Up and Coming Events
To Be Announced . . . .
Thanks to everyone who has supported the release of my new book, A Guide to GOLD PANNING in Utah, Second Edition–the response and feedback has been great.
The Public Panning Area in on Crescent Creek has been closed. Apparently, the previous owners sold the claims and the new owners have closed the area to the public. This is unfortunate as it has been a great area to visit, but the new owner may do as he pleases with his claims. Please stay off the area that has traditionally been a public area. Please respect private claims.
I am currently planning a trip to an old Roman gold mine in Spain (in its day, the biggest open pit mine in the world). Hopefully I will get some great video there, as well as a chance to pan some gold from the region.
Claims for Sale
We have just updated the page with 3 new claims. Check it out Here:
Or list your claim with us, just send us a write up and desired photos, as well as a signed statement saying that you own the claim and it is as listed.
A second new page, Related Stories/Links (Click HERE) has been added. This page is composed of interesting or important stories currently on the web. It is updated often, check it out.
The Prospectors Page . . .
Articles on Prospecting, Mining, Rock Hounding and more.
We will pay $75 for true, unpublished articles and stories relating to Mining or Prospecting (or related ventures). The stories may be serious or humorous. Photos related to the story are encouraged.
I have finally finished my video about my gold panning trip to Portugal. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but it was a lot of fun.
Utah Prospector and Rocky Mountain Ryan just made a trip to my Rocky Bar claims (that are for sale). You can watch their video HERE:
A Day on Douglas Creek
© August 2013 by Alan Chenworth
(Also printed in the Gold Prospector Magazine, May 2014)
I have wanted to try panning on Douglas Creek, Wyoming, for close to 10 years, but as I live about 8 hours away in Utah, I hadn’t had the chance. This summer, I decided it was finally time to head to south eastern Wyoming, and set about making plans–with the blessing of my wife and kids, who thought it sounded like fun. One of the first things I did as I set my plans for the area was to consult with the GPAA claims guide to see if there were any claims in the area, and as luck would have it, there I found that the GPAA had three claims located in the Medicine Bow mountains–two on Douglas Creek (the Big Nose Kate and Yela Fever claims), and one about a half mile away on Lost Creek (the Crazy 8 claims). Lost creek has its confluence with Douglas Creek just below the GPAA claims. A quick search on the internet gave me more information on the area.
According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey, gold was first discovered on Douglas Creek by Iram Moore in 1868. Gold was later found on most of the tributaries from Lake Creek to Rob Roy Reservoir. There was heavy placer mining through the 1870’s, and the placers were re-worked in the 1930’s and 40’s. With the high price of gold since about 2006, there has been another resurgence of mining in Douglas Creek. The total historical gold production from the area creeks is estimated to be more than 4,000 ounces.
The gold found in the creek is of a high carat, reportedly between 0.890 and 0.960 fine (22-23 carat); and the largest nugget that has been found in the district was reportedly 3.4 ounces. It is also interesting to note that platinum and palladium have been found in small amounts in Douglas and surrounding creeks. Back in the 1970s, there were also several diamonds found in the Medicine Bow mountains, and there is still sporadic exploration by mining companies looking for kimberlites (rocks that host diamonds) in the region.
We also found that the old mining town of Encampment Wyoming, located about 20 miles to the west of the Medicine Bow mountains, was having its Grand Encampment Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Festival in mid-July, and set plans for that weekend, with the hopes of camping on the Douglas Creek claims, and driving into town (Encampment) at night and catch a show at the Grand Encampment festival.
We arrived in Encampment on Friday morning, and found it to be a very small (but charming) town. It has a population of about 450 people, and offers few services (though it did have a gas station, cafe and convenience store). It also has a nice museum reflecting the history of the copper mines in the area. As part of the museum, they have reconstructed a small town from old cabins and buildings that they have transplanted from the areas numerous old mining camps.
The Grand Encampment Museum was our first stop, where I inquired about directions to Douglas Creek. The Claims Guide had good directions from Laramie, but Laramie was east of the Medicine Bow Mountains, and we were coming from the west (and it was a long way around). Encampment was the closest town and is located in the valley just to the west–and it appeared to be right on the way to the claims. I knew I was in trouble when no one knew anything about where Douglas Creek was located–in fact, the first three people that I spoke with had never heard of it. With the help of the GPAA book and some maps, we soon had the creek pinpointed. As it turns out, the North Platte river sat between the us and the claims, and there was no bridge or access from Encampment. Though the claims are only 20 miles to the east, we either had to go north and east to Laramie or south and east into Colorado to get to the claims from Encampment. From where we were, it was closer to head south into Colorado, and then back up Highway 230 to Fox Park Road, which would then take us down to Douglass Creek (Fox Park Road is mentioned in the directions given in the Claims Guide). One of the locals drew us a map of the route we would need.
By the time we figured out how to get to the claims, it was 11:00 am, so we decided to stick around Encampment and tour the museum, which we did for the next several hours, then went and saw some of the shows at the Encampment Cowboy Poetry Festival. We also set up camp, with the plans of heading to Douglas Creek early the following morning. It was an easy and beautiful drive, but it took us about 70 miles of driving to get to the claims that were only 20 miles away.
All things told, the directions in the Claims Guide were good and the claims were relatively easy to find. Route 543 is a good dirt road (car-passable) that follows the creek through the claim and on up the canyon. The Douglas Creek claims (Big Nose Kate and Yela Fever) cover nearly a mile of creek bottom that ranges from swamp land at the lower boundary to shallow bedrock with faster moving water at the north. The creek averages about 20-30 feet wide, and is about 12 inches deep on average (during mid-summer). The hills surrounding the creek are green and covered in heavy forest–there is plenty of shade.
These claims are very popular with GPAA members in Wyoming, as well as surrounding states. The claims were quite crowded, and more than half the people that I spoke with were from Colorado. Wanting to protect the claim, members were quick to let me know of the local regulations governing the claims by the GPAA and Forest Service. As the claims guide mentions, the claim does not open to mining until July 1st, due to releases from an upstream dam that help protect the fish habitat. Apparently, you can use a high-banker within 100 ft of the river as long as you have a pond to catch the tailings in and let the mud settle out. They also don’t want you bringing material from the benches above the river down into the stream. Dredging is also allowed in the creek as long as you have a permit from the Wyoming State Department of Water Resources (and its free).
As I walked down the creek, I noticed that most of the people there were dredging (all but 1, in fact). As I spoke with the dredgers, I was told that 10-15 years ago, the claim was little worked and that panning for gold on some of the sand bars could yields as much as 20-30 flakes per pan; however, with the increase in the price of gold, the area had received a lot more interest. In the past 10 years, the claim has apparently been worked hard and you don’t find much gold in the top layers anymore. I was told that there is still good gold here, but that sluices aren’t very productive and that you need a dredge to get down to the richer materials. Pickers and small nuggets are not uncommon if you can get to bedrock, and miners can still turn a profit on a days’ work if they run a dredge. Unfortunately, this was planned as an exploration trip, so I did not bring my dredge. Instead, I brought a small, highly portable sluice that I like to use for testing.
I picked a spot on the inside bend of the river to set up my sluice. Test pans on the surface didn’t show any gold, but I wanted to see what there was deeper down. It was slow going as I shoveled the gravel in to the sluice. Because this is a large, fairly slow creek with a gently gradient, I could not get enough water flow through the sluice to push the pebbles through, so I had to help them along by hand every so often. The flow was sufficient, however, to wash the sand and gravel through–so sluicing was still more productive than panning the material by hand.
Another problem that I encountered was the rocks–Douglas creek is full of cobbles and boulders, making digging difficult. The cobbles, ranging in size from 4 to about 10 inches, are difficult to shovel–and I spent a lot of time pulling them out by hand. By the time I had dug down about a foot and a half, I came to the top of a boulder that I could not get past. I continued to dig to the side, following it down about another foot, but could not get it out or dig below it. After digging down about two and a half feet, I could not effectively get the rocky material out of the water-filled hole and into the sluice. I had to end the hole.
While digging the hole for the sluice, I continued my sample pans. I found that by about 1 foot of depth, I was getting a small flake or piece of flour gold in almost every pan; and by two feet, I was getting 1-2 pieces per pan. The gold was definitely getting better as I went down. From what I could see from old dredge holes, the bedrock was under anywhere from 3-6 feet of overburden (at least on the north half of the claim), and I would love to go back with a dredge to see what is on the bottom. When I cleaned up the concentrates in the sluice, I found 40 or 50 pieces of gold ranging from small flakes to flour gold mixed into the brown and black sand that makes up the heavy materials of the creek. Unfortunate, I did not find any platinum, palladium or diamonds in my clean up.
After testing Douglass Creek, I also headed downstream to try Lost Creek on the Crazy 8 claims. These claims are also swampy on the bottom end, just above the confluence with Douglass Creek, but have very shallow bedrock in a rocky stretch where the canyon narrows near the top of the claims. I chose a rocky stretch next to the road to sample, and it appear that this section of creek had been little worked. The banks were somewhat overgrown with willow and wild rose, and the stream was very rocky. I set up my sluice and started digging between several large boulders. There was not much sand and gravel in the creek bottom, but there as some behind boulders and filling low places in the bedrock. Much of the sediment in the creek is larger than 3 inches. The stream sediments were also cemented together, making digging difficult. When I cleaned up the sluice I found only two flakes of gold (and one of those pieces was flour gold), and a couple of nice garnets. In fact, the concentrates were full of very small, dark garnets, but one of the garnets that I found was larger than the rest–possibly large enough to cut–and was a clear deep red.
The Medicine Bow mountains are beautiful, and are a fun place to visit. The water in the creek tends to be low and slow by midsummer. It is pleasantly cool, and ideal for kids to swim and play in on a family outing. The directions to Douglas Creek, (and the GPAA claims in the area) are good, and will take you directly to the claims with little or no problems. Just remember, the directions are from Laramie because there are no access roads from the west side of the range. Of the two claim groups, I found the gold to be much better on Douglas Creek, and when I come back, I will bring a dredge as it is the most likely way to get down to the gold bearing material.
I got to spend a day panning for gold on the Yuba River, just outside of Nevada City, California. This was in the Yuba River State Recreation area. Check out the video HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Nlk7fyQTLE
I got a new dry washer this summer . . . A Gold Buddy Maverick their mid-size unit. My test run was on a high-bar in Rocky Bar, Idaho. You can see the video of it HERE: https://youtu.be/2W9C5jBng3g
Sluicing Small Creeks
I spent July 4th in Silver City Idaho, where I sluiced on the very small creek in Silver Cord Gulch. The video is on YouTube, but can also bee seen here.