There's a few reasons to belong to a prospecting club, but lack of available mining claims isn't one of them.
For nearly 10 years we've been mapping out the existing, and historical mining claims throughout the west. What we've learned is there's about 5x as many mining claims abandoned as there are active. In other words if a county has say 100 locations with mining claims, then there will also be about 500 locations which had mining claims at one time, but don't currently have any active claims in the quarter section, or 640 acres.
Want some free information? Here's Monterey county.
Monterey county is a good example of what we see when we plot mining claims. You can look at the actual map by clicking Monterey County Map
OK, if you didn't look at the actual map, then the rest of this discussion isn't going to mean a whole lot to you. The black dots represent active mining claims - there's about 66 active claims in Monterey county. The purple dots are areas which once had a mining claim, but don't currently have any active claims. There's about 323 areas which once had claims, but now don't so that works out to just about 5 to 1. We've seen this pretty much play out across the motherlode, but no so much in Nevada. The red diamonds are the claims which were forfeited last year.
Nevada has big mining companies. There are 10 companies which own at least 1,000 mining claims each. When you plot these claims on a map, which we have, you can easily see the trends they're working. When you get away from the big comapny areas, and more into the small miner areas, you find about the same ratio of abandoned to active.
If you looked at the map, or you're going to look at the map, something should become obvious to you. There's a whole lot of areas where you could go stake a claim where no one currently has a claim, these areas are represented by the purple dots.
Using the map you find those areas which used to have a lot of mining activity and plan a trip to do a little more exploring.
There is both lode and placer deposits in Monterey county. Currently most of the placer claims are located on the south fork of the Big Sur river. Previously there was a fair amount of activity further south in the Willow and Alder Creek areas. Just about all the lode mines are concentrated in the Willow / Alder creek area. That area isn't too bad for access, but it's probably not real good for gold. We've sampled both those creeks and not found much. You could probably run a 2.5" inch dredge in there, but not much bigger.
There used to be quite a bit of lode mining in that area and there's still some pretty well preserved lode mines in there with some extensive works which could be claimed. It's been a number of years since we've been in there but when we last checked out some lode mines they were pretty solid.
Monterey county is not really well known for gold, but if it's close to your home and you want to do a little prospecting the areas shown on the map would be worth checking out. Maybe run the detector over some tailing piles. A lot of the area down in the Big Sur country is designated wilderness, and some of these mining areas may not be open to new location.
If you're feeling adventurous there is the legend of the Lost Ventana Mine which is supposed to be somewhere in the Santa Lucia mountains in the Big Sur area. Just be aware that's some really rugged country which is almost solid poison oak. If you get off the trail, which is where a lost mine would be, it's going to be tough sledding. Information on the Lost Ventana mine is hard to find on the internet, there's a book you can buy on Monterey County treasure which gives you more information, but you'll have to look that up on Amazon. According to the book there was a trail which led over the mountains to the old Camino Real road which connected the Spanish missions in the valley. The Spanish, using Indian slave labor, ran the mine and packed the gold across the mountains. According to legend the Indians refused to work and the Spaniards shot a few and threw the bodies in a cave along the trail. I actually found that cave, and the supposed trail, but after that it was pretty rough country and I gave up on the search for the Lost Ventana mine.
If you want to read an article from a guy who's family mined in that area you can Read more here
The Ventana and Silver Peak wilderness areas cover part of the old mining areas. However, it appears some of the old district is still open for claiming. Do your homework.
We've got about the same level of mapping for most California counties. Almost every county has an enormous amount of area available for claiming. Not all the gold is in the well beaten areas. There's still a lot of areas where people found gold, then for whatever reason let the claim go. Sometimes it's because people die and their family has no idea what to do with a mining claim.
There's still plenty of gold, plenty of opportunity, and plenty of areas to prospect. If you want a mining claim in a specific area you can write to us, claims research is what we do. We're sure we can find the right claim, in the right place, for you.