Did flood leave golden opportunity?

People still are reeling from and trying to overcome the devastation of the Colorado floods. In some places there still is no electricity, and other places no drinkable water.

Once where there was farmland or a house, a river flows. Once where the river ran, new piles of debris and dirt sit; from who knows how far upstream they came.

But as the flood recedes and silt settles, so does the prospect of gold.

Steve Herschbach, a gold miner in Alaska, says, “It is never good that property and lives are lost in floods, but they can be a real rejuvenator of mining possibilities anywhere they occur. Gold can be spotted eyeballing bedrock and ground if you are first on site immediately after a flood recedes.”

In Colorado, there is a buzz among the gold-panning community. At $1,315 an ounce, it’s easy for gold fever to set in. Shortly after the rain, some shops in the Golden area experienced an uptick in equipment sales – the gold pans and filters – and gold-panning clubs fielded queries on the possibilities of a new gold order.

I’ve heard from a couple of people who have seen “tiny, shiny flecks of rock” in their front yards as they clean up after the flood, wondering if they should try to collect it.

Online, amateur gold panners and miners are chatting and tweeting quite excitedly about this.

“Geowizard” and “Flintgreasewood” speculate that claims in the past that haven’t been producing might start because of the massive shift in dirt and rock caused by Mother Nature.

But what really are the prospects for striking it rich if you run out and buy a gold pan and head for the river banks?

Most of Colorado’s gold deposits are within the Colorado Mineral Belt that trends northeast from the San Juan Mountains in the southwest to its northeastern extent in the Front Range near Jamestown. The St. Vrain River, which runs through Longmont, and Boulder Creek, which cuts through the heart of downtown Boulder, pass through this belt. So do we have cause for excitement?

Wallie Robinson, owner of Grubstaker LLC in Wheat Ridge, has been providing prospecting and claim-staking services for more than 20 years. He’s experienced an uptick in interest in his services since the flood.

“The floods have moved gold,” he said. “This is the biggest flood since the Gold Rush. A lot of residue on the side of mountains and in the dumps at mills has been moved into the watershed, and that can include gold.”

The lone professor I was able to reach at the Colorado School of Mines’ Department of Mining Engineering wouldn’t say one way or the other, only that he hasn’t heard of gold being unearthed because of floods.

While there are reports that people as far away as Alabama have made the trip out West to see if they can strike it rich, reports of newly found gold have yet to surface.

Will the gold flush of 2013 amount to anything more than a flash in the pan? Probably not, but we could use a little gold-rush romance after all the heartache caused by the floods.

Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1959 or dstorum@bcbr.com.


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