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Wet Winter Paves The Way For A Modern California Gold Rush

California's weather changes had brought back the reminiscences of the California Gold Rush that happened in the 1800s.
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An uncover of gold repeats itself a significant amount rainfall had hit the Golden State hard. Gold was by two California residents where the region still has gold present.

The California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s transformed the United States population as gold seekers ventured out to the West Coast in search of the precious metal in the Golden State’s rivers and creeks. Nearly two centuries later, torrential rainfall in California this past winter has helped jumpstart a new gold rush of sorts, with a so-called “flood gold” grabbing the attention of treasure hunters.

Gold is heavy, so it takes a lot of water power to wash it downstream. A series of atmospheric rivers over the winter months led to historic rainfall in California, including the northern part of the state, where a surplus of gold has been uncovered after the flooding.

“When you have a huge rain event, big rains come, and they wash all the sides of the river into the river basin again, and bring gold with it as it happens,” Barron Brandon, a geologist and manager of Cosumnes River Ranch in Plymouth, California, told AFP News.

About 25 miles northeast of Cosumnes River Ranch lies Placerville, California, where gold seeker Albert Fausel has already found gold nuggets the old-fashioned way: placing a pan in the river and shaking off any mud and sand until only gold remains.

Placerville is east of the California state capitol of Sacramento near the Marshall Gold Discovery Historic Park.

Gold seeker Albert Fausel displays gold he uncovered after a day of collection in Placerville, California. COURTESY/ACCUWEATHER

“The water has definitely helped move some new material,” Fausel said. “This spot might not have had anything (before the rain) … and now it’s actually gotten replenished, so there’s a lot of good little flood gold in this area right here.”

Placerville has a rich history of gold, as it was the site of a prominent mining camp during the Gold Rush of 1849. During the 19th-century rush, the city was named after “placer gold,” gold nuggets that were swept up and deposited into rivers. The city was given gold-related nicknames such as Old Dry Diggings and Hangtown, and Placerville remains a hotbed for modern gold seekers with the existence of the Gold Bug Mine.

“When any of the water moves, the gold moves, and is deposited,” said Pat Layne, a guide at the Gold Bug Park and Mine. “Back in the 1800s, all of that gold had been deposited [from] flood after flood over millions of years, so there’s a huge amount of gold in all of these creeks.”

Barron Brandon, a geologist and manager of Cosumnes River Ranch, is hard at work scouring for gold in Placerville, California. AFP/ACCUWEATHER

Compared to 29.14 inches of rainfall through the end of the 2021-22 seasonal rain year, Placerville has been deluged with 47.37 inches of rain through May 14, due in part to a one-month total of 18.18 inches in December. From December 2021 through March 2022, the city had 35 rainy days. That number almost doubled from December 2022 through March of this year, with 66 days of measurable rainfall.

Thanks to the downpours, Layne, who has worked in gold mining for decades, is excited about the newfound interest in gold-seeking. Layne is able to share his knowledge of Placerville’s history when children visit the Gold Bug during school trips.

“What we try and get across to them is the true history, not the Hollywood version of the Gold Rush,” Layne told AFP News.

The initial discovery of gold was made at Sutter’s Mill in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in January 1848, paving the way for the largest migration in United States history. Hundreds of thousands of gold seekers quickly fled to California in the following decade, starting with those who could reach the California coastline by ship, followed by East Coast travelers after President James K. Polk announced the abundance of gold during a State of the Union address.

By the following year, California’s population grew significantly, leading to fierce individual competition for gold. Many travelers died from disease or accidents, while much of California’s Native American population was massacred or used as forced labor during the Gold Rush era.

Produced in association with AccuWeather

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