Gold Prospecting in Washington
Washington is a terrific place to prospect. Although much less gold has been produced here than in other parts of the West, there have still been several million ounces taken out of the ground in Washington. There are fine placers all through the state, and the recreational prospector can get to work with sluice boxes, gold pans and suction dredges.
Most of the gold is very fine in texture, so you probably won’t have so much luck with the metal detector here. Your best bet is to work the creeks and rivers, and work carefully, since it’s very easy to lose gold this fine. If you work the Columbia River gravel bars when the water is low, you may have some luck. These gravel bars and bench deposits were worked in the past by Chinese immigrants and “old timers”.
Gold has been produced in every one of the counties in the state. The most important ones east of the Cascade Mountains are Kittitas, Stevens, Chelan, Ferry and Okanogan Counties.
One of the better known areas is located in Kittitas. Even though gold production was not as high as some of the other counties, you can find some nuggets there, sometimes several ounces. There are quite a few lode and placer mines near the historic town that are worth a look, particularly Williams and Swauk. The unusual wire gold nuggets can sometimes be found in this area.
In the northeastern corner of Washington, Stevens County has hundreds of mines throughout the county. Some of these lode mines were producers or other minerals such as iron, copper, etc.
The richest gold producing county was Chelan County. Lode mines in the Wenatchee, Blewett and Chelan Lake districts produced much of the gold, but since the mid 1800s there have also been many working placers. In the Wenatchee District, one of the greatest gold producers in the country is the Golden King Mine. The recreational prospector should be able to find fine placer gold in the rivers and creeks of this area.
Also a rich gold producer, Ferry County is home of the Republic District. Located 25 miles south of the border of Canada, placers produce fine textured gold, but most of the gold has come from lode mining.
On the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Okanogan County, the Okanogan, Columbia and Methows Rivers all produce gold.
The most profitable counties to the west of the Cascades are Pierce, Whatcom, King, Snohomish and Skagit Counties.
Most of the gold found in Pierce county is to the east where it borders Yakima County.
All of the bigger operations in King County have been lode mines. The waters near these mines may produce for you.
The Silverton and Monte Cristo Districts in Snohomish County have produced a considerable amount of gold.
In Skagit County you want to take a good look all along the Skagit River as well as its tributaries.
All up and down the Columbia River and the ocean beaches you can find very finely textured gold in the black sand deposits.
Rules and regulations vary widely throughout Washington, as there are protection issues for the salmon and steelhead in many of the waters there. There is a pamphlet called “Gold and Fish” printed by the Washington Department of Fish and Game that will tell you what you need to know if you plan to prospect in Washington. Also, there is tribal, private, state and federal lands and you must know the regs in each case, so check with the appropriate agency and make sure you’re up to date with all regulations.