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Persistent California Drought Exposes Opportunity for Gold Rush

Golden opportunities have appeared for prospectors in California, thanks to the 3-year-old drought.

Prospectors were able to find gold during a December-January "gold rush," Dave Efseaff of the Central Valley Prospectors in Fresno, Calif., said. When streams and other pools of water started to dry up from the drought, it exposed areas that previously couldn't be explored because of the water depth.

The price of gold can be a powerful incentive for prospectors. Gold's price on the New York Mercantile Exchange was $1,331.50 per troy ounce on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Dry December-January Allow for Gold Rush

During the driest period from December through January, opportunities to access the dry gravel beds of the area's waterways were discussed and anticipated in the mining community, Jim Hutchings of the River City Prospectors said.

"If you have ever tried to scoop a shovel of mud and sand under water, it is nearly impossible," Hutchings said. "Having the 'gut' of the stream dry out, gives miners access to move boulders and access cracks and crevices in the center of the stream or at least in what would be the center of the stream during flood stage."

Without water, miners can get in and try to get to the bedrock where the best gold will usually be in a protected place there.

Locate a known gold bearing river, fill your pan with sand and gravel and wash out the lighter material, and hopefully find color [gold] in the bottom of the pan, Adolph Lostaunau of the Golden Valley Prospectors in Bakersfield, Calif., said.

More people have joined the Golden Valley Prospectors to learn how to prospect with hopes of striking it rich, Lostaunau said.

"I tell people, 'Do not quit your day job,' and when out prospecting, not to trespass or claim jump," Lostaunau said.

California Drought to Worsen, More Gold Prospects

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme to exceptional drought conditions continue in parts of northern and central California. Conditions will worsen from April to June, Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston said.

Temperatures will be above normal for April to June, Boston said.

"The reason is because it's going to be so dry. That's not good news. The sun heats dry soil more efficiently than wet soil, making the temperatures go higher," he said.

The San Joaquin Valley in the state's Central Valley may have temperatures climb into the low 90s in May, just like it did a year ago, Boston said. Fresno had two days above 100 F and nine days in the 90s during May 2013. meteorologists also expect precipitation to be below or much below normal during April to June, Boston said.

"In some areas, it will mean zero, nil, no precipitation," he said. "Drought conditions will actually be getting worse."