As featured in the November/December 2019 Gold Prospectors Magazine
Story and Photos by Dominic Ricci
We all walk by gold that is waiting to be unearthed. Sometimes in plain sight, but most of the time it is hiding, looking at us, waiting for us to find it.
My grandfather told me that when we would drive around the hills of his 1,000-plus-acre ranch and spot deer out and about, that there were at least 10 deer hiding that we could not see for each one we did see.
The last few visits to LDMA Scott River Camp, I went for a walk by the bridge out on the gravel bar where the Scott River meets the Klamath River. It is beautiful! Every year there is surface change from the previous winter where the water forces create new paths to escape to the Klamath River. This water force moves gold into new pockets and, sometimes, creates “mossy” gold.
Moss is like Camouflage
Mosses are small flowerless plants that usually grown in dense, green clumps in shady, moist areas. They can be found on the forest floor, on trees and on rocks bordering the Scott River. Like other plants mosses produce energy through photosynthesis. But unlike other plants they are seedless and only grow roots shallow enough to attach themselves to rock surfaces or tree bark. Instead of sucking up moisture through the roots, they collect rain and stream water that runs over top of them.
How does moss grow on rocks?
Mosses belong to a group of plants known as the “bryophytes.” Bryophytes have no roots, but they do have thin (one cell thick!) root-like structures that serve for attachment and water absorption. These are known as “rhizoids.” Most mosses have very little resistance to drying out, and because most of the mosses are confined to areas that are damp and sheltered, some kinds of rocks are suitable for them to live. Once the rock has the natural conditions for the moss to grow (water, acid or basic nutrients), the moss is going to attach to the rock by means of the rhizoids.
Moist and damp areas are breeding grounds for moss. Once these plants have taken up residence on certain objects and in certain areas, they have the ability to grow twice their size in short periods of time.
What does moss have to do with gold?
Walking around the rock formation at the bridge, I noticed moss covering the rock. I understand why it is growing there, but then I wondered . . . . when the water levels were higher, and the force was moving gold down the river, just maybe the moss was acting like little hands reaching out and grabbing the gold and hiding it.
Think about gold being heavier than water and hiding under boulders and rocks — why not in the moss? Soon I was scraping moss that had “dirt” between the “flower” and the “root” into a bucket.
Could there be gold in the dirt? Was this gold-bearing moss? Did I uncover Mossy Gold?
Once I scraped off about a half a bucket (wishing I could use a vacuum), I began the process of breaking up the moss to release the dirt from the leaves and roots. This takes a bit of time. If there is gold in the moss, it has to be worked out.
Have you ever used a magnet to get the magnetics out of your super concentrates only to see that it surrounds some gold particles and takes it out of the pan? YES!
Once I worked the dirt out of the moss, I started to pan the material. Working the “blonds” out there was in fact some black sand. I continued to pan it down . . . then it started to appear . . . GOLD!
I recovered my first “Mossy Gold” thanks to the Scott River. The rock formation is covered in moss. This past September, after a warm summer, and low water levels, there is plenty of moss to be worked.
That mossy gold has watched many people go by who never saw it looking at them. Sometimes you just need to step back and look at things as they once were, and how movement may relocate gold in different places . . . just waiting for you to come find it.
Hope to see you out In-The-Dirt and sharing stories around the campfire!
Dominic Ricci is the Executive Director of Operations for GPAA/LDMA and can be reached at 800-551-9707 extension 163 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org