Prospector in Sierra Foothills Finds $70,000 Gold Nugget

Who says there ain’t still gold in them hills? During the 1850s , the foothills that spill from the Sierra Nevada mountains in what is today Tuolumne County became the epicenter of the California gold rush. Now more than 160 years later and a man just pulled a $70,000 gold nugget out of a creek there.

Oscar Espinoza did not want to reveal exactly where he found the nugget or even his first name when he spoke with Fox News in Sacramento, even though he posted publicly about the find on social media. He didn’t even show them the actual nugget. But he did show the palm-sized rock to local Gold Prospecting Adventures, which posted it on their Facebook page and confirmed the suspected value.

The nugget reportedly weighs 559 grams, which buyers have been known to value at around $70,000 because it was found unaltered in nature. He told the news station he had been unemployed and searching frequently for gold with his dog. Before his big find, he said he had been making enough from gold prospecting to just get by. 

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“When I grabbed it,my hand kind of slipped off of it, that’s when I realized it was a lot bigger than a little nugget,” Espinoza said. “It took awhile to sink in that it was reality because usually not every day you see something like that.”

Even though he came up with such a huge score, he said he will continue looking for more gold. But this just might be the find of a lifetime. 

In the years following the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills in 1848, Tuolumne County grew quickly in population with miners camps sprouting up along every creek. An influx of foreign workers from China and Mexico created hostilities and the region quickly became known as a center of crime and lawlessness.

In the absence of law enforcement, vigilante groups handled their own form of law and justice, often hanging suspected criminals without legal trials. By 1953, the number of gold seekers surpassed a quarter million but the age of solo mining was over as operations turned to sluicing devices and diverting waterways. 

Hard to imagine that so many years later such a massive gold nugget was left behind.