Gold is abundant throughout much of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the goldfields reach as far north as Butte and Plumas Counties. In fact, one of the best spots in California to do a little panning is not far from Chico.
Some exceptional gold has been recovered from Butte Creek over the years. It drains some of the higher elevations of Butte County and then flows by Magalia, Paradise, and eventually into the valley just outside of Chico.
Butte Creek Forks Recreation Area
This is a popular area for a variety of recreational activities. There is a nice trail system here with access to Butte Creek. There is plenty of good access for gold prospectors.
Getting there is pretty easy. From Chico, head northeast on Highway 32, continue past Forest Park for about 4 miles. From there, turn right on Garland Rd, and eventually turn left again on Doe Mill Rd. There are signs that will get you there.A Recreational Mineral Collection Permit is required here. It will cost you $5 a day, and it’s good for up to 8 people in your group.
The nice thing is that it reserves you a 100 yard section of Butte Creek that you will have all to yourself.
The Butte Creek Forks Recreation Area is probably the most popular spot for prospectors in the Chico area. There are lots of other rich gold-bearing areas here, but there is a lot of private land to be aware of. You will need to get permission if you venture beyond the BLM land.
How Good is the GOLD?
This as a very popular area for prospecting, so you can expect to have to work hard for the gold. The area gets worked over pretty hard by locals and you will see a lot of recent diggings along the creek.
Before it burned in the Camp Fire in 2018, there was a lot of great information about the mining history of the area at the Gold Nugget Museum in Paradise. Things are starting to rebuild, but a lot of amazing history was lost in the fire.
To get the most updated information on rules, you should contact the Redding BLM Office
There is still decent gold to be found at Butte Creek. Each year you can expect erosion to feed new deposits from the surrounding mountains. Dig down to bedrock and get down in the cracks where gold accumulates. If you can locate a decent spot you can expect a little bit of “color” in the bottom of your gold pan
Historical Gold Mining
The area is a very rich part of California. There was a time when thousands of hopeful miners were scouring the creeks and rivers of Butte County. Some of them got very rich, but most found just enough to get by.
A few of California's biggest gold nuggets
were found in Butte County. There was a 54-pound nugget found in Magalia back during the Gold Rush!
The vast majority of the gold produced in this area come from placer deposits. Historical records are a bit sloppy, but the county is credited with well over $3 million ounces of placer gold. Much of that came out of Butte Creek and its tributaries.Next: Feather River Gold Prospecting