Gold panning spikes in Auburn State Recreation Area rivers

Gold seekers are welcome but need to abide by park rules
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Rivers in the Auburn State Recreation Area have been getting a workout from pans and hands. Supervising Ranger Scott Liske said that he’s witnessed a spike in panning activity on the Middle Fork and North Fork of the American River in the 30,000-acre canyon park near Auburn. It’s a mini-Gold Rush that Liske said could be because of the increased price of gold or the impact of the Discovery Channel TV show “Gold Rush,” formerly known as “Gold Rush Alaska.” “I’ve never seen as many people as I have in the last six months looking for gold,” Liske said. “I haven’t heard of anyone striking it rich or finding a big nugget but it has been a good time to look, with pleasant temperatures and lower-than-normal river levels.” The Auburn State Recreation Area welcomes recreational gold seekers and has established guidelines to prevent stream bank erosion and prevent degradation of the wildland resource. And Liske also cautions that regulations for the Folsom State Recreation Area, which adjoins Auburn State Recreation Area lands south of Auburn, are different. Panners should know where the boundaries are and find out the Folsom State regulations before moving into that area, he said. “For hands and pans, it’s pretty well open year-round in the washed gravel bars,” Liske said. Metal detectors are allowed but their use comes with some restrictions, including a ban on their use in the area west of Highway 49 in El Dorado County. That area of the park is closed to the use of metal detectors. Metal detectors also may not be used in an area with historic or prehistoric resources. If any items with historic or prehistoric pasts are found, they cannot be collected or taken, according to Auburn State Recreation Area rules. Auburn’s gold-seeking supply store – Pioneer Mining Supplies – has noticed the increase in canyon panning interest. The store’s Frank Sullivan said that the local recreation area’s rivers aren’t alone as a mild winter has exposed areas of streambeds not normally available for gold searches. “The Bear River Campground (near Colfax) is extremely busy, too,” Sullivan said. “It’s a lot of rivers – the Yubas, the Feather. All are extremely low so they’re working all of them.” Sullivan said the price of gold and the popularity of TV shows showing people making good money has provided a jump in gold fever and business. “When they wrote that guy a check (on “Gold Rush”) for $70,000, for a week’s work, that really spiked interest,” Sullivan said. Liske said that regulations in Alaska, where filming for the TV show takes place, are far different from those in California because of much tougher environmental regulations designed to prevent erosion. Prospective gold seekers should make themselves aware of local regulations and determine whether the land they’re on is open to public prospecting, he said. Two men – one from Foresthill and the other from Auburn – were charged last month with felony gold dust theft after allegedly using metal detectors on land owned by a mining operation. Copies of rules and regulations for the Auburn State Recreation Area are posted on the park’s website, Liske said. Copies are also available at the recreation area office on Highway 49.