Hey Steve ,i'm not familiar with that area at all,but I know if you head east on
I-80 out of San Fran you will be in gold country in about an hour .
Here is some info I dug up.. Can't verify any of it,but it may help .
I had some luck panning up near Bishop. Here are directions: First, take 395 to Bishop, then take 168 west (toward Aspendell, Lake Sabrina, South Lake). Then take it all the way up (appx.20 miles) to where it forks and make the left onto the South Fork towards South Lake. You will soon see the creek on the left. I did fairly well up and down that creek. The creek starts up at South Lake and will hit a Dam that you'll drive by on the South Fork Rd. The creek is only about 4 miles long. No nuggets, but plenty of fines and pickers with only a pan. Also the North Fork Road will take you in the Aspendell area where the old Cardinal Gold Mine is. I'm sure you can probably find some luck there too. You might want to bring your fishing pole as well, you'll come across sections in which you look down in a hole and see a couple 8lb+ Rainbow Trout. An old lady down steam from where I was panning, caught a 14lb. Brown. Good Luck!!
El Dorado County
A fairly complete list of mines with descriptions in El Dorado County is on the El Dorado County Library web site. No location info though.
Bear river campground by Colfax California. Heading east from Sacramento, take the Wiemar Crossroads exit from I-80, go left over the freeway and follow that road to its end, you will see a sign for the Bear River Campground, so turn right and it's a couple of miles but you will see the sign for you to turn left and follow the PUBLIC road to the river, I always stop in the first parking lot where you can use anything but power equipment. There is gold in every pan guaranteed, not alot but fine gold dust in every pan. Get down to the river and just pick a spot and start digging. Best use here is a sluice box.
NEXT SPOT Same exit off the freeway but this time go right, there is an immediate stop sign, turn left and follow the road for several miles until you see Yankee Jim road on your right, this takes you down to the American River. There are 5 abandoned mines on this road where the openings are right next to the road, you can't miss them. It's a nice drive, but when you get to the river just find your way down to any of the gravel banks and WOW I get more gold here than anywhere.
Auburn State Recreation Area
The American River
The American River was mined very early in the gold rush since it is where gold was first discovered in Northern California. A few years ago, the state bought up most of the claims and private property on the lower stretches of the river (below about 1100 feet elevation) in anticipation of the construction of the giant Auburn Dam. The dam was never built and hopefully never will be so most of the area is now the Auburn State Recreation Area. Here you can pan, sluice, highbank and dredge all year. You can get a little color almost anywhere you look. There is exposed bedrock everywhere with a wealth of cracks and crevices to clean out. Many of the gravel bars always contain fine flood gold even in the top layer. And don't overlook the bedrock and benches high above the river. I have found small nuggets forty feet above the water level.
There are several access roads from I 80:
Highway 49 from Auburn
Foresthill Road from Auburn
Yankee Jims Road from near Colfax
Iowa Hill Road from Colfax
And some trails but many are very steep as you can see from the photo.
One of my favorite places is below Colfax near where the Colfax-Iowa Hill Road crosses the river. There is a decent campground next to the bridge but you have to bring your own water. Downstream from the bridge is in the recreation area and upstream is designated a Wild & Scenic River so no motorized equipment is allowed. This area hasn't been dredged (legally) for years. You can pan, sluice or snipe. When the river is low, this is a good place to drop in your sluice box and wade around with a hand gold sucker. Be very careful early in the season when the water is running high and cold.
At briceburg rec area approx 12 miles east of Mariposa on Hwy 140. Also at Bagby rec area between mariposa and coulterville on hwy 49. Dredging for a small fee
Placer/El Dorado Counties
David Hoel, CA sent the following:
A nice place for panning is located along the American River valley 8-10 miles outside of Forest Hill (town). From Auburn, take Forest Hill road until you reach the old main street part of town. Turn right on Mosquito Ridge Road (just before old down town). This road follows the north side of the river and the scenery is spectacular! 6.6 miles from where you turned onto Mosquito Ridge Rd., is a shell road marked Gorman Ranch road. Follow this road for approximately 3 miles. It is usually graded, however, may be somewhat rough in the winter. I have always been able to travel it in my Geo Prism. At the hairpin turn in the road is Skunk creek. A mining club I used to belong to (Gold County Miners) owns the upstream entrance for about 200 yards. Beyond that, it is not posted. Clay lining the creek contains gold flakes. Sluicing will do you no good, the clay must be broken up by hand to release the gold. I recommend dish washing gloves, they keep your hands warm and save wear and tear on your hands. Dig between exposed tree roots by the waters' edge. You will find gold, in ten separate trips, I never failed, and I'm new to gold panning. Use a metal coat hanger to dig out cracks and crevices. I found two small nuggets in this fashion. The gold in Skunk creek all comes from hydraulic mining operations just south of Michigan Bluff over 100 years ago. If you wish to join Gold County Miners, call Dennis Raff at (916) 725-4265. Fee is $90/year, they own the Horseshoe bar property on the American River which is close to Skunk Creek. Horseshoe bar is fantastic and in the nine short months that I used it, I saw many large nuggets (up to 3/4 oz.) found by dredgers.
Amador/El Dorado County
Mike Salvensky, CA submitted the following:
For people in the Sacramento area who are just starting out gold prospecting and are just looking for a little color in the pan, the Consumnes River at Highway 16 is a good place to go. I have found flour gold in just about every pan, 2-3 specks minimum. This location is about 30 minutes out of Sacramento and the access is very easy.
Ward J. Hollesen, CA gives us a couple places:
I go out prospecting to two nice little places where you can find a little color. The first place is just north of the town of San Andreas, California. As you are traveling northbound from San Andreas you come to a fork in the road. One is Hiway 49 and the other is Hiway 12 towards Stockton. You take the left fork towards Stockton and go about two and 1/2 miles and the road takes a sharp turn to the right and there is another little road to the right next to a little creek. Park right next to the creek and you can use your sluice and pan about 10 steps from your car. I haven't got rich but usually in about two hours I get a few little pieces about half the size of a bb. The next place is instead of going on Hiway 12 from San Andreas, you go to the right on Hiway 49 and go to the 2nd bridge. This is part of the Calaveras River. You have to park on the left side of the Hiway going north and walk down a fairly steep embankment to the river but I have seen some bb size nuggets picked up by some more experienced people. Just do not go past the barb wire fence as that is private property.
Calaveras/Amador Counties From Jim Bonetti, CA
Mokelumne river from Hwy. 49 up to Electra (PG&E power plant and dam) which gives a person a good 2-3 miles of probable gold panning territory for no cost, no permission. BUT, NO machine driven equipment.shovel, pan, sluice only.
Also from Jim Bonetti
North Fork of the Yuba river where the Hwy. 49 crosses it, theres like a park there. From +- 100yds. upstream of the bridge to just above the rapids(I believe) is open to the public to dredging as well as panning, sluicing. I've done it before following directions from someone else.
Good luck !
UGA DAWGS FAN-ADDICT