California Drought Creates New 'Gold Rush'

The severe drought in southern California has created lots of hardship, but it also has created a new California gold rush.

Rapidly receding water levels in rivers and creeks are exposing gold under rocks and in crevices that used to be inaccessible.

Golddiggers are turning out with pans and other equipment, often with entire families, hoping to strike it rich as long as they stay on public land and do not dig in someone else's claim.

Some of 1,427 Gold-Rush era U.S. gold coins are displayed at Professional Coin Grading Service in Santa Ana, California, Tuesday on Feb. 25, 2014. /AP Some of 1,427 Gold-Rush era U.S. gold coins are displayed at Professional Coin Grading Service in Santa Ana, California, Tuesday on Feb. 25, 2014. /AP

Most people are finding small nuggets and slivers that make good conversation pieces. A few lucky amateurs are digging up as much as $200 in gold.

The original California Gold Rush of 1849 is one of the great stories of U.S. history. The discovery of the precious metal in northern California brought hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to California with the dreams of great wealth.

Only a handful of people found enough gold to get rich, but the Gold Rush led to statehood for California and the growth of large cities, including San Francisco.

This time around, it was a true gold rush for one northern California couple right in their own backyard.

While walking their dog on their property, they stumbled on some decaying tin cans poking up from the ground under a tree. The cans held $10 million in rare gold coins from the late 1800s.

Coin experts said the money is in mint condition and dates between 1847 and 1894, in denominations of $5, $10 and $20. They say it is extremely rare to find such coins in perfect condition.

No one knows who buried the treasure, and the couple who found it wish to remain anonymous. Some of the coins go on public display this week.

VOA News / Feb. 27, 2014 08:09 KST