Having found a gold lining to the West's otherwise devastating drought, prospectors are flocking to the record-low rivers of the Sierra Nevada foothills. A mini gold rush has kicked off in previously inaccessible riverbeds, not far from the site of California's original gold rush.
"The word is definitely out," one prospector told the Associated Press. "We've seen more people prospecting than usual." The drought has brought a good many first-time prospectors to Pioneer Mining Suppliers in Auburn, where they can buy equipment, maps, and mining books. The basic technique involves a lot of patience sifting through dirt and mud. More advanced equipment, like sluicers, make the job a little easier, although it's still not much different from gold panning of days yore.
As unfortunate as this historic drought is, it does pull back the watery curtain on the past. A once-flooded ghost town has reemerged in the drought—as have old cars, locomotives, railroad tracks, tunnels, and Indian villages at various lakes around California. The reappearance of all this old manmade infrastructure is a reminder that many of these lakes and reservoirs themselves are part of an artificial water system that brings water to our thirsty cities and crop fields.
In the Sierra Nevada foothills, the drought is also turning back the clock—to the gold rush days of the 19th century. But there is a price to be paid for this gold. The owner of Pioneer Mining Supplies tells the AP he's worried about fire: "It's great for business, but I'd rather see no drought and a lot of rain." [Associated Press]
Photos from AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli