The Civilian Conservation Corps built Rye Patch Dam in 1933.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built Rye Patch Dam in 1933.
It’s not quite Halloween – but Pershing County treasure hunters are in for an early treat. Maybe they’ll dig up some loot at the Children’s Metal Detector Hunt at Rye Patch State Park this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Jim Hadsall hopes so. He promotes metal detecting through his activities with the GPAA of Northern Nevada and Reno.

The Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA), headquartered in Temecula, Calif., helps people find gold on a recreational scale, for the fun of the hunt. They have chapters across the United States, including northern Nevada and Reno.

“Our event will take place at the River Bend camp, in the lower campground by the dam,” says a spokesperson. 
They’ll have some children’s metal detectors available. The event is free to kids 12 and under.

Hadsall and his fellow volunteers have seeded the earth with dozens of prize tokens. Soon, children will grab their metal detectors and search, listening for telltale beeps and hums from their machines. If successful, they can exchange the tokens for prizes. They’re also welcome to keep any toys or coins they find along the way.

“And there is always the possibility of finding buried treasure,” Hadsall adds. “Our group has seen it happen.  When a child finds something that has been buried and lost for years, their eyes light up. Their excitement level is off the charts.”

But the real prizes are less tangible than a nugget or two of metal.

“Metal detecting gets people outdoors and away from their cell phones, computers and social media,” says Hadsall. “The whole family can do it for very little initial investment – quality family time at its best.”

Majuba Mountain gold is like no other. Its crystalline formation, known as chevron gold, is found only at Rye Patch and a few surrounding gold districts. The nuggets lie close to the surface, another plus for hobbyists.

Metal detectors have their own lingo. They concede that Rye Patch has been hunted hard for decades. Large nuggets close to the surface may be a rarity. But smaller gold at deeper surfaces still set off bells and whistles on sensitive machinery. The area may never be completely worked out, they say.

Lake Lahontan, the ancient sea that once covered the Great Basin, gradually desiccated about 9,000 years ago. People lived and died along its shoreline for millennia, feasting on cutthroat trout. The trout fed on chub and sucker.

Later, pioneers on the California Trail grazed their cattle on a patch of wild ryegrass along the Humboldt River. The name Rye Patch stuck. Still later, in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Rye Patch Dam. They created a reservoir that stores water for today’s ranchers and farmers.

In 1938 Charles Dice, a Pershing County resident, found the Rye Patch placers. He recovered several hundred ounces from his claims.

Dice learned about the deposits from Charley Owens, another well-known Pershing County miner. Soon others swarmed to the district, including Leslie Alger, J.H. Konkel, L.D. Manning, W.S. Pseck, William Dingee and Archie Hawskins. Some of their descendants live in Lovelock today.

Hadsall invites families to consider taking up metal detecting.

“Just buy an entry-level metal detector, gather up the whole family and start detecting,” he says. “You will be amazed at what you find.”

On Saturday dozens of treasure hunters will try their luck, many for the first time. They’ll have expert guidance.

“We and the park rangers get satisfaction from helping the kids,” says Hadsall, “That’s our reward for our efforts.”