The Riding Tree Press is pleased to announce a great book titled: A Guide to Gold Panning in Utah. It includes Maps, photos, histories and more. Included is every thing you need to know about where to pan for GOLD in Utah.
I have just heard that 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.
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Silver City Adventures©2009
By Alan J. Chenworth
Originally Published in the International California Mining Journal in 2009
Over the years, I have developed a great love for Silver City, Idaho. It is a beautiful town situated in south-west Idaho, west of Mountain Home and only about 20 miles from the Oregon border. Silver City, as a town, is only inhabited during the summer months. There is no power, no paved roads and no access during the winter months—unless you like to snowmobile. The original hotel and bar remain open during the summer months; along with one or two other small stores or gift shops. These businesses, along with the rest of town, remain in a state of arrested decay. The original church is still there, and it is used for community services during the summer months, and the old school house now holds a small museum. No new structures are allowed in town. It is a fantastic place to visit.
The Silver City church is still in use (occasionally).
Silver City got its start in about 1863, when gold was discovered in Jordan Creek. Between 1863 and 1864, about 4 million dollars in gold and silver was taken from the creek. Silver City is so named because of the large amounts of silver found there—between 20 and 100 oz silver for every ounce of gold. Even the placer gold is only about 49% gold! The mines were worked continuously until 1942 when the War Act closed the mines. The copper wires were pulled out and the town was largely forgotten. The first time I visited Silver City was in 2000. I set up a dredge below Ruby City (just N. of Silver City). After several days in the water, I had about ½ ounce of amalgam—and was very excited. It seemed I had paid for my trip. After burning off the mercury, I discovered that I had nearly ½ ounce of silver—yes there was a little gold in there, but not enough to pay for the gas to get there. It seems that there had been a mill there at one time, and they lost a lot of silver and mercury. If I had more than one dwt. of gold, I would be surprised. As a result I did not return there for many years.
By 2005 I had joined with a club that had some claims on Jordan Creek. After hearing many success stories, I decided to give it another try. I purchased an Idaho State dredge permit and waited for Memorial Day (dredging is allowed year round, but there was no access until the snowplow opened the road for Memorial Day weekend). The temperature had been in the low 80’s for several weeks when I loaded up my truck, and things were looking good. A storm had been forecast to hit over the weekend, but I figured with 5 days in Silver City, I should still have 3 or 4 days of good weather. I could not have been more wrong. I got to Silver City late Friday night (OK, it was 2:30am Saturday morning), and the first few snowflakes began to fall as I pulled into the campsite. When I got up Saturday morning, there was 8 inches on the ground and it was falling fast. In all, it snowed for 3 days, then was cold and overcast the fourth. The river came up about a foot, and even if it hadn’t, it was too cold to dredge.
With all the snow, dredging was out of the question, so I prepared to sluice.
When I go dredging, I always bring along a sluice and shovel, just in case something happens—such as when my dredge breaks down (it is about 20 years old), or the weather doesn’t cooperate. In this case, I grabbed my 6” sluice (a Gold Saver Sluice from the Roaring Camp Mining Co.), a five gallon bucket, and my shovel—and headed up the hill. I found a small side stream that showed some color, set up and went to work. In an hour’s time, I had found about a pennyweight of gold. The gold looked good, but I was drenched to the bone and taking a chill. I could see the early signs of hypothermia, so I headed down the hill to my camp. I returned the next day, only to lose my snuffer bottle. After looking for the bottle for several hours, I gave up the search and got the sluice back in the water—with results similar to the previous day. As it was still snowing, I only worked for a few hours. The next day, the snow eased up late in the afternoon, so I drove around to the top of the gulch and hiked down. I found a likely looking spot, set up my sluice, and went to work. In the last two hours before dark, I pulled out about two dwt. Not bad.My fourth day there, I attempted to dredge—and even managed to get a hole to bedrock—but it was just too cold, and I finally gave up. After putting the dredge away (and warming up), I returned to the small side creek and worked by sluice for another hour. I didn’t do as well as the previous days, but did still pull out most of a dwt. The sun finally came out the next day as I was packing up camp and driving home. In all, I pulled out around ¼ oz of gold in about 5 or 6 hours of sluicing—and vowed that I would return the next year when the weather was better. I did return the next year, and the weather was great—unfortunately, I woke up sick as a dog, and did almost nothing until the day that I was supposed to leave. I did watch some friends of mine do quite well in Jordan Creek though. You know what they say, “The third time is the charm.” With memories of the gold haunting me, I headed back to Silver City in 2008 for a four day weekend. I had my dredged packed and was eagerly waiting to see what the river had for me. Just my luck—another storm—it snowed the first day and rained the next two. Again, I grabbed my back-up sluice, and headed up the canyon. By now, I knew a little about the area. In order to see what the canyon really had to offer, I began to carefully sample my way up the creek. It took about an hour before I settled on some shallow bedrock that seemed to pay much better than the rest—the first sample pan had about 50 colors, and the second was just as good. It was here that I set up my sluice. I worked about 6 hours and cleaned out a small pocket with about ½ oz of nice clean gold. Not too bad.The next day I returned and pushed up the creek. The gold had tapered off some from the day before, but by mid-day, I had worked up into another, even better, pocket. Again I pulled out about ½ ounce of gold, including a small nugget and a nice piece of 3-d wire-gold. The wire gold was three strands that were joined at both ends, but bowed out in the middle, similar to the top of a steel baluster. It was beautiful. By the third day, the weather had eased up, and I thought I would try dredging. I set up my dredge in a quiet spot in the river, and went to work. After dredging a hole about four feet deep—without hitting bedrock—I started to wonder what I was doing. I had a spot in the gulch that was paying about ½ oz per day, with easy work—where I could stay warm and dry—and I was dredging in a cold river in the late spring, when the river was too high and the temperature was too cold—and I wasn’t getting anywhere near as much gold as I had been. I figured I must be crazy. As soon as I finished off the first tank of gas, I pulled out of the river, dried off, and headed back up the gulch. I was able to pull another ¼ ounce of gold out of the river that evening. I left Silver City the next morning with about 1 ¼ ounces of placer gold. It was a good trip—and one that paid for itself, even with gasoline at nearly 5$/gallon.
A productive trip!
As I drove home, feeling content with the ounce of gold in my pocket, I reviewed the trip. I decided that I was productive for two simple reasons: First, I sampled (a lot) before working. Remember, sample, sample, sample. If it isn’t paying, don’t waste your time; move on to a better spot. The second reason I was successful was that I had a back-up plan. In my experience dredges break, parts get lost, weather won’t cooperate, even health may prevent me from dredging—Every now and then, I may need to do something different. Always have a back-up. The Silver City area is a fantastic place to visit. It is rich in both history and mining, and it is beautiful. And while it has been a very productive district for almost 150 years—working there does have its challenges, especially with the weather. For me, there is nothing worse than taking a long trip, only to have it fall apart when you can’t dredge. I have found that with a little patience and planning, many bad situations can turn quite rosy.  W.W. Stanley, GOLD IN IDAHO, 1946, Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 53 p., Owyhee County, p. 37-39. Please go to the Prospectors Page (or Prospectors Page 2) to see more articles.