1. Where can GPAA members prospect in Colorado?
There are a few GPAA and LDMA claims scattered through the entire state, the online mining guide is the best resource to look them up. You can also use websites to locate claims in the are you are interested in and just call the owner and ask if they would mind if you came in and dig, sluice, or dredge, many will say absolutely and join you but others may want to keep a particular claim private. There are four claims on the Delores, one in Silverton, and we are about to open three new ones near Placerville. There are also ones near Cripple Creek.
2. Are there any public places to prospect and treasure hunt?
The entire state is rich with prospecting opportunities to do both. BLM and the Forestry department have a form they will ask you to fill out free of charge just to let them know when and what you will be doing. You can camp on BLM campground sites for 14 days free of charge and they are well maintained with bathroom services. There are two very rich claims on the San Miguel River that come to mind with fantastic camp sites nearby. There is a public claim just upstream from the Pinion Bridge that has produced large quantities of gold and there is another just upstream from the Norwood Bridge that is a natural drop zone for gold. I recommend before you plan a trip always to call the local BLM office and verify the site is still open, this changes from time to time.
3. Are there any relevant places of interest?
The Black Canyon, the Colorado National Monument, Rifle Falls, Creed, Telluride, Ouray Hot Springs (clothing optional), Red Mountain Pass to say a few. The entire state is full of beautiful areas and the old mining town of Central City is a must see for all, especially if you are a prospector. Estes Park is a tourist town and a nice place to visit prior to going the Colorado National Park as well.
4. Recommended tools and techniques?
This all depends on the claim you are working and the area you are in. Pry bars are nice to move rocks in the river, and I am talking the really big ones. Buckets, classifiers, shovels, pics, dredges, river sluices, and suction tubes for working cracks in bedrock. Every BLM office and claim area has different restrictions so you need to contact them or the owner of the private claim to see what is allowed.
5. Any rules and regulation prospectors should be aware of?
Always stay two feet from the high water line on the river when dredging, never undercut a bank, make sure you fill in your holes, make sure you do not cross onto private property, and never dig into the side of a bank of the river. The BLM allows removal of up to 60lbs of material per day so if you have a rock hound wife like myself make sure you bring a extra bucket.
6. What else should prospectors know before prospecting in Colorado?
Makes sure you are not crossing onto a private claim by accident and always call the local BLM office. Colorado has a lot of Rattlesnakes, the Prairie Rattlesnake, the Western Midget Faded Rattlesnake, and the Massasauga Rattlesnake. I am originally from Texas and been around poisonous snakes my entire life and found if you just give them distance they will leave you alone, but that is not true of the Colorado Rattlesnakes which I was recently bitten myself. In the morning and at dusk is the most dangerous time to use a trail, in the morning they go to the trails to warm up and in the evening they are on the trails to hunt for food, but midday they move under the rocks for shade. I would recommend snake gators for any canyon trails that heat up during the day, even above 9000ft.
7. Must see places for anybody visiting Colorado?
From the front range to the Utah border the entire state is a must see. There are so many places of beauty it just knowing what you want to see to determine where you go. When I married my wife I took her out West to meet my father and her from being a Cajun Coon Ass she had never seen the mountains and was absolutely mesmerized and got bit by the mountains. We moved from Texas to the Western Slope where the people are hard working miners, ranchers, and farmers. We carry our guns openly, people are polite, it's not overcrowded, and we just love it here, each day you see something new plus having deer, elk, bears, badgers, and mountain lions all come through your yard on a regular basis is incredible.
Enjoy the beauty of the state and don't abuse it. Make sure you are not breaking the law because it gives prospectors a bad name and we would like to continue our prospecting. If you pack it in make sure you pack it out, and most of all have fun. Keep a companion near by always because it is easy to get seriously injured or killed in the mountains, and in a great deal of locations there is no cell phone service.
Don't miss Ben's story and word of caution on snakes this prospecting season: