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Floods Might Have Unlocked a Lot of California Gold

Don’t quit your day job just yet, though.

A gold pan.
A gold pan. Nate Cull/CC BY 2.0

In central California, 168 years after the state’s mid-19th century gold rush, people are still prospecting for gold.

And while many of the oldest techniques—hydraulic mining, in which high-pressure water blasts away at earth to expose gold, or dredge mining, in which large machines tried to extract gold from river dredge—are illegal now, that hasn’t stopped a host of prospectors from trying anyway.

Now, though, these modern-day 49ers might be getting some new company, or at least fresh hope for riches, this time from an ancient source: the region’s recent, widespread floods, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record.

With flooding comes mass movements of earth, and, gold prospectors say, the potential for new exposures of previously hidden gold. 

All of which has caused a bit of stir at Adventures in Prospecting, a gold-mining shop in Oroville, California, where owner Joey Wilson told the Enterprise-Record that, “There’s always been gold in the Feather River”—the difference being that, this summer, it might just be a little easier to access.

So should you pack up your family and move to California? As the Enterprise-Record advises: No. But if you’re in town maybe buy a gold pan and try your luck. As one prospector told the paper: “The odds are greater than winning the lottery.”