Stories I have written

A paystreak to remember

Adventures of a neophyte dredger at Slate Creek

Panner searches for gold

An encounter with the big cat

Prospecting trip to Little Secret

Boating prospect trip

Hiking with Wilson

Panner searches for gold


Folsom Telegraph article. Panner searches for gold By: Philip Wood Jim Ruppel fiddles with the new Garmin GPS tracker device he uses when he pans for gold. The veteran panner is excited about the toy he takes when heading into the wilderness to hunt for gold. About four years ago when he became interested in mining for gold, Ruppel's wife bought him a metal detector. These days the El Dorado Hills resident joins members of the Goldhounds Club out of Foresthill when they go out on the American River. He and buddies usually hike up or down the river about two miles from their jump-off point in order to get away from the crowds.

Prospectors use various tools to find gold, with the most recognizable being a gold pan. But they also use dredges and sluice boxes. Dredges suck material from river or creek beds and pump it into a sluice. With a sluice, water and gravel can flow through it allowing the gold to sift out.

However, Ruppel prefers a technique called sniping. He will don a wetsuit and snorkel and look under rocks and in crevasses in rivers. With rivers in constant motion, gold could be moved and washed around by the river current. When he does find the metal, Ruppel said, "I always find really small flakes."

Most of what he has found consists of "flour gold," which is kind of powdery. He has found a few flakes and "pickers," which range between a flake and a nugget and can be picked up with the fingers.

In all, he claims he's found about an ounce of gold.

Last winter's rains got Ruppel and other prospectors excited about the prospect of finding gold this year. Heavy rains tend to wash gold down out of the hills making it easier to find. Landslides also offer new opportunities for finding gold.

"They say there's about 80 percent of the gold still in the Mother Lode," he said. "But it's hard to find."

Most of the easy stuff has been found and taken since the days of the Gold Rush.

While the prospect of finding a huge nugget is always in the back of his mind, it's not about striking it rich for him. It's the hunt to see what he and fellow panners can find that is the motivating factor.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said.

Wild animal threats are there, but the only dangerous animal he's come across was a mountain lion, which was drinking from the river at a distance. Still, he has seen bear tracks.

However, finding gold and sighting wild animals isnt the only interesting thing he's come across in the wilderness. He's found tombstones dating back to the 1800s and remnants of items left behind by other gold hunters.