The Lure of Gold

Winter Mining Season!

By Charles P. Watson

The winter mining season is upon us and Old Man Winter has buried the claims in a thick blanket of snow. Prospectors are pacing back and forth, chompin’ at the bit to get back to mining again. One can’t blame them – the last few years have been tough. They have been plagued by drought, the moratorium on suction dredging, and rising costs of supplies, fuel and food.

The good news is the December storms brought a lot of snow to the mountains, hopefully ending the drought once and for all, plus the moratorium on suction dredging was lifted and miners will be back in the water shortly, and the price of fuel has going down while gold remains above $1,200 per ounce. All that points to a good year for gold mining.

The winter season is time to plan your future prospecting activities. Foremost is preparing your equipment, making repairs or adjustments. Many miners buy new equipment because they found a new spot or pay streak that warrants different or updated equipment.

With the suction dredge moratorium lifted, you may even consider buying a suction dredge and a wet suit. Those that have dredges will need to dust off the equipment, check the motors and replace worn, dried-out parts. There are also new sluice box carpets on the market that you may want to try out.

Head to your nearest miners supply store or pick up an issue of the Mining Journal magazine and review the new equipment, ask questions, and read up on places and gold prospecting tips.

The winter season allows one to assess the previous season’s activity and look at their mining techniques from a new perspective. A good Northern Sierra gold prospector will use the winter season to do research, look at maps and try to plan their next move.

One of the most extreme things prospectors do during the winter is to venture out and observe how the creek, stream or river behaves during a flood stage or during the massive spring runoff. High water moves the most gold around. It scours the channel to bedrock, carves into banks and deposits the heavier material in the slower water stretches, such as the inside bends or behind a large rock. And that, my fellow miner, is where the term “pay streak” earns its name!

Some miners will also look for new spots to mine, either by doing their own research or relying on other people selling a mining claim. With gold prices still high, scams that claim quick fortunes are equally as abundant – so be careful!

There are a few good vendors of quality mining claims. You may want to consult with an experienced gold mining geologist, like myself, for tips, places to go and things to do – or not to do.

Remember, there was a huge, 6-pound gold nugget found in Butte County last year, confirming all the tales that that there is still gold in “them thar hills!” Lots of it, and big nuggets too! Maybe it is time you get some too. So… put down the remote, get in the truck and go to the mountains. The snow will be gone soon enough, and by that time the lure of gold will have you so motivated, nothing could hold you back.

Gold mining is not a new thing. It is something in our blood – something that we feel is right. Today’s miners are smarter than ever before. They have better tools to recover the precious metal and the wisdom to work with Mother Nature. Today’s miners are responsible citizens and reclamation is part of their mining process.

It is a thrill to find your first gold speck, flake or nugget. Once you do, you will be hooked forever. It is fun for the whole family and who knows, maybe, just maybe, if you are a wee bit lucky… you too, will jump for joy, click your heels, and shout “Eureka! I found it!”

Charles P. Watson is the chief geologist at Advanced Geologic Exploration, Inc. located in Chester, California. He is an expert on gold exploration, mining, permitting, and a mining history buff as well. He can be reached at or at

Advanced Geologic locates and sells high quality gold mining claims. They also provide superior mining and geologic consulting, and can assist you with all your mining and permitting needs. The new gold rush is on! Contact them and claim your fortune!