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Wednesday, March 29 2023

Did you know that “bad” weather can be really GOOD for gold prospectors? Of course no one ever hopes that Mother Nature causes catastrophic loss of life and property, but the ups and downs of weather events in any gold-bearing area are something to take advantage of. Nature can help all of us in our quest for the shiny stuff— especially in light of recent atmospheric rivers causing flooding and lots of snow in California, eastern Idaho, northeast Utah, northwest Colorado, the Cacade Ranges, portions of the northern and central Rockies, and portions of Arizona and Nevada.

atmospheric riverAtmospheric rivers are large, narrow sections of the earth's atmosphere that carry moisture from the earth's tropics near the equator to the poles. On average, the earth has four to five active atmospheric rivers at any time. A vast majority of atmospheric rivers happen in the fall and winter. The northern Pacific Coast receives the bulk of activity in the fall, and the California coast receives more in the winter. Since December 2022, the U.S. West has been slammed with back-to-back-to-back atmospheric rivers. These events provide as much as half of the region’s annual precipitation, bringing much-needed water to parched lands and adding to the snowpack in the high mountains. This year’s storms have done a lot to restore the landscape drought and is “greening up” the landscape and refilling many smaller reservoirs.

How does this help you get more gold? Primarily, multiple weather events cause large amounts of gold to move and replenish areas that already have been worked. And even when the atmospheric rivers die down, the higher than normal snowpack will cause water levels in rivers to flow well into the summer instead of drying up in late spring.  Higher water levels extend your mining season, and allow you to run high-production equipment such as highbankers and power sluices. Miners can also work stream bank deposits once the water recedes back to normal flows.

Typical winter storms that regularly occur in gold-bearing areas usually do not create enough havoc to force substantial amounts of "new" gold into movement. However, when Mother Nature really goes to work as we’ve seen lately, a great deal of gold can be set free, creating a bonanza for gold hunters. Gold veins that have been hidden for decades suddenly can be exposed. Floods can also sweep gold out of abandoned mines and wash it downriver. Known gold digs can be washed out, trees uprooted, and the landscape eroded— all pluses for prospectors! When tons of rock, cobble, and boulders are swept downstream along bedrock during a huge storm, quite a bit of destruction occurs. Plants, weeds, and trees that normally grow along the river and gravel bars are washed away. And when a major storm or flood tears up large portions of a streambed, a fair amount of this newly-released gold, because of its weight, will be deposited along the riverbed and settle into cracks and crevices (hand dredges are an ideal tool in this situation).   

Stream bed layers caused by several floods over time are referred to as “flood layers.” Flood layers are usually a different color, consistency and hardness from the other layers of material within the streambed, making them easy to recognize. Larger, heavier pieces of gold will work their way down toward the bottom of a flood layer as they are washed downstream. The smallest and lightest flakes of gold might not work their way down through a flooding layer at all, but might remain dispersed within the material. Of course not all flood layers contain gold in large quantities, but it’s a good place to start. Some of the best areas to look for flood gold are where the stream or river widens out, or levels out, or changes direction. These areas can allow concentrations of gold to collect either on bedrock or in the contact zones between layers. Another place that tends to collect gold are gravel bars, especially the ones located towards the inside of bends in a waterway.

Even if you’re waiting for the weather to settle down and warm up and are not quite ready to start prospecting just yet, get out and keep an eye on the water flow so you can try to figure out where the gold actually drops out. Watch the flow lines around boulders and trees. Watch where the flows slow down. The rule of thumb — gold is in the inside bend where water is slowest — is a rule of thumb, but not always 100% accurate. Look for prospecting opportunities in the flow such as eddies, slack water drop zones and abrupt changes in direction caused by floodwaters. Look above current flows at the high-water mark because debris and bank outcroppings can create diversions in stream flows.  Also notice flattened brush or grass and new boulder or cobble deposits. Especially if you’ve had minor gold recovery success in these areas in the past, you could really make out this year and beyond as gold is redistributed.

The 2023 gold mining season promises to be one of the best for small scale miners in many areas— especially California. Don’t miss your chance to experience a banner mining year in the Golden State and other western states. Get out there and get your share of the gold!

Posted by: Denise AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, February 24 2023

Whether it’s mining for gold, silver, lead, zinc or other precious metals, it’s always fun to follow in the historic footsteps of the old timeQueen Mine Bisbee Arizona miners. To do exactly that and learn how copper and other ore was first mined in Bisbee, Arizona, take the underground Queen Mine tour. Outfitted with hard hat, miner’s headlamp and a neon vest, visitors ride 1,500 feet into the mine and learn about equipment, techniques, dangers and a century worth of history. Tour guides are actual retired miners, so you know you’ll get the real highlights of working underground.  You’ll learn about blasting with dynamite, the role of mules, and even how miners went to the bathroom while working in the mines!

Electricity changed the world from a predominantly rural society to the industrial age, and copper wire was needed to carry that electricity— and lots of it. Thanks to the insatiable demand for electricity, Bisbee was one of the greatest copper camps in the world. In nearly 100 years of continuous production (late 1880s until the mine closed in 1975), the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 prices). This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 pounds of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 pounds of lead and 371,945,900  pounds of zinc.

The story of Bisbee mining began in the late 1870s when Lt. Dunn, in charge of a cavalry detail from the frontier Army post of Fort Queen Mine Bisbee ArizonaHuachuca, was on a scouting mission against the Apache Indians. Lt. Dunn and his men camped on a spot that is now occupied by Old Bisbee, only several hundred yards from the beginning of today’s mine tour. On a walk after dinner, Lt. Dunn picked up an interesting rock. He found a few more pieces along the slope of the south wall of the canyon. Unable to do anything about it because of military duties, Dunn took a prospector by the name of George Warren into his confidence and struck up a deal by which Warren would locate claims and work the property with Dunn as a partner. But on his way to the site, prospector Warren stopped to  enjoy his favorite pastime—drinking whiskey with friends. Warren soon had new partners and staked a group of claims with them, leaving Dunn completely out of the deal.

Copper production began on a limited basis around 1880. At the time, those who toiled in subterranean tunnels beneath the Mule Mountains were mostly immigrant miners from Europe.  Individuals and then companies with capital gradually became involved and took over individual claims and brought them into production. Phelps Dodge Corporation, through a subsidiary the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, became the dominant force and eventually the sole operator of the mining district. Building on its base in Bisbee, Phelps Dodge had long been one of the largest copper producers in the United States. Although mining was closed in 1975, the Queen Mine Tour was officially opened in 1976 to keep the story of mining alive in Bisbee. Since then, millions of visitors from around the world have enjoyed the trip into the mountain on the underground mine tour train.

Hour long tours depart each day, seven days a week, from the Queen Mine Tour Building, located immediately south of Old Bisbee’s business district, off the U.S. 80 interchange. Reservations are required for underground tours. Closed toed and low heel shoes are mandatory.  For information, reservations, and group rates call 866-432-2071 or visit Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before tour time. Interesting mineral displays, gift shop, and Bisbee Visitor Center are also found in the tour building.

Posted by: Denise AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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