On Sunday, February 22, 1988, we had an informal outing on Clear Creek at 70th and Washington. It was a last-minute thing that was put together at the meeting. It was posted on our website but, of course, it wasn't in the newsletter. More than 20 people showed up, however. There were three highbankers and more than a dozen sluice boxes in the water. We enjoyed 50-degree-plus weather, the water was only a foot deep, and best of all, the place has gold.
I first learned to pan on this very sopt, back in the summer of 1982. You can work this area in the summer, fall, winter, and it will eventually play out. Come the Spring run-off, more gold will be deposited in the same area. Some years there is more gold than others; the river will change and the paystreaks will be deposited differently, but the gold is there every year.
I made some test holes in a corner of the creek on a gravel bar, filling my holes as I finished each. I took a sample pan near the water and found no gold. I took another sample pan about 10 feet from the creek and found two specks of color. I took another about 20 feet away and found four specs of color. I took another at 30 feet away and found 10 more specks. Bingo! The paystreak was about 30 feet from the creek and was about 8 feet wide, by 60 to 70 feet long, and less than a foot deep (most deposits here are only a few inches deep, but they can be several feet wide and very long). This paystreak was yielding about 100 specks of gold per 5-gallon bucket of classified 1/2-inch material. "Bedrock" Bob Lovewell, Leonard "The Golden Optimist" Leeper, and I removed most of the deposit.
I removed the riffles, expanded metal, and carpeting from a Keene 36-inch sluice box. I then laid down a piece of deep V-groove vinyl matting in the sluice and ran only 3/8-inch water over it. Leonard fed the sluice using classified 1/2-inch material. The rock, sand, and dirt all ran off and the gold dust settled into the grooves of the vinyl. The excess black sands washed out but the gold stayed put. Black sands only have a specific gravity of 6 to 7, whereas gold is over 19, which allows the gold to work its way into the grooves and underneath the black sands.
This method of sluicing would not have worked in an area where flakes and nuggets are found because they would wash out with no riffles to hold them in place. At this location, however, this procedure works great. Leonard would clean up after each 5-gallon bucket. He had only black-sand concentrates (the "cons") left in the sluice. He folded the vinyl, put it in a bucket, rinsed it off, and poured the concentrates into a gold pan. This yielded about two tablespoons of concentrate and another 100 specks of gold. Way to go Leonard!
You could adopt this technique for your cleanup after you sluice, highbank, or dredge. If you're in an area with flakes and nuggets, you'll want to run your concentrates through a 1/4-inch (4 mesh) classifier. Pan out everything that does not go through the classifieer. Then run the remaining concentrates through an 8- or 12-mesh classifier and pan everything that does not go through. Set up your sluice box with no riffles, run only about 1/4-inch of water with a 3-inch drop in the box (1 inch per foot), and line the box with deep V-groove vinyl (I found mine at a local hardware store). Now feed the remaining concentrates through the sluice.
Because the area we are working does not have any flakes or nuggets, it being too far from the source of the gold, I skipped the 4- and 12-mesh classifier. I ran the concentrates directly from my box into a bucket, then into the sluice box lined with the V-groove vinyl. What remained was only a couple of tablespoons of concentrates filled with hundreds of specks of gold!
Everyone found gold and we all had a great time. We are very lucky to have a gold source here in Denver and the kind of weather that Colorado offers allows us to do our prospecting in the middle of winter. Please respect other people's property. The owner of Tymkovich's Meats, the market at the corner, will let GPR members park alongside the store. Do not park overnight and do not climb the fence. Go through the gate.
This site isn't the only place to find gold on Clear Creek. There are miles of bike trails along the creek that make most of it available. Again, respect private property rights and only prospect private property if you have permission from the owner. Good luck, have fun, and be safe!