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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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June 14, 2005: Summer Gold Panning

Q: I am waiting for this yearÕs column on gold prospecting. If you take too much longer, the summer is going to be over.

A: Hopefully from reading previous columns, you are prepared to make this year a rewarding one. For the first time in years, I plan to make a quick trip so a local friend can pay off horrendous medical bills that have become a mill stone. Let me challenge the other panners out there also to contribute your "pickins" harvested during the July 4th Holiday to your favorite charity.

For you wannabe and novice prospectors, here are a few basic tips. Do not go up into "them thar hills" without practicing. Mix up mud, rocks, pebbles, sand, and BB shot. Then over a tub of water, practice panning your "witchÕs brew," capturing the BBÕs in your pan.

Some of you will catch on quickly. Others will take longer. But without this skill, it is likely almost all of you will come back to Fort Collins "busted by gosh."

Next get into shape. Remember you will be standing in ice cold water slushing back and forth a pan containing a two to five pound mixture of mud and rocks.

Also, do a little historical research. Just as Willie Sutton supposedly said he robbed banks because that was where the money was, spend time to determine where gold (or diamonds) have been already discovered.

Your greatest likelihood of success will be in ColoradoÕs golden rectangle stretching approximately 50 miles wide and 250 miles long, starting just west of Boulder and running down and past Durango (or if you happen to spot me, you might want to stay in that area).

When you have narrowed your list of possible destinations, then make sure that you can gain access. If the sites are on BLM or Forest Service land, telephone the local official in charge to determine if your site is available and what the local rules and permit requirements might be.

If you encounter a surly or "controlling" public servant, just cross that spot off your list and move on to the next one. Because there are so many great panning locations, instead of fighting remember your goal is to pan. So focus on the next possible destination.

If you only pan, or for certain sluice boxes, normally no bond or environmental impact statement will be required. But always check first especially to arrange for any permits that might be required.

If that potential "honey hole" is on private property, talk to the owners. All they can do is say no. But I found that landlords usually say yes-- for a price. If you are perceived to be trust worthy, ten percent of what you find is normally the asking price. Otherwise it is what you can negotiate. Some landowners will charge a flat fee, such as fifty dollars per person for a day of panning. You do not want to be a "claim jumper," so be observant on public land. Claims will be marked. If you encounter something that might be a claim, just move on respecting the ownerÕs property right. There are so many places to poke around, find your own spot.

Finally, in gold country learn to look where water slows and thus will drop any gold that the current is moving. And eureka, you have found where to spend your time and energy, thereby eliminating 95% of the possible search areas. But the rules of thumb for where to look is a topic for another column. If you get serious, buy a metal detector to scan those 5% "hot" area to increase chances of finding your own flash in the pan.

So kids forget about buying Dad that tie, socks, or hammer for FatherÕs Day. Get him a $12 gold pan and send him forth to begin building your inheritance.

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