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NorCal man swept away while panning for gold

After a search involving four law enforcement agencies, first responders found the man with non-life-threatening injuries.

WEST POINT, Calif. — A Northern California man was swept away by the snowmelt-fueled current of the Mokelumne River while panning for gold, according to officials with the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office's search and rescue team began looking for a man who went missing while panning for gold along the North Fork of the Mokelumne River near the community of West Point around 5 p.m. Monday.

The river acts as a border between Calaveras and Amador Counties, part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range dubbed "The Mother Lode" due to its instrumental role and saturation of gold during the Gold Rush of 1849.

The river was experiencing fast flows at the time due to rain runoff and a historic snowmelt.

With nightfall quickly approaching, Calaveras County officials requested help from the Amador County Sheriff's Office, CalFire and air resources from both the California Highway Patrol and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office.

An Amador County deputy saw a person on the Calaveras County side of the river and once a Stanislaus Sheriff helicopter got to the area, deputies found the missing person about 4 to 5 miles downstream from his last known location.

While the person was found, it was still an uphill battle for first responders who reported the missing man was 85 feet up a steep, loose slope directly over the river.

Deputies used a raft to cross the river, set up a rope system, and got to the man who they said was extremely cold and suffering from non-life-threatening injuries.

According to river flow discharge data from the California Data Exchange Center, the river was flowing at nearly 2,250 cubic feet per second in the area around the time of the search.

One cubic foot is equal to about 7.5 gallons, according to the United States Geological Survey.

In a Facebook post, the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office offered a piece of golden advice: do not enter rivers and streams that are experiencing high flow rates.

"The level of risk involved with navigating the engorged river and high-angle rope rescue was mitigated by the high level of training, experience, and dedication to helping a person in distress by all who participated in the search," the Facebook post said. "Your lack of caution could cost you more than a cold night on the side of a cliff. It could cost you your life."

Watch more Calaveras County stories from ABC10: Calaveras County salon stays open amid rare blizzard to help stranded commuters

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