Located on U.S. 2 in Gold Bar, the showroom at Prospectors Plus is filled with treasures. From the azure-tinted Ellensburg Blue agates to the richly-hued red garnets to the glittering Liberty gold, there is a little bit of everything.
Owned by fifth-generation gold prospector Chris Brawn and his wife, Michele, Prospectors Plus provides customers with family friendly activities filled with the intrigue of a real treasure hunt.
The shop features a broad assortment of proprietary gold prospecting equipment, including Chris' custom gold pan, known as the Brawn Two-in-One. A relatively inexpensive hobby to get into, basic gold prospecting gear can be purchased for around $30.
Hoping to facilitate even more outdoor recreational activities, Chris and Michele Brawn have recently expanded their inventory to include fishing gear and tackle.
Official members of Prospectors Plus gain unrestricted access to any of the gold and gem claims owned by Prospectors Plus. The $70 annual membership includes free camping, access to quality equipment, the opportunity to pan with other gold prospecting enthusiasts, a 10-percent discount on all in-store and online products and a standing invitation to participate in Prospectors Plus outings.
"This is about getting families off the couch and out in the creeks together,GÇ¥ Chris said.
"If they come to the outings, they actually learn a lot,GÇ¥ Michele added. "And at most of the outings we have a barbecue potluck.GÇ¥
Families not ready to commit to a membership are welcome to stop by the store to learn more about gold prospecting. Customers can finesse their panning skills by taking gold-panning classes or by using the on-site panning apparatus to get a feel for the basics.
As working minors, the Brawns are constantly reinvesting in their current claims and seeking new ones. Gold and gem prospectors purchase the mineral rights on forest service land, which earns them the exclusive right to mine on that land.
"You don't own the land; you don't own the trees,GÇ¥ Chris said. "You claim the minerals on it, and that's what you get to prospect.GÇ¥
The Brawns own claims in Sultan, Blewett Pass, Peshastin, Skykomish, Cle Elum and Liberty. Located east of Cle Elum, Chris Brawn's family has been mining in Liberty since 1868. Prospectors Plus members are able to visit any of the Prospectors Plus claims with family and friends. The Brawns' newest claim is in Peshastin, east of Leavenworth. Added to the docket in May, the claim features camping and creek access.
And gold is not the only mineral to be found on Prospectors Plus claims.
"We have lots of members of our club that could care less about gold,GÇ¥ Chris said. "They go out for hunting rocks or Ellensburg Blues or jade or garnets. We have some ladies that are just into garnets; that's all they want. It's really neat.GÇ¥
Ellensburg Blue agates are exceptionally rare, and Washington is the only place in the world where they can be found.
"They are found at our Liberty claim,GÇ¥ Michele said, pointing at a palm-sized vivid blue stone. "I found that one in Williams Creek right there in the campground.GÇ¥
Michele's find was a remarkable one, and definitely not typical. It was a special moment, the Brawns recalled; an experience that every miner hopes to have at some point.
One of the advantages of Prospectors Plus membership is having experts like the Brawns available to help novice prospectors navigate the tricks of the trade. Every prospector must become familiar with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Gold and Fish pamphlet; the officials rules and regulations for prospecting in the state of Washington. Updated annually, this year's guide includes some changes.
"They've opened it up for gas motors year round,GÇ¥ Chris said. "So that's a good thing.GÇ¥
They've also extended some dredge seasons on certain rivers, he said.
Mining has been challenging in some areas this year due to the local rivers being so low. Prospecting methods like dredging and sluicing require the rivers and creeks to be at a certain level. But that doesn't mean there isn't gold to be found, Chris said.-á -á
"People are doing a lot of other stuff to find gold because the water's so low,GÇ¥ Chris said. "So they're either high-banking or doing metal detecting.GÇ¥
There are many things to be mindful of when small-scale mineral prospecting, such as whether you're in a national forest, a watershed or other environmentally protected area, what type of wildlife may be present and prospecting on somebody else's claim, which is known as "claim jumpingGÇ¥ and can be a serious offense.
Prospectors Plus is located at 121 Croft Ave. (U.S. 2) in Gold Bar. For more information on becoming a member, stop by the store or visit www.prospectorsplus.com. To review the 2015 Gold and Fish pamphlet, visit wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01729/wdfw01729.pdf.-áhttp://www.monroemonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/0825-Prospectors-Plus-3.jpg
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