When people think about gold mining, our mind usually wanders to a strong flowing river or small mine high in some rugged mountains. An ocean beach usually isn’t the first place that comes to mind.
Yet, one of the best places to mine for gold in the Pacific Northwest is actually right along the shores of the Pacific Ocean! Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of gold hidden amongst all that sand.
There are many places that a person can find a little “color” in the sand in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, but the best concentrations of fine beach gold that I have ever found is near the mouth the Columbia River.
At the very mouth of the Columbia River on the Washington side is a place called Cape Disappointment State Park. This is where you want to be to access perhaps the richest gold-bearing sands on the Pacific Coast.(Note: There is a $10 day-use or $30 annual pass to access the beach.)
The best stretch of beach for mining is usually Benson Beach, which is approximately 2-miles long stretching from the North Jetty (at the mouth of the Columbia River) north to the North Head Lighthouse.
There are several access points and places that you can get to the beach, but I have always had the best luck close to the jetty. The exact location you setup your equipment isn’t as critical as the material that you run through it.
You will probably notice that there is a lot more black sands here than an average beach. These sands are heavy and contain high amounts of magnetite. These heavy sands were carried down by the Columbia River and deposited here naturally by the natural flows of the ocean at the mouth of the river.
It’s the heavy black sands that hold all of the gold. Yes, it is TINY stuff… so small that in other areas you probably wouldn’t pay those teeny specks of gold much attention at all.
But it’s different here, because although the gold is small, there is LOTS of it. A good setup can collect thousands and thousands of those tiny specks of gold.
There are a lot of wild claims about the amount of gold that a person can find in a hard day’s work at Cape Disappointment. I won’t repeat the wildest claims I have heard, but I will tell you that it is not at all unheard of to recover more than a few grams. And with the current price of gold, that’s nothing to complain about!
How to Capture that Super Fine Gold
You might not know where to start when you first arrive, but really anywhere is worth a try. Knowing that black sands hold the gold is the most important knowledge you need. And if you dig down in the sands at Benson Beach you will notice that most of the time you can find thick bands of heavy black sands layered through the lighter blonde sands.
The blackish-blue the sands are best. Lighter sands will be almost completely devoid of gold, so you should spend your time running the premium material. This will add to the efficiency of your operation.
Next we need to talk about equipment. And for effective mining at Cape Disappointment, this is important.Miners are often very particular about the best equipment and the proper setup. No area is it more important than when you are mining sand. Standard placer mining gear that would do fine in a creek might be all but worthless here.
I have had my best luck by far when using a Gold Cube
, which I can run with a recirculating bilge pump. Certainly you can also use a high banker, but the angle and water flow are critical because it is so easy to lose that fine gold. The Gold Cube is more efficient for me.
Of course a person can use whatever equipment they want, but remember that you will need to get water from somewhere, so a recirculating setup is usually the way to go.*In the State of Washington, you need to make sure you are always have a copy of the Gold & Fish Pamphlet and keep it with you when you are mining. Always stay updated on current rules and regulations. There have been some recent updates (unfortunately not for the better) for miners in Washington and its more important that ever to know the where/when/how so that we can continue to mine legally.Gold in Washington StateSouthern Oregon's Beach Placers