Mining for Gold

Many people arriving in California thought the gold was just lying around on the ground waiting to be picked up. They were not ready for the hard work required in mining for gold. Particularly in later days of the Gold Rush.

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Panning for Gold

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In the early days gold was easy to find. All you needed was a knife, pick, shovel and a pan. Gold nuggets could be pried from rocks. Dirt shoveled from creeks and rivers could be swirled in a pan to find gold. This picture shows prospectors panning for gold (Source: Library of Congress).
Gold is heavier than sand or gravel. Miners would swirl sediment from a river in a pan of water. The sand and dirt would float in the water and could be poured off leaving heavy rocks, and hopefully gold (Source: Library of Congress).


The Long Tom

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Once the easy gold was found, more inventive ways were needed to get gold. The Long Tom was an 8 to 20 foot rocker. Miners would shovel dirt into it, pour water over it, and rock it like a cradle. Lighter dirt and gravel was washed away, leaving heavier gold. This picture shows miners using the Long Tom (Source: Library of Congress).


River Mining

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Gold veins are often deep in high cliffs and remote areas of mountains. The gold can be found in river beds or creeks in sediment worn away by water.

Rivers would wash the gold from rocks and other deposits and carry it downstream. The heavy gold would sink to the bottom and could be found using pans (Source: Library of Congress).

Some miners decided that the riverbeds under flowing rivers has gold like the dried up creeks. They built dams to redirect the water so they could mine the river bottom (Source: Library of Congress).


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