There’s Gold in Them There Hills…or, at Least Across Washington State
Does the prospect of getting out into the wild, camping amongst the stars and looking for rare minerals worth real money strike your fancy?
Well, if so, you won't have to travel far in Washington State. There are several counties across the state where gold prospecting can actually bare fruit for your labor. Granted, Washington state isn't as well known for gold deposits like Alaska, California and Nevada, but it's still in the top 15 locations (as well as Oregon and Idaho).
As you can see in the map below (provided by the Department of Natural Resources) there are many locations to hunt for the heavy metal across the state. Regions like the central cascades and the Okanogan Highlands seem to provide the most opportunity, but many other areas also contain gold.
The Washington State gold rush began in 1873, after the discovery in Swauk Creek in Kittitas County. Soon after the small town of Liberty was established, and gold prospectors began to flood in from across the country and even the world. The gold rush in Liberty is best known for the discovery of the largest gold nugget ever found in Washington, weighing in at over 22 ounces. That's worth roughly $41,000 by today's price of gold per ounce.
Most recently, in 2013, a prospector with a metal detector uncovered two gold nuggets in the Liberty region weighing in at 16.25-ounces and 13-ounces, respectively. Those are worth over $55,000 by today's price per ounce.
Now these examples are the exception, not the rule. But that's not to say that there aren't good finds to be made across the state.
In Washington mineral prospecting and placer mining activities in, or near water, qualify as hydraulic projects and require a permit. However, the state also releases a semi annual publication called Gold and Fish: Rules for Mineral Prospecting and Placer Mining. You can find that .pdf right here.
According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife: "People who operate within the rules of the Gold and Fish pamphlet do not need to apply for an individual Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA).
The current edition of the Gold and Fish pamphlet was released on May 19, 2021 and authorizes certain non-motorized methods of mineral prospecting. Mineral prospecting methods not authorized through the pamphlet, including the use of any motorized or gravity siphon equipment, require an HPA."
When it comes to the equipment you'll need, it's not too much to worry about. You're going to need a small bottle for storing the your gold, crevice or sniping tools (like paint brushes, garden trowel and/or commercial crevice tools, etc.) a shovel, pick and trowel, a utility bucket, a magnet and a gold pan. When it comes to technique, well that's where experience plays the biggest role. Start off by reading about technique (there are thousands of websites dedicated to this) and then practice, practice, practice.
With some dedication, practice, luck and if you don't mind dressing like some kind of odd hipster, you could find yourself looking just like the fella in the picture above.
Good Luck and good hunting!