous relic...

29.5 hours's picture

The only successful prospectors for gold that I know of all do their panning in Washington, D.C.

"But at least with prospecting, the only thing hobbyists are risking is their time."

Notice the typo in the word "lobbyists"?

 

 

El Vaquero's picture

LOL, there is something to that.  If it were days gone by and the country weren't already developed, the people who really wanted to make money would move out to CA to sell food and equipment.  

divingengineer's picture

Yes, it sends sediment down the river.

About six feet down the river until it settles again.

Farmerz's picture

Correction, it was Schwarzenegger that signed SB670 into law banning dredging. Feinstein got Obama to designate 1.8 mil acres off limits to pretty much everything, which includes mining.

http://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-monuments-20160212-story.html

ihatediscus's picture

LOL LOL LOL......long ago all the country tilted toward the left of the nation and everything that was a little bit screwy and fucked up was naturally drawn by the slant

hence California (currently known as Mexifornia) was born ........Californians .......you just can't fix 'em so you gotta laugh at 'em

let me know when the next big gold strike comes in.......i'll pack up my wagon and go sell them a bunch of shit they don't need .......they like that

Good  lord ....what a bunch of dumbfucks..........."Da real golds in califonia's  is down at da wefar offices ....any nigga be knowins dat"

Bill of Rights's picture

Fact.... thanks for the chuckle.

Bubba Rum Das's picture

Gold fever? Gold Fever???
I'll tell you right now, Russ Tait is odviouslly High as Fuck off his bone cancer meds in that there pic...

Tell you the truth, if I had bone cancer, I would be too...!

Dickweed Wang's picture

The Black Hills area in South Dakota probably has more creeks, streams and rivers with obtainable gold than central California but its location and government interference makes it much harder for the individual to prospect for it there. The same thing applies to the Grand Canyon area.  Probably the main reason prospecting in California is even allowed at all is simply due to the huge number of people in such close proximity to where the gold is - .gov simply doesn't have the resources to keep the people out of those areas.

dot.dot's picture

That dude is 52???!!!!

cheech_wizard's picture

Reading comprehension... the person in the 2nd picture is 52.

The old "dude" Russ Tait in the first picture is 72. (You could have found that out here - https://www.pressreader.com/usa/los-angeles-times/20170730/281479276490624)

Standard Disclaimer: My web skillz are epic.

 

shovelhead's picture

Either that, or your reading comprehension skills are beyond 2nd grade level.

divingengineer's picture

It's time to switch to decaf.

chosen's picture

He done some fancy livin.

DosZap's picture

Bone cancer WILL do a number on even the middle aged.Three worst and hardest types to cure,bone,brain,and blood.

Ignorance is bliss's picture

I read an Alta report from  clif High  several months ago predicting a gold rush. Could be the begining of something bigger.

I Write Code's picture

It will be 100,000 years before natural processes replace all the gold dust and nuggets that the 49'rs took out of California.  Anything anyone finds on the surface now is going to be small, small, small.

the artist's picture

I know a dude that looks like him. He wanders the washes near Coulterville with a metal detector. He has found a $40k and a $65k nugget among other smaller ones. And that is in 1995 dollars. 

Anteater's picture

Roe on Kelp diving is the real gold. I got roped into helping

a guy hydrualically mine his stream bed, after roe season 

was over. It was still April in Alaska, so the water was just

bone-piercing cold, and when I'd surface off his paint-spray

air compressor to warm up, he'd have some line about, well

nothing yet, keep trying! At the end of the day, we'd clean

the riffle box and pan out the flakes, maybe $200 each back

then. So I'm in the bar down the road that night, and a guy

listening to me laughs, "You realize while you're down there

freezing your ass, he's high-grading all the nuggets off the

riffle box!" I did not know that, so I never got rich. RICH!!!!!!

Herdee's picture

Dredging destros fish habitat. Many people use mining techniques that are harmful to the environment, especially those who still use mercury.

torabora's picture

That's just not true, the dreging done with a shovel doesn't affect fish in the least. What affects fish are the dams that blocked all but ONE of California's rivers and killed billions of fish....and the soon to be built tunnels to divert water to illegals in LA that will kill many more fish. 

 

Democrat's killed the fish, not the miners.

Gov. Gropenfuhrer signing the dreging ban was just further evidence of more useless Democrat collusion by RINO's.

Farmerz's picture

I've used small dredges, 3-4 inches. A lot of fun! and don't make much of a mess.

luckylogger's picture

You obviously believe the environmentalist BS.

Dredging is done on such a small scale that it does nothing to the streams.

Pretty much every dredge I have worked around have had the holes filled back in within a week and you cannot even tell anybody was there.

 

rbianco3's picture

I agree with the Mercury part.

Dredges hurt nothing if done responsibly. And why does the government happen to own all gold bearing land, protected by their BLM (Bureau Land Management & Black Lives Matter)

RealityJunkie's picture

True. Especially when you consider that the fish like to spawn & lay their eggs in the low-current pools behind rocks & the eddies -- the same places where the gold accumulates.

any_mouse's picture

Avoid spawning season.

It's an annual event and doesn't last long.

The fish don't care if the bed has been rearranged since last year.

Haitian Snackout's picture

Fish can't lay eggs in the hardpack. They need the gravel bars that dredging creates. And no dredger would work an existing gravel bar because they know it is already worked out.