Over a century ago, the "American West" was flooded by gold prospectors and small mining companies as the prospect of striking it rich drove a boom in the search for gold, silver and other metals. As mining became a substantial industry and started applying large scale industrial technology, the prospectors continued their craft though with slowing popularity. Who wouldn't be enamored with the possibility of panning at their local mountain stream and coming across a nice nugget of gold? The increase in gold and silver prices in the 2000s may have re-ignited this American love affair and it still continues, as seen at this year's Gold and Treasure show held in Portland, Oregon. The outdoor aspect of panning for gold or running metal detectors over tracks of land are being used as an indirect benefit to get young people and families into the outdoors. The Oregonian reports:
"Prospectors young and old, new and seasoned, said they were enticed by the appeal of a wholesome activity that gets them into the great outdoors, even if just to get away from the routine of a sedentary life.
"It's an opportunity to get off the couch and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors," said Gary Upton, 73, of Portland, "None of us is interested in doing anything destructive in nature. We just want to get away from doing nothing."
"Taking a break from the free panning station crowded with children, parents and volunteers, Grendahl said the process takes "patience, just lots of patience."
Saturday saw about 1,800 paid attendees and Sunday about half that number, said Dave Chiara, a member of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, which presented the show with help from the Vancouver and Portland chapters.
"People like camping and this goes hand-in-hand with it," said Chiara, a retired TriMet employee who took up the hobby in 2003 and how serves as president of the Portland Gold Prospectors.
"People do it as a mini-vacation or sometimes as an outing with an organization for up to two weeks or just one day," Chiara said. "It's an activity where you have to work to achieve -- and the more you work, the better your results usually are."