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Gold miners still sifting through Idaho

Posted at 5:29 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 00:35:14-04

Gold mining is deeply rooted in Idaho history.

According to the Idaho Historical Society, miners found gold in the Boise River Basin in 1861 and by 1866, nearly $24 million of the precious metal was pulled from rivers, streams, and creeks. The state had tens of thousands of prospectors pouring into the area which ultimately put pressure on Abraham Lincoln to sign an act creating the Idaho Territory and eventually paving the way to statehood.

Although gold mining pans have been replaced with laptops and environmental regulations have stopped many of the traditionally dangerous and sometimes harmful mining techniques, that doesn’t mean a dedicated group of men and women don’t sift through sand every weekend hoping to catch a glimpse of gold.

At the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, Coyote Short has an answer for any question you may have regarding gold mining and how Idaho owes its existence to the stuff.

“That’s the biggest gold nugget I have ever seen coming out of Grimes Creek,” Short explained while pointing to a gold chunk the size of a quarter.

Although plenty of gold was found in Idaho, miners were also routinely disappointed by uncovering aptly named “fool’s gold,” which is pyrite.

Pyrite still ends up in hobbyist’s gold mining pans and an easy trick to determine whether you’ve struck riches is to scrape the stone in question.

Pyrite will leave dark lines when scraped versus gold which won’t react.

It’s a quick trick that hobbyists Don Doorman and Alan Trees practice regularly when out in the mountains.

“It takes a lot of in the field participation and perspiration to be a successful gold miner,” Trees explained.

“I think my family thinks I am totally crazy. I can’t stay out of the mountains,” Doorman said.

Its tips, tricks and shared knowledge that gold pan miners use to find their prize.

“Gold always stops on inside turns,” Trees said while 6 On Your Side anchor Don Nelson sifted dirt in a creek with a pan.

From the pan to what’s called a trommel, gold pan miners sift through dirt using water to wash away the fine bits to hopefully leave the prized gold behind.

“That’s one of the largest nuggets I ever found shoveling out a gravel bar,” Trees excitedly points to the small but shiny piece of gold left behind. “We’re good luck.”

For a gold pan minder, the thrill of the find is addicting.

“The first piece I ever saw, I was under water. I saw gold and I about swallowed my snorkel,” Trees reminisces while laughing heartily. “Then you’re hooked. You know you’re hooked.  You know what I mean? You’re hooked!”