Record Rain & Snow Brings a New Gold Rush to the West in 2023

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Written By Monica

Attention gold prospectors!

Get ready for the 2023 gold prospecting season because it is going to be one of the best in decades.

Massive flooding across western mining states, including California and Arizona, has eroded thousands of miles of rivers and creeks.

Once the water subsides and mining begins, the gold will likely be more abundant than usual. A hotspot could be waiting for you this year…

“The only people who like big floods are gold miners.”

— Terry Prebalick, long time gold prospector

Flooding is Great for Gold Prospecting

While flooding can be a devastating force of nature, it also has the potential to expose gold deposits that were previously hidden underground or in hard-to-reach locations by eroding the river banks and channels.

The force of the water can carve away at the earth, washing away dirt and debris and leaving behind gold deposits. When this happens, gold is often concentrated in areas called “paystreaks,” which are essentially pockets of gold that have been washed together by the current.

The more flooding, the more turbulent the water becomes and the more erosion it causes. This presents a unique opportunity for prospectors, as the gold that was previously stuck in hard-to-reach places is now being carried downstream by the water, creating new placer and bench deposits. 

The greater the flooding, the higher the bench deposits can be found on the riverbanks once the water returns to its normal level. This will also cause the deposits found below on flatter ground to be more spread out.

We have a great guide to help you learn how to read a river or creek to find gold like a pro to help get you started.

Additionally, flooding can also move gold deposits to new locations. As the water rushes through riverbeds and creeks, it can pick up sand and gravels, along with gold, and carry it downstream. This can create new opportunities for prospectors who are willing to venture beyond their usual search areas.

Wild Weather in the West Equals More Gold in the Pan

major flooding in gold rich areas

The recent floods in California, Nevada, and Arizona due to the “Pineapple Express”, or atmospheric river, is causing historic high levels of rain to flood the rivers, creeks and lakes well beyond levels that have been seen in decades.

The storms have created high water levels that are almost twice what is normal. This has been happening all winter, and the major lakes and impoundments that are holding back water have had to release a large amount of water. Rivers are overflowing their banks with new record highs causing gold to be in places it wasn’t before.

Additionally, the massive snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains means that the mining season will be longer than normal, giving prospectors an extended window of opportunity to search for gold.

The historic flooding coupled with the record snowpack in the SIerra Nevada’s means that rivers and creeks that were normally dry by May will still have flowing water well into July as the snowpack melts. This will allow gold prospectors to use their sluice boxes for most, if not all, of the season. And every prospector knows that means a lot more gold than using only your trusty gold pan.

If you’re not sure where to go to take advantage of this modern day gold rush, we got you covered.

We’ve already seen first hand the opportunity major weather systems present with the record-breaking storm in Nome, Alaska last September. The storm surge was over 9 feet as it hit the sandy beaches and the streets of Nome. This led to massive erosion of the beach which revealed amounts of gold that hadn’t been seen in decades. The water had barely receded before miners were out on the beach with highbankers and pans finding large amounts of gold.

While flooding can be unpredictable and dangerous, it also has the potential to lead to exciting gold discoveries if you know where to look.

Experts say there’s a New Gold Rush in 2023

“We are just starting the 2023 California Gold Rush, it’s going to be great!”

— Kevin Bell, On the Gold Podcast, February 5th, 2023

One of the foremost experts on recreational gold prospecting is Kevin Hoagland, the Executive Director of Development for the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA).

According to Hoagland, the combination of increased flooding and a longer mining season means that there could be a new gold rush on the horizon. Flooding can change the shape and structure of waterways, creating new channels, eroding existing ones, and exposing new areas of bedrock or other geological features that may contain gold deposits.

Gold Mining Podcast on the gold with Kevin Hoagland and Kevin Bell

“Amazing floods, amazing snow, long season, visual prospecting, make sure you have the right tools, even if it’s a screwdriver and a turkey baster, I don’t care. But most important, get out and prospect because if you’re not prospecting, you’re not making gold.

— Kevin Hoagland, On the Gold Podcast

Hoagland also recommends that if you’re planning to come out to the flood areas in California or along the west coast, contact your GPAA State Director, as they can help you find safe and productive spots to work if you’re a member.

Kevin Bell, another long time prospector and Hoagland have a great podcast, On the Gold, and in a recent episode talked about how 2023 is going to be a new Modern Gold Rush, take a listen below.

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How You Can Get On the Gold After a Flood

Gold prospecting after flooding can be a different experience than during normal conditions. With water levels higher than usual, gold deposits can be moved around and new pay streaks can be created. We’ve collect a few suggestions and tips from Kevin Hoagland and other prospecting experts to help you get on the gold in this new Gold Rush in 2023.

Vo-Gus Prospecting in Australia

“Gold is heavy and lazy, the moment the big rocks start dropping out, the gold does too.”

— Chris Bogusis, Vo-Gus Prospecting

Chris Bogusis from Vo-Gus Prospecting has a great video about what to look for after major flooding to help find where the gold moved to.

Look for High Water Marks: During floods, water levels can rise to unprecedented heights. As the water recedes, it will leave behind visible marks on trees, rocks, and other natural features that indicate the highest point the water reached. These marks can help you identify areas that were previously underwater and therefore may contain gold deposits that have been moved.

Follow the Paystreaks: Paystreaks are deposits of gold that have accumulated over time in a particular area. During flooding, these paystreaks can shift and move to new locations. Look for areas where the paystreaks may have been deposited as the water recedes.

Target High Ground: As the water recedes, it will leave behind layers of sediment in different areas. Pay attention to areas of higher elevation where the water may have deposited larger and heavier sediment, including gold.

Follow the water flow: Water naturally moves gold deposits downstream, so pay attention to the direction of the water flow during flooding. Look for areas where the water flow changes direction or slows down, as this is where gold deposits are likely to accumulate.

Also, look for areas where the water has crashed into exposed bedrock, pushing gold into the crevices higher than normal. Another thing to watch out for is where there were trees or large boulders that were underwater or obstructing flood water, causing eddings and the water to flow differently, those are great gold trapping areas. Flattened grass can also be a great indicator as to how and where the water flowed. 

Use a gold pan: During flooding, gold can be found in higher locations than normal. To find these deposits, use a gold pan to sample the sediment from different elevations. This will help you identify where the gold is located in the water column.

Look for changes in color: Gold has a distinct yellow color, but during flooding, it can be mixed in with other sediments. Look for changes in color in the sediment, such as black sands or red clay, which can indicate the presence of gold.

Use a metal detector: Metal detectors can be useful for locating larger gold deposits that may have been moved during flooding. Use the detector to search for gold nuggets or larger pieces of gold in areas where the water has receded.

These floods are not just affecting the rivers and waterways directly on the west coast but most of the water ways connected to them. Check out our guide to find a spot close to you to take advantage of these ideal gold prospecting conditions.

Experts say the 2023 gold rush season is going to be one of the best in decades due to massive flooding that has broken loose a lot of gold and eroded a lot of areas along rivers, creeks and streams that haven’t seen this type of water flow in decades.

Once the water subsides, the gold will be abundant, and gold prospectors can take advantage of the incredible opportunities that these floods have created. So get your equipment ready and start prospecting!

Listen to Kevin Hoaglands, On the Gold Podcast below.

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