Oscar Espinoza, of Modesto, told Gold Prospecting Adventures that he found the 18-ounce nugget while searching Woods Creek, which is the watercourse running through the little gold rush berg of Jamestown.
"I just moved a big rock that seemed to have never been moved by anybody and there it was," Espinoza said.
Espinoza said that he saw the top of the nugget but did not realize how big it was because the rest of it was buried in the ground. He said he realized it was much bigger than he thought when the top slipped out of his fingers.
That is indeed a monster, and I wonder whether he really found it in Woods Creek, which was very heavily worked for decades, beginning in the gold rush. More likely, he is working some ancient deposit that is not near water, and found it, like this Australian did, with a metal detector. The first rule of gold mining is to never tell where you found the gold.
Another Jamestown story: Years ago, the local crew was digging a trench for a water pipe in one of Jamestown's streets. One of the workers was at the bottom of the trench, looked down and spotted a nugget right there on the surface. Naturally, work on the water main quickly came to a halt, while work on prospecting the site commenced. The city had a tough time getting anyone to concentrate on completing the actual water main work after that.
Another story: The counties in the gold country of California sometimes buy old mine tailings to use as roadbed. The rock is already crushed and piled up, it's cheap, and stands ready in a handy location to pick up and redistribute. However, sometimes the oldtimers let some nice gold slip through. Once, back in the 1990's, a crew was digging a post hole on a road near Coulterville, and one of the fist sized quartz rocks that came up had beautiful strings of free gold running through it. It was a specimen piece that normally will pull in a premium at the gold buyer. It's fate is unknown.
Another mine tailing story: Many years ago, probably in the 1930's or 40's, a worker was moving the tailings from an old mine with a bulldozer. As he worked, he spotted a piece of denim in the crushed rock. Stopping to investigate, he discovered that the denim was an old shred of someone's long ago overalls, and it was used to wrap up a large chunk of quartz with a rich vein of specimen ore in it. It was a case of high grading by a mine worker, probably by then long dead, who had noticed the pocket of gold blown out by the giant powder at the head of the tunnel. Overcome by greed, he'd wrapped it in the scrap of denim, and buried it in a waste rock car to secretly leave the mine and be dumped on the tailings pile. No doubt, he planned to come back at night, sift around until he found the denim package, and make off with it. Somehow, he never found it, and the treasure lay hidden until decades later, when our dozer driver spied it.
Another story: A person I used to work with spent part of her youth with a group of folk that would go down onto a fork of the American River and spend the summer prospecting with a small motor and dredge. At the end of one summer, they were packing up for the hike out, and one of the team was scouring the camp site to pick up any trash. He spotted what looked like a crushed beer can on the bank, but when he went to pull it out, it turned out to be a very large placer nugget, the size of "a hamburger," as it was described to me. I even was allowed to see a photo of one of them pretending to take a bite out of it. Unfortunately, one of the team members purloined the big rock and disappeared. However, this gal had large collections of placer nuggets, worth significant money, that I got a chance to see, so they did do pretty well mining those summers of days gone by, even if the one big nugget got away. I guess it's "easy come, easy go."