US

California drought spurs surge of neo-49ers as low Sierra water levels bring gold hopes

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 4, 2014 Tim Amavisca, 38, and his daughter Hailey, 15,  pan for gold along the Bear River near Colfax, Calif.  Amavisca is among the amateur prospectors that have flocked to the Sierra Nevada foothills that, due to the historic drought, are taking advantage of the lower water levels to search for gold in riverbeds that have been unreachable for decades.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 4, 2014 Tim Amavisca, 38, and his daughter Hailey, 15, pan for gold along the Bear River near Colfax, Calif. Amavisca is among the amateur prospectors that have flocked to the Sierra Nevada foothills that, due to the historic drought, are taking advantage of the lower water levels to search for gold in riverbeds that have been unreachable for decades.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)  (The Associated Press)

There's gold in them dry hills!

Or gold seekers anyway. And they see a historic opportunity in California's historic drought.

Low water levels have led to a mini gold rush in the same Sierra Nevada foothills that drew legions of fortune seekers from around the world in the mid-1800s, as amateur prospectors dig for riverbed riches in spots that have been out of reach for decades.

The drought is generating a lot of new business for Pioneer Mining Supplies, a business that has been in the former mining town of Auburn.

One of the worst droughts in California history has prompted the state and federal governments to severely cut water supplies to farms and cities. It's also left rivers and streams with dangerously low water levels, imperiling fish and wildlife.