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Big bear , CA


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 I am heading to Big Bear  for the first time , Does anyone have tip's on best way to find Color there ?  , I will bring a drywasher & small rec. pump & sluice ,   I think after all the T-storms the dirt will be pretty wet , Have access to 3 claims (pcsc,oc49,Gpaa)   Can you camp on the claims there?

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First, I hope you post pictures of the trip, no matter what color you find.

I can’t speak to the particular area you are going to, but as a rule you can camp on US Forest Service and BLM land up to 14 days. The caveat to that is you need to look in the particular site to see any restrictions. In central AZ along the Verde river camping has been shut off because of people leaving the sites trashed. The memo is on the website. I do recommend looking at the websites to find road closures and take a look at the Travel Management Plans or Motorized Vehicle Use Maps prior to leaving.

For dry washing, I’ve had luck with putting damp dirt, not mud, on a tarp for a couple hours which dries it off even in 50 to 60 degree weather and running it through a dry washer. That is more of a finding color thing and not mining for money since this process slows down production quite a bit.

I think there’s no better way for the small miner to move dirt than a dry washer. The worst mistake I ever made mining was using a trommel for years in the desert with a 65 gallon recirculating system for a good recovery instead of running a Drywasher which like a Keene 151 would not be as good recovery but sun multiples of the amount of the trommel. My dry washing mistake was classifying material and not trusting the screen prior to putting the material in the washer.  

Perhaps your claim has the amount of water flowing through the river the water would be better.  The only time I got to sluice in Arizona was when the Aqua Fria River was running, but honestly it was more of a brook and the entire flow of the river went through the sluice.

The GPAA forum is not very active, but my bet says a post there has a chance of turning up a useful tip of someone who’s been. I’m not sure who owns all those claims but For the smaller clubs, I’ve had luck E-Mailing and someone would answer questions.

Edited by chrisski
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The GPAA have a member restriction of 14 days stay on any claim. Since your GPAA membership comes with restrictions you will be limited to 14 days stay when prospecting there. Some other clubs do the same I suspect. Check your club rules.

There is no federal stay limit on a mining claim if you are actively mining. The only restriction is that you can not create a significant disturbance of surface resources unless you file a notice. Keep your stay area clean, don't set up anything even remotely permanent and don't interfere with the fauna or flora  and you are good to go - no permits or stay limits apply.

It always freeks some people out when I point that out (like it's radical thinking or bucking the system :89:) so I'll add this tidbit from the Forest Service's law enforcement rules officially published in the Federal Register:

Reasonably incidental residential use of NFS lands by persons conducting locatable mineral prospecting, exploration, mining, or processing that will not cause significant disturbance of NFS surface resources does not require prior submission of a notice of intent to conduct operations or approval of a plan of operations. When the probability of significant NFS surface resource disturbance is being evaluated in connection with locatable mineral operations consisting of appropriate prospecting, exploration, development, mining, processing, reclamation and closure, and accompanying reasonably incident residential use of NFS lands, the operations in their totality, including the reasonably incidental residential use, must be considered.

An operator, consequently, is not required to notify the Forest Service prior to conducting locatable mineral operations which involve occupancy of NFS lands providing that those operations meet two conditions: (1) The occupancy is reasonably incidental to locatable mineral prospecting, exploration, mining, or processing and (2) those proposed (or ongoing) operations, including such reasonably incidental occupancy, cumulatively will not cause (or are not causing) significant disturbance of NFS surface resources. Moreover, when occupancy is reasonably incidental to prospecting, exploration, mining, and processing operations, then the level of surface disturbance, not the duration of the occupancy, will determine whether a Notice of Intent or a Plan of Operations is required.

You can read that and more here:


 I haven't been to Big Bear in 40 years. I recall it was a nice area. Good luck on your trip.

Edited by clay
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For the general public not prospecting there, the areas around those claims are open to dispersed camping, you just have to be 1/4 mile from main roads, private residences (there are some inholdings in Holcomb Valley), and from existing campgrounds. And the general public can only camp for 14 consecutive days. You may have a variance to all this if you are prospecting, but I’d stay away from where others are just for the privacy factor.

Ive detected on the GPAA claim there, it’s just off the John Bull trail and a lot of traffic goes through there on weekends but you will find more secluded places on it to camp. It’s nice there and obviously had a lot of historic mining as there are old holes all over it with large trees growing out of them. A lot of people drywash there as water is not available.

One thing for sure, the temperature will be more tolerable than down in the desert this week!  Good luck!

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 Had a Great time out there , With only 3 days to play I was not able to see all the claims only 1  Camping was Great  Hi- 75'  low- 46'  I wanted to drywash but dirt was way to wet after all the T- storms , I had to use my small cleanup sluice to run all the buckets of dirt I only had 30 gal of water & keeping it clean was hard ,  Like GotAU said yes there are a lot of folks on the weekend  Jeep in , Motorcyc ln , Camp in, Mine n, Fun n ,  Great Recreation area .

  The claim looked like an old Artillery range  Dig holes every 10-20 ft with trees in the middle of them , Claim owner said they worked this claim 3 - 4 times  Steam shovel, Drag line, Loader , Mexicans .

 You could find Gold almost anywhere but only Micro specks , Not much in the large drainage's , Found a newer hole with some Gravel where we got our Gold .   Pic's  below .

The Camp , The Terrain  , Dig holes , Me , GOLD.


Big Bear 010.JPG

Big Bear 007.JPG

Big Bear 008.JPG

Big Bear 1 007.JPG

Big Bear 1 011.JPG


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That’s great you found some color, and wonderful temperatures to camp out it! Thanks for sharing your photos, were you at the GPAA claim or one of the others?  I belong to those three also- PM me if you’d rather answer there (or not :)

Your little collection from Big Bear will make a good keepsake. I’d keep a little place name tag with the dates you found it. After doing this for a little while, I think just having a little collection of my finds from each successful place I’ve been would be neat.  #1 was easy, I was pretty much pointed to where I should put my Gold Monster coil and then told to scrub it “like this”! Still trying to get #2…

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 I was on a private claim , I did not have time to look at the other claim's , I have to go back & do the the whole Gold Mountain trail , As far as keeping every place I found Gold separate  I would of had to start 42 Years ago , From Johnny NV. ,  Oregon , to San Diego . Colorado     Fun Times .  One I first joined GPAA 1980 , Even one bottle a year would be 42

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