Johnny Walker of Westminster looks and acts like you think a modern-day prospector would.
Wearing a weathered hat, and sprinkling expressions like “I'll be plum-tickled” in his dialogue, Walker is full of knowledge of the trade.
“I'm the …
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“I'm the fourth generation, and my grandson is quite the pan shaker himself,” he said with a grin, leaning over to pet his beagle, Hunter.
He added he can trace his family's arrival to Colorado from Missouri to 1870.
“This was all Spanish territory at that time,” he said. His ancestors traveled to the Rocky Mountain area to trap beavers and pan for gold.
Walker owns Clear Creek Prospecting Supply, 1006 W. 104th Ave. in Northglenn, and he teach others all about the hobby he has done his entire life.
“Sixty years worth of experience doing all this, what am I going to do, take it to the grave?” he said.
And there's lots of gold to be found in the Denver area.
“Every single drainage ditch in Denver has gold in it,” Walker said, adding more gold is showing up recently. “Since the flood last year, people walk in with two to three times than you would expect normal to be. It brought down a lot of gold; it washed down the hills.”
Mike Clark of Arvada stopped by the prospecting store to show Walker some of his findings from the past two weeks of panning. He estimated that between May and October, he found about $250 worth of gold.
Clark took up panning about 18 months ago after he retired as a welder and boiler maker with the railroad.
“It gave me an outlet to spend time outdoors — you'd be amazed at the wildlife you can see by the rivers,” he said. “And I found a hobby that paid me to do it.”
Many patrons, like Clark, return to the store with their haul to see if they found any goodies. According to Coloradoprospector.com, the state has more than 774 different types of minerals.
“Rock identification in Colorado is a little more than challenging,” Walker said.
Walker holds different classes, not just how to pan for gold, but how to identify rocks, too. On warmer days, he even takes his students to the South Platte River to pan. He likes to show people the proper way to prospect — which includes protecting native plants.
“We don't do it like in the 1800s when they ripped down mountains,” he said.
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