Nevada County’s history runs along the same vein as the state of California. The county was put on the map during the Gold Rush. And the wealth from its mines created the charming historic towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley. Today, you can still see remnants of its mining past in its historic buildings, trails, and even its state parks. For those that want to experience first-hand what it was like to be one of those miners that discovered gold, here’s where to go gold panning in Nevada County.
Still Gold Mining To This Day
Be VERY aware that outside of the places we highlight below, many sections of the rivers, streams, and waterways are actively being prospected and individuals own claims. Claim jumping today is still very real and carries a SERIOUS offense with a potential fine of $25,000 or 6 months in prison. Instead, enjoy the areas we highlight below for your gold panning adventure in Nevada County.
Malakoff Diggins State Park
By 1850, there was little gold left in the streams within the county. But in 1851, three miners discovered a handful of nuggets in a creek. As others returned with them though, they didn’t find any other gold and hence the creek is now called “Humbug.” As the miners’ prospecting continued, they discovered that old riverbeds and mountainsides contained gold. To get to it, they created a new method of mining using high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment called hydraulic mining. The mining operation grew so vast that it became home to California’s largest hydraulic gold mine ever.
In addition to seeing its environmental consequences and the ghost town of Bloomfield, every Saturday at 3 pm you can watch gold panning demonstrations at the troughs across from the Visitors Center. Then head down to Humbug Creek inside the park’s boundaries with a pan and try it on your own.
South Yuba River State Park
Following a 20-mile section of the South Yuba River, visitors will see the mighty river swiftly carving through the granitic canyon. Many trails to explore and in the spring the hillsides are alive with wildflowers. It’s also home to the longest single-span covered bridge in the world – the Bridgeport Covered Bridge. Throughout the summer, gold panning demonstrations are held every Saturday and Sunday from 12 – 2 pm at the Bridgeport HQ. From there, you can then try your hand on the mighty South Yuba River State Park.
Be Aware Of The River’s Flow
While the South Yuba River is scenic, it can be dangerous in early season when the snow melt is on. And that’s not just for swimming but also gold panning. If it looks dangerous, keep out and just enjoy the demonstrations.
Town Of Washington
Settled in 1849, this quiet town located on the banks of the South Yuba River was one of the first of California’s gold mining towns. In the 1850’s at its peak, thousands of miners called this settlement home. As fast as miners arrived by 1858, the population rapidly declined to just 200 individuals. To this day, it’s still surrounded by the wild and rugged forest landscape covering the steep canyon slopes. It’s also home to one of the oldest hotels in California – the Washington Hotel. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, be sure to saddle up to the bar for a cold barley pop just like the miners did nearly a century before you.
Where To Go Panning
After you’ve enjoyed one of the gold panning demonstrations, you’ll want to experience it for yourself in its rawest form. Pan at one of the local campgrounds, the Keleher Picnic Area on the Yuba River two miles upstream from town. Or go even further upstream to the Quartz Picnic Area. For more information on where it’s safe to gold pan around Washington, contact the Tahoe National Forest offices at 631 Coyote St., Nevada City, CA 95959; (530) 265-4531.