Friday, June 18, 2021

The Flowers Explore - Gold Mining in Colorado

It's a big world out there and we're on a mission to explore it. One of the things I've talked about doing for years now (ever since Discovery Channel started showing those gold shows) has been doing some gold mining. Well we're in Colorado and Colorado is a gold mining state! 

Known as the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, the 59ers as they were known, came about 10 years after the California 49ers gold rush. People had suspected there was gold in Colorado for a while, but no one could find a substantial deposit. On his way to California, Lewis Ralston stuck his pan in the Clear Creek River and found 1/4 of an ounce of gold ($475 today) in just one pan! From there the cry for going to Colorado was "Pikes Peak or Bust"!

That's where we're at today. Clear Creek. We're going to try our luck and see if we can find our fortune too! And it's not just us! My brother Jon and his whole family are joining us on this adventure!

Before we go gold mining though, we need some hardware and some lessons. Any time we're watching one of our Gold Rush shows, the person they call in to help is Freddy Dodge. We purchased Garrett Gold Pans from Amazon which have been personally endorsed by Freddy. His picture is right on the box!

All of us gathered around the TV and watched a 30 minute tutorial on YouTube by Freddy Dodge as he showed us what to do and what steps to take. Hopefully we remember all this tomorrow!

We gathered into the car and drove the 1:15 north from Colorado Springs to Clear Creek Youngfield Trailhead near Denver. The kids are ready with buckets and shovels and we're ready to spend the day here searching for gold. Ian wants to collect some gold to give to Grandpa because he really likes gold. 

Everyone is loaded with gear as we walked down the trail. It's just a short 1000 foot walk from the parking lot to the creek. 

I'm not sure what the legality of gold panning is in general in Colorado, but Jefferson County passed a resolution back in 2013 that this area of Clear Creek is to be a free gold panning area for anyone who wants to come. There's signs that designate which areas you're allowed to pan for gold. It's also been said that you're more likely to find better gold after a big rain because it washes more gold from the source down the river. It just rained for 7 days here, so we're hoping for some good luck!

Best I can make out, it's this 1000 foot stretch of the creek, shown here in this Google satellite view. 

We walked along paved trail, beside the creek until we found an easy place we could go down which also had a good bank to put our stuff down on. 

Hey! There's shiny stuff in the water! 

I think there's a little gold fever going on! Put your packs down! Let's get settled and then start digging for gold! 

Everyone got to work scooping up shovels of material, sifting out the big rocks, then panning what was left. 

The creek was flowing pretty quickly, so we couldn't get too far out into it. The water was only about waist deep, so I did try. I waded out towards the middle, plunged my shovel into the water, but any sand or gravel was swept away by the current when I started to pull my shovel back out. 

There was lots of "Does this look like gold? What about this?" going on. 

The kids are doing their part. 

Shoveling up the dirt into the screener, then shaking the pan afterwards to separate the heavier material. 

Freddy Dodge makes it look so easy. Eventually we were able to sort off the big rocks, small rocks, big pebbles, small pebbles, and finally get down to the black sand. That's where you'll find any flakes of gold. There's lots of rocks that look like they might be gold when they catch the light just right, but many of these swish around with the water in the pan. Gold shouldn't do that since it's 15x heavier than rocks. 

An hour in and I think it's time to break for lunch. Everyone enjoyed sitting on the bank of the creek while eating sandwiches, chips, fruit, and veggies. 

Oh, and that Fun Dip that turns your mouth green!

Baseball anyone? Check out those white caps in the water. It's moving. 

No one is having all that much luck on this bank. You're not permitted to dig down into the shore. The city has spent money to build it up and they can actually fine you if they catch you. We need a new strategy. 
The other side of the creek you're allowed to dig down as much as you want. The only problem is, how do you get there? 

Using a shovel as a walking stick, I worked my way over to the other side. I wanted to see if it was possible to get the whole crew over to this side and on a bank where we might have a little bit better luck. You can imagine if the place has been open since 2013 a lot more people are going to be panning on the easy side. We should have better luck over here. 
Well I learned that there is no way that we're going to get everyone over here. It's moving too fast, and it's up to my waist. The littles would have a hard time with this, even with help. We've got to find a better way. 

Looking at the Google satellite view, there's a bridge about half a mile up the trail. And it looks like there's a utility road or something on the other side that we can follow to walk and get back into the permitted gold panning area. Walk a mile for the chance to get more gold? Let's do it!

There's some pretty scenery along the way. I bet there's some gold underneath this little waterfall. Too bad it's outside the approved gold panning zone. 

And a short while later saw a massive snapping turtle. Maybe it's a good thing we're not in the water up here. 

Loaded with all our gear, we made it up to the bridge and... there's a fence keeping you from going down the other side. D'oh! Well we're getting our exercise today. We turned back around and headed to a bank near our original spot. 

Still wanting to try for some dirt on the Northern bank, Jon and myself set out to cross the river again, but this time armed with shovels, buckets, and a screener. 

Uh, okay, now we're on the other side of the fast, deep, creek with heavy buckets of dirt and we need to get back... Slowly, and with shovels for walking sticks again, we made our way back to the rest of the crew. 

Armed with hopefully better material, we started the panning process again. 

Some of us anyway. It's also fun to just be hanging out down by the flowing water. Ian liked throwing big rocks and making big splashes. 

Then we also started piling up rocks to make a little dam. Maybe that will give us a section calm enough that we can dig down into. The bottoms of some of these rocks feel slimy. That's a little weird. And there's these black things attached to them. Are these leaches? In doing her research, Theresa did say that other have found leaches in this area. 

And Alli had fun making a little village out of rocks and sticks. 

How's it going Theresa? Better?


Emma was right there with us. Working with her dad to sort out all the big material. 

Then shake off the tiny pebbles. 

And then finally get down to the black sand that might have something in it. 

There's a representative gold pan once we were through with it. See the gold? 

Right there in the top left corner. Two tiny little pieces that are shiny no matter what direction the light hits them, and heavy enough that they don't just float away when you swirl the water. We used our "Gold Guzzler" (squeeze bottle) to suck up the tiny flakes of gold and put them into little vials. 

Did we come away rich? No, not even close. The people making the money are the people selling the gold panning equipment! 
But did we all have an awesome time? Absolutely. We'll always remember how we all went out as a family to the original creek that started to Colorado Gold Rush and found real gold! Memories are priceless!  

And that's what we're really taking away from this. Stronger bonds with everyone and a fun afternoon of being together. 
Let's celebrate that with ice cream! Just down the street there's a custard stand called Good Times. 

Milkshakes for everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Definitely priceless and "golden" memories with family! Certainly takes patience, hand/arm strength, and a good back to do all that gold panning. You and Jon were brave to cross that rushing creek, especially with loaded arms! Like seeing that mini-waterfall and greenery...very pretty and scenic. Emma is growing up so fast...just like Alli & Ian! EOM