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Worth its weight in gold

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by MICHAEL DASHIELL
Sequim Gazette

There’s gold in these creeks.

 

Sure, they only may be flecks, but modern-day prospectors who live on or near the Olympic Peninsula know that a little bit of sifting through the shallow creek beds can reveal bits of the precious metal.

 

Don Kirst and his property near Siebert Creek played host to a meeting of the Western Washington chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America last weekend.

 

Kirst is a retired Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy whose interest in mining and prospecting run deep: his grandfather was a prospector.

 

Now he’s part of the Western Washington chapter of the GPAA, a nonprofit organization open to all ages that was started in 2007 to “promote small scale prospecting, to enhance our mining skills, raise the level of public awareness and knowledge about gold prospecting and mineral resources.”

 

On this Saturday afternoon, Kirst ambles down toward Siebert Creek, saying that this is as good a time as any to be panning for gold. The area saw as many as five major floods in the past year, turning up the creek beds and upturning all sorts of rocks and stones. A short walk along the creek toward the south, small and medium sized boulders lie strewn along the creek.

 

Further downstream, a small group of prospectors uses a variety of implements in their searches. Some use gas-powered dredges  — “They can’t be used within 200 feet of one another,” Kirst notes — while others have conveyor-like electric dredges and others, the simple sifting pan.

 

The weekend’s outing brought Port Orchard’s Ron Johnson to the Sequim-area creek for the first time, along with Roger Saari and his sons from Port Angeles. This weekend saw more than three dozen chapter members and guests.

 

“We have as many as 70 (at these weekend outings),” Kirst says. “We don’t charge anything, and most are friends.”

 

The national group has mining claims all across the states, and the local group has several on the peninsula. Kirst had a claim at Jimmy Come Lately Creek that he donated to the association. Not long after buying the property adjacent to Siebert Creek, he discovered flecks of gold just below the gurgling waters.

 

“No nuggets in these creeks that I’ve ever found,” he says. “No one here gets rich, but they do okay.”

Bob Nelson of Port Orchard served as the weekend’s camp director. He said the Western Washington chapter of GPAA has a monthly regular meeting (see box) and a monthly outing during prospecting season, which runs April through October.

 

“Every time it’s somewhere different,” Nelson says.

 

“The dredge season is pretty short,” he says, noting that most local creeks are open mid-July through the end of September.

 

State rules govern prospecting — when and where folks can pan or dig for rare minerals. But that doesn’t seem to deter the local chapter members, who now boast 91 followers on Facebook and 100-plus regular members.

 

“Far as I can see,” Nelson says, relaxing with a dozen or outing participants a stone’s throw from Siebert Creek, “everyone’s having a good time.”

 

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

 

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