Tim Amavisca and his teenage daughter Hailey are spending some time in the Californian wilderness panning for gold.
"The game plan was, move a couple boulders, try to get to bedrock, spend time with the daughter and hopefully find some gold." he explains.
"With the drought going on, we're able to dig in more locations that wouldn't be accessible at later times" he says.
Leaning over a bed of rocks in waterproof overalls, Amavisca reaches into the river and scoops shovelfuls of dirt into a plastic bucket.
He and his daughter then pour the dirt into a sluice box that's used to trap gold flakes on textured rubber mats.
Another amateur prospector Rudy Price sources the dry rocks of the Bear River with a shovel and pan, surveying the riverbed for good spots for prospecting.
"I do understand that it's a dramatic impact on everybody during a drought that's this severe, but at the same token I'm taking advantage of it," says Price.
The drought is bringing in many first-time prospectors to Pioneer Mining Supplies in the Gold Rush-era town of Auburn.
The store sells shovels, buckets, pans, rubber boots, maps and mining books, as well as more advanced prospecting equipment such as sluice boxes and gold concentrators.
Frank Sullivan, who opened the mining store nearly 40 years ago, says business has increased by 20 to 25 percent because of the drought.
"Oh yeah, it's been good for business. I do live in the mountains so I don't like to see the drought. But the rivers being low makes for business being good. A lot of people's having fun. I've seen a lot of new gold coming through the door."
Sullivan is concerned about the lack of rain because he lives in the mountains and worries about forest fires.
With good jobs in short supply and gold selling for more than $1,300 an ounce, many local residents are prospecting to supplement their incomes
Sullivan sold four-foot metal sluice box to amateur prospector Trevor Whitehead and his friend.
"It's more of a hobby, but obviously if we hit a nice pocket, then yeah, I would love to make some money," says Whitehead.
He says water levels at the North Fork of the American River are about two feet below normal, which has opened up new areas for gold panning.
One of the worst droughts in California history has prompted the state and federal governments to severely cut water supplies to farms and cities.
It's also left rivers and streams with dangerously low water levels, putting fish and wildlife at risk, as Jeff Kitchen, a hydrologist with the USGS California Water Science Center explains.
"The stream flow in many of our rivers is probably about 10 percent or less of what we would normally expect this time of year. So there's a very significant, noticeable drop in what we would normally see."
But for now gold diggers are making the most of the unusually warm, dry winter.
Amavisca, who recently left the military, has been prospecting several times a week this winter, a season when it's usually raining and river levels are too high for gold panning.
"If you see a good-sized flake, that's when you get excited," says Amavisca, who lives in Sacramento, as he looked for gold in one of the sluice box trays.
The father daughter team then proudly showed of vial containing flakes of gold, a good day's work prospecting.
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