I’m pleased to announce that our very first Rocky Mountain Prospector of the month is Randy Witham! I’ve had the pleasure of getting to prospect with Randy and also have him as a mentor. A very large portion of what I know about prospecting and mining, I’ve learned from Randy. Randy is a very prominent figure in the Colorado prospecting and mining community. I couldn’t think of a better, more deserving prospector of the month than Randy and here shortly you’ll see why.
Below is a Q&A from an interview between Randy and I:
Question: Tell me a little bit about your self, what you used to do, and what you do now. How long have you been Gold Prospecting for and what got you into the sport?
Answer: I am a retired 26 year USAF officer and pilot, traveled all over the world, living the dream now in High Colorado. Got into gold prospecting 12 years ago. Went on a family vacation to the North Georgia hills, stopped at the Crisson Gold Mine in Dahlonega, Georgia, to pan for gold and have the kids wash some gem buckets. We all had great fun. Two weeks later I went as a guest on a GPAA common dig for a weekend to N. Carolina. Got to pan, sluice, high bank and run a 5 inch Proline suction dredge for several hours too. Loved it all. I got Gold fever, have been hooked ever since.
Question: What advice would you give to your fellow prospectors about gold prospecting as a whole?
Answer: As a whole, I’d say simply have realistic expectations about prospecting. It’s as much, if not more, the hunt, finding some or any “wild” gold all on your own. Few get a lot, few even pay for their gas, equipment. I approach the challenge by saying to myself “if you find even one speck, you didn’t get skunked, were a success.” Lots of expensive equipment is no guarantee of gold. Effort and following the basics are more important. Go to known gold areas, known gold districts. The old timers never got it all!
Question: Tell me about your efforts in helping preserve our sport of recreational gold prospecting?
Answer: I’ve been a champion for fair, equal and open access to our public lands ever since I became a gold prospector. After retiring and moving to Colorado full-time first I fought the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) to keep all us GPAA members from paying $7 a day/$70 a year fees for parking at the Railroad Bridge Campground area near Buena Vista,Colorado just to access our claims. No parking downriver and few pullouts upriver. Our GPAA claims were established on BLM land many years prior to them wanting to build a campground. The agreement in about 1995 stipulated that IF GPAA members used the campground/facilities properly, we’d agree to pay their fees. But, if we simply wanted to park across CR 371 in an open dirt lot, outside the campground, walk to our claims, no fee was required. It was all good until CPW “annexed” that parking lot and started charging any/all, including us GPAA members to pay for parking, or risk a big parking ticket. I got BLM involved who told CPW they legally couldn’t charge us to access our federal mining claims on federal land, due to access rights. CPW backed off, took down their parking fee sign. But, the following year CPW found the agreement letter in a filing cabinet and misinterpreted Paragraph 4, saying we’d agree to pay. But, that was predicated on having somewhere to park. I tried to engage GPAA leadership, but they refused to help. So, I dropped my GPAA membership.
Also, I’ve been fighting the BLM for 4+ years to keep Cache Creek, Colorado open to recreational gold prospecting. Purchased in 2000 with public funds, BLM is determined to make the biggest, longest running hydraulic gold mine property in Colorado state history into a nature preserve, despite the historic use of the land, the 70+ foot high cliffs, the endless water ditches, boulder piles, rock piles, mining scars, etc. I’ve engaged with US Senator Gardner & US Congressman Lamborn, my state representative, our 3 county commissioners, the mayors of Leadville, Buena Vista & Salida, many in-state clubs and such all trying to drum up political support to push back on BLM and their new supplementary rules, and plan to eventually shut us recreational prospectors down, run us off our public land. Ive been successful in delaying BLM’s new rules for 3 years now. However, BLM’s still implementing half year closures to access, limiting our access to a small portion of the 2,161 acre property. With BLM being a federal level agency, we need more folks to call/e-mail/write Senator Gardner & Congressman Lamborn and complain, ask for their help to push back on BLM.
Question: Whats your biggest clean up ever? Where and with what kind of gear?
Answer: My biggest cleanup was 8.23 grams of super fine flood gold suction dredged from the Arkansas River here near Buena Vista, on a good friend’s claim. That was a little over 5 hours of nozzle time and we averaged a good 1.41 grams an hour. I had the claim owner run my dredge next and we got 6.86 grams more for him over a couple days.
Question: What services or products are you currently offering this year?
Answer: I sell Colorado concentrates for panning on my Gold Adventures web site. I have 3 standard bags – a 1 gram gold Easy pan bag, a 1 gram gold Expert panner bag and a 1+ grams gold standard bag for the average panning skill level:
I give free advice on my website Forum: http://c17a.forumotion.com/c1-gold-adventures-forums
I have well over 300 short gold prospecting videos on my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/C0017A/videos?disable_polymer=1
Question: If you could choose a state or town in the Rocky Mountains/U.S. to prospect for gold, where would it be?
Answer: I mostly prefer prospecting in the Mother Lode region/Sierra Nevada range of California, as the honest chance for pickers & nuggets is real, even today. Here in Colorado, I like to stay close to home, gold prospect here in the Arkansas River Valley. So much old time gold and silver mining history in this area.
Question: What is your favorite and most used piece of equipment for Gold Prospecting?
Answer: Without a doubt, my most favorite piece of equipment is my highly modified Keene ultra mini 4-inch suction dredge. My most used piece of equipment is my 4 foot long, green molded plastic Le Trap sluice. The Le Trap is unmatched for any water speed/volume and handles black sand and fine to super fine gold better than anything else I’ve seen, used, owned in 12 years.
Final thoughts from Randy:
Honored to be your Prospector of the Month! Always glad to give free advice and help others become better and more successful gold prospectors, whether it’s via my Gold Adventures web site Forum, comments on all my YouTube prospecting videos, e-mails direct or to me at my web site contact information. I see and learn a lot even today, even after 12 years. Happy to stop out in the hills, talk, give the best advice or recommendations I can.
Randy has more experience and knowledge about Gold Prospecting than a lot of us combined. He is always willing to help out a fellow prospector and has done so much to preserve recreational gold prospecting in the State of Colorado. Randy always plays by the rules and makes sure people know what the rules are so they can to. Randy is the epitome of what it means to be a Rocky Mountain Prospector and has far exceeded the criteria for being Prospector of the Month.
If you feel like you have what it takes to be featured as Rocky Mountain Prospector of the Month email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you’re about!