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 Nuggets of News Blog 

Monday, July 30 2018

Places where gold naturally concentrates in an environment of streams and drainages are kgold paystreaknown as paystreaks. No matter if you are panning, sluicing, dry washing, or metal detecting, in many ways your success at gold prospecting comes down to locating these elusive natural pay streak concentrations. Keep in mind that most gold paystreak formations occur during times of flooding and that many factors affect how gold gets deposited. Perhaps the biggest factor is that gold is dense and is more than 19 times heavier than water. The denser an object, the more easily it will resist the flow of moving water. That means it takes a very strong and fast moving water flow to move along a nugget the size of a pea.

When deciding where to start sampling, it’s helpful if you think of a river or stream as a sluice box. Waterways obviously don’t have aluminum riffles and matting, however, they do have natural gold traps that do the same thing that a sluice will do— allow gold to settle out of gravels and be caught while the bulk of the sands continue downstream. Heavy material such as gold doesn’t get spread along evenly, it is most likely caught in certain areas. The downstream parts of inside bends in a stream are favorable places to look for pay streaks. Just how good depends on how sharp the bend in the stream actually is. Usually the sharper the bend, the better the pay streak. If a tributary is known to have coarse gold, look at the intersection of the tributary and the main channel.

Behind an obstruction (large boulder, an island, or an outcrop of bedrock) is another good place to look for a pay streak.  Boulders and other obstructions can create turbulence where ordinarily smooth flowing water turns into fast flowing whitewater. It is between the fast white water and the quiet dark water that gold drops out. The coarsest gold tends to be found on the outer parts of the pay streak, and the finer-sized gold is on the inner part of the pay streak. When you are working, if it seems as if the streak is petering out as you go toward the middle of the water flow because you are finding little gold, this region of the pay streak is often where the biggest number of nuggets are most likely to occur.

Once you know where paystreaks form, you might wonder if they are more likely found on bedrock or in gravels. They are nearly always found on bedrock or some sort of false bedrock. False bedrock might include caliche, a clay layer, or just a well-packed hard pan. You may just get lucky and hit something great with your first shovel of dirt, but more likely you’ll need to test a few different places. Even very experienced prospectors need to keep testing to find those hotspots and paystreaks. Good luck and keep sampling!

Posted by: Denise AT 10:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 06 2018

Historically, California has been known as the land of the big nuggets. After the Gold Rush began in 1849, gold nuggetsome of the biggest nuggets were discovered there because so many more people were out looking. For example, in 1854, miners working underground in the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in Calaveras County pulled out a 195-pound mass of gold. It was 15 inches wide and four inches thick!  In 1859, a gigantic nugget was taken from ancient Tertiary river gravels on the slopes of Sawmill Peak near the West Branch of the Feather River and the small community of Dogtown. That nugget weighed 54 troy pounds. The spot where it was discovered was a hydraulic mine on the Willard claim that had a history of producing large nuggets in the past, including a 96-ounce nugget.

Plenty of stories abound from California, but plenty of big gold has come from other states as well. Colorado's biggest nugget weighed in at 156 ounces (13 troy pounds). It came from the Gold Flake mine located on Farmcomb Hill in Summit County, Colorado in 1877.  It's easy to see why Montana's nickname is the "Treasure State" since it has produced a few big nuggets, too. One weighed 53 ounces and was displayed at the Paris World Expoition of 1889. The largest in Montana was over 170 ounces and was dug at a depth of 12 feet in Snow Shoe Gulch on the Little Blackfoot River. Nevada's largest nugget was taken from the diggings of the Osceola District in 1878. It weighed 24 pounds (but eight pounds of that was quartz). The old Spanish miners found plenty of big gold in New Mexico, including one nugget in the late 1890s that weighed over 65 ounces.

buy gold nuggetsUnlike many Western states, the largest nugget in Alaska was found rather recently. In 1998, the Alaska Centennial Nugget, weighing 294 ounces, was mined along Swift Creek near the town of Ruby. This area is well known for its past production of large nuggets. A big nugget was also found in Anvil Creek near Nome which weighed 182 ounces.

North Carolina's claim to fame is the Reed Gold Mine located in Cabarrus County. It was the site of the first documented discovery of gold in 1799. For years, that 17 pound nugget was used as a doorstop because no one recognized what it was! At the time, it was worth roughly $4,000 (when the price of gold was $20.67 for an ounce). The Reed Mine actually produced a lot of big gold, including some weighing 28 pounds, 17 pounds, 16 pounds, and 13 pounds. Two different nuggets came from this area that weighed eight pounds each and another two nuggets were nine pounds each. Several more nuggets have been unearthed that weighed five pounds and less.

These examples of where large nuggets have been found are by no means exhaustive. A Google search will provide lots of fun stories about past and present finds across the United States. But no matter who has found what, the big question remains: Where do you hunt for big gold these days? Generally, big nuggets occur in places where rich gold-bearing fluids flow through the same pathways for a long period of time, allowing continued deposition of golgold nuggets for saled that lead to the formation of large pieces. These bigger pieces form where a change in geology allows a gold-bearing waterway to efficiently drop gold all in the same place. The same type of geology that produces rich pockets of ore with lots of visible gold are often the same areas where big nuggets are found. The really big nuggets are parts of pockets that have so much gold that they hold together as a single piece even after tumbling around in a stream.

The simple answer to where to hunt for big nuggets is to hunt where they have been found in the past. Past finds of big gold indicates these locations have the right geology for their formation. Big nuggets in a stream environment will work their way to bedrock very fast and stay put. They will often be lodged in deep crevices. Keep in mind that big nuggets are also worth more than their actual metal value. The fact they are so rare adds to their value. If you haven't found your big gold yet, keep looking! And if you can't wait to own your own shiny stuff, buy gold nuggets here.

Nugget of News Blog

Posted by: Denise AT 09:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 29 2017

Given a choice, most miners prefer using water to wash and run material, but in some dry, remote areas that  drwasheris just not feasible. If you focus on the natural conditions that exist in desert regions and work with them, you can maximize fine gold recovery. The number one rule is that the drier the soil, the better. Damp soil conditions are very much a hindrance for drywashers. Beyond that, learning the different soil types you may encounter in the desert and how to deal with them can increase your gold recovery.

Clay is generally known as a great gold robber, making clay-bound gravels the biggest difficulty to overcome. In most of the placers directly derived from weathering lode deposits, the placers are in ravines, gullies and hillsides with sometimes very little gravels and mostly decomposed fragment of rock and fine silt from the decomposing host rock. Host rock containing a lot of feldspars are most problematic. As feldspar breaks down, it creates some difficult clays and silts that bind fine gold to small rocks and sand with the clay and silt particles forming larger clods.

Loamy or sandy conditions are much easier to process with a drywasher than clay-bound material due to the absence of clods and clumps. But if dirt clods are giving you grief, break them down with a large hammer on a canvas tarp, or use a mortar and pestle (dolly pot).

Once you are set up to run material, process in short runs before cleaning out the riffle tray (perhaps after every three 5-gallon buckets). Frequent clean ups minimize the amount of fine gold that may creep or walk down the riffle tray with the tailings. This method uses your dry washer as a form of a classifier to screen off larger material while getting rid of much of the fine silt and lighter weight material.

Re-running tailings can aid in the recovery of lost gold— especially small gold dust and flakes. The second pass through is usually much quicker than the first time because the material has already been classified. With some placers, especially flat, fine gold, rerunning material can be very lucrative. In places where gold is more coarse and angular, very little gold will like be recovered by running the tailings a second time.

You may want to experiment with adding a second layer of cloth to a portion of the riffle tray. Doing so reduces airflow by almost half in that section. In addition to the riffle tray, the void under the riffle tray can collect a sizable amount of really fine gold mixed in with fine silt.

No doubt there are going to be losses of gold when using a drywasher to recover fine gold (20 minus mesh down into the 200 minus gold), but the end goal should be to limit those losses as much as possible and these tips should help.  Good luck!   Learn more about Gold Buddy drywashers here.

Nugget of News Blog

Posted by: Denise AT 02:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 14 2017

Fun and exercise are two great reasons to go gold prospecting, but you might as well make some money while you're at it, right? The best way to do that is to increase production rates. Assuming you are mining on a known gold-bearing claim or waterway, volume is the key to your success!

gold panningGraduating from the basic gold pan to some other form of simple equipment is the best way to increase production rates. Just going from a pan to a sluice will increase production by at least 500%, depending on how it is used. A highbanker will work about the same amount of material as a well-run sluice, though it can move the water to you instead of you bringing the gravel to the water, thereby dramatically incsuction dredgereasing volume of production. A drywasher will produce similar results by allowing you to work without water.

A dredge or highbanker/suction dredge combo is the next step up. A dredge uses a gas motor to generate the suction that will load and transport the material to the sluice, which greatly increases volume, as well as allows you to reach gravel on the river bottom that would otherwise be inaccessible (unless the river is seasonal or there is a prolonged drought). The more material a dredger can push across the riffles, the more gold can be recovered. An additional benefit to dredging is that it also allows you to clean gold out of all the cracks and crevices in the bedrock. A shovel just cannot do that.

The size of the dredge intake nozzle is the most important factor in how much material a dredge can process, but it is not a direct one-to-one relationship. For example, a 5 inch dredge will not move twice the material that a 2.5 inch dredge can move. It actually can move much more. The surface of the hose is figured in square dredge nozzleinches, the area (and therefore the volume) goes up much faster than the diameter and the corresponding production rates go up proportionally. A larger hose size will also clog less because more sizes of rock and gravel will pass through. Having to stop and remove clogs can significantly reduce the time you get to spend actually moving dirt and finding gold. No matter the size, you're likely to have rocks jam up the hose from time to time, but generally, the larger the hose the less frequent the clogs that slow or stop production. In most areas of the country, a 2 inch dredge is considered a "recreational" size and may not require a permit to use, whereas much larger nozzle sizes would require a permit. Always know the laws where you intend to gold prospect and mine before you buy equipment.

Beyond dredges or highbanker/suction dredge combos, you can get into some professional mining set-ups that use trommels and jigs and shaker tables and earth moving equipment. Every deposit is different, varying in size and grade and structure. Environmental conditions and access will dictate mining methods and knowing the rock types and size of the gravel is critical in determining which equipment will work best for increasing your production. Finding a suitable deposit to mine and finding a way to work it economically— to justify your time and expense— is the first step.  Then choose the right equipment to increase your recovery rate and speed of recovery and make more money.  Good luck!

Posted by: Denise AT 04:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 08 2017

You might think that glaciers are important to gold prospecting only in Alaska and the Yukon, but glaciers have also affected placer deposits in the Midwest and some western states, too. 

What is a glacier?

Glaciers are formed when a huge mass of ice is created by accumulated snow. The body of ice grows over the years when more snow falls during colder months than melts during warmer months. Glaciers shrink when the melting is greater than the snow accumulation. Once the weight of the glacier grows large enough, the weight of the snow and ice presses down anglacier goldd compacts. The body of ice will then slowly flow downhill. The power of the solid ice moving downhill rips loose rock and soil. Solid rock underneath the glacier that is firmly attached to the mountain will stay in place, but be polished and smoothed as the glacier slides over it. Scratch marks and gouges appear along the surface of these polished rocks and indicate the direction that the glacier was moving.

Eventually the body of the glacier reaches a warmer elevation where the ice melts more easily. Here, at the foot of the glacier, are gigantic piles of rocks and boulders and debris that have been bulldozed down by the moving massive glacier. These glacial gravels are known as “moraines.” However, finding gold in this unsorted jumble of glacial moraine material produced by a glacier’s bulldozing effect is like finding a needle in a haystack—not worth the time to process…. until the glacier’s natural melt waters or another water source washes through it, and does a bit of natural sorting.

Alluvial gold deposits

Normal alluvial placer deposits form by the power of flowing water washing away lighter materials and gravels and leaving behind heavier material such as gold— very similar to what happens in a sluice box when the flow of water washes away the lighter materials and the gold is deposited in the riffles.  When flowing streams and glacier melt water process and wash away the glacial moraine gravel, the gold works its way downward.  Gold will then be deposited on bedrock or false bedrock (such as clay or other packed material). As the glaciers themselves melt, the huge quantity of water creates an effective sluicing system that can sort the gold out of gravels. These flows can leave behind very profitable pay zones along the channels cut by the ice melt waters on bedrock benches, among packed false bedrock gravels, and on the downstream side of bedrock high spots.

Where to look for glacial placer gold deposits in the West

In California, glaciers still exist in the southern Sierra Nevada, small parts of the Cascade ranges and the Shasta-Trinity Alps. In the northern Sierra Nevada and higher parts of the Klamath and Trinity ranges, that area’s placer deposits were greatly affected by glaciers that existed thousands of years ago. Glacial derived placer gold is important in a number of other western states, too, including Idaho (Boise Basin and Mount Pisgah), Montana (Pioneer District, upper portions of Gold Creek near Deer Lodge) and in Colorado (Fairplay District, Arkansas River Valley in southern Lake County).

Where to look for glacial placer gold deposits in the Midwest

What you might be very surprised to know is that glaciers are the source of nearly all the placer gold found across the Midwest. During the past ice ages (which were repeated events, not just a one-time occurrence), great sheets of glacial ice leveled the middle parts of North America, acting like giant bulldozers by pushing enormous amounts of material southward from Canada. When the ice melted, the area was left with extensive glacial moraine (gravel) deposits. Although it’s spotty and sporadic, some of these glacial deposits have gold, depending on where the glacial gravels came from in Canada and if that region was gold-bearing. Glacial gold is found in several of the northeast states such as New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. Glacial gold is also found more extensively in Midwest states such as Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and the Dakotas.

All things considered, while glaciers can destroy a placer deposit, the moraines they leave behind can produce some very worthwhile deposits of gold, and are worth prospecting if you live in or visit these areas.

Posted by: Denise AT 03:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, November 01 2016

Researching and exploring new areas in which to prospect for gold, gems, or whatever you are seeking can be a lot of work, but the process can go much quicker and easier when you know where to start. If the weather where you live is keeping you indoors much of the time this winter, use your downtime wisely by researching and planning for next spring and summer. But don’t rely on just one source of information. Confirm it through several sources. It’s not that you don’t trust Uncle Joe or a “friend of a friend” tip, but facts can be distorted or forgotten over time and that “secret” nugget patch found 30 years ago just might not tgold mining mapurn out to be quite so secret any more.

The best kind of research brings together different forms of info from a multitude of sources. It is the info gleaned from COMBINED sources that can help you to determine the best possible place to locate precious metal or gems. The more info you can lay your hands on, the better. Consider these resources:

Old mining district reports and mining history books. Most western states have some form of mining and geology agency, although they all have different names depending on the state. Find out what information is publicly available at the agencies located in the area you will want to prospect. Old history books can be more help than any state agency because they were written by folks with ties to the area they wrote about. That means they often include valuable information on old mining discoveries or operations that didn’t make it into a government report.

Topographic maps. Many old mining areas are shown on topo maps, but usually not on the newer versions, so try and find older topo maps. Many of the newer versions may have old mines removed as a way for the government to “keep the general public safe” by not advertising the whereabouts of the old and “dangerous” mine shafts.

Aerial photos. Google Earth is amazing in its quality and detail of photos. Many times you can see individual trees, hiking trails, rock outcrops and even hand-stacked piles of rocks left behind by old-timers.  Sometimes larger features and patterns (areas where miners removed a lot of brush, for example) cannot be seen from ground level, but are obvious from far up in the sky. This is also a good way to get an idea of the condition of the roads in the area so you’ll know in advance which look to be commonly traveled. Google Earth ties in with GPS, too. You can review the photos, check them against maps, and get the GPS coordinates of the precise location you want to visit. No more guessing if you have arrived! You will know for sure with GPS that you are in the right spot.

Reference libraries. The librarians at state mining divisions and university libraries are generally very friendly and helpful. These libraries are open to the public, so don’t feel shy about requesting help. Any university with a good-sized geology or mining program should have quite a few geologic reference resources including old reports, magazines on the mining industry, thesis reports by graduate students, and even reports by engineers and geologists who were on site at the big operating gold mines in the late 1800s. Many of the old books and reports found in the university libraries will be out of print and cannot be purchased anywhere, so be sure to make photocopies of any documents you need while you are onsite.

Many prospectors are discouraged by the amount of work and time that can be involved in researching new areas, but when you find a new spot with good gold, it will be well worth your time and effort!

Posted by: Denise AT 05:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, July 02 2016

Although there are many variables that go into catching gold in a sluice, perhaps properly “tuning” your sluice is the most critical. A few months ago, Steven “Doc” Vetter, owner of Gold Hog brand mats, wrote an interesting article for Gold Prospector Magazine that focused on a few key factors that all miners should pay attention to. The following ideas from his article are all about achieving the proper tuning exchange, meaning letting the junk flow out, or be worked out by exchange zones, and holding the stuff you do want—gold. A well-tuned sluice will have heavy gold concentrations up top, medium gold in the middle, and trace gold near the endsluice, and maybe a teeny tiny bit in the tailings.  Here’s why:

Hydraulic Equivalence: By definition, “hydraulically equivalent” (HE) refers to particles of varying size, shape and density that fall out of a water flow and deposit in the same area. While quartz rock and gold vary greatly in specific density, you can make them collect in the same place by making the quartz rock bigger and rounder. A 2 inch quartz rock and a 1 mm sphere of gold will fall through water and deposit in about the same place— making them hydraulically equivalent (HE). An opposite example is a .25 inch round piece of gold and a .25 inch round piece of quartz. The gold will sink through the water and likely land straight down. The quartz rock, however, will not fall as fast and will be pushed several feet away before it settles. These two items are not HE.

The shape of the gold has a big influence on its HE. Flat things move more easily than spheres when either moving water or air is introduced. HE is a huge factor in gold mining and is often the main reason for classifying material to a certain size— the theory being if everything is about the same size, the heaviest material will stay in the sluice. When you slow down a sluice, you start to have a traffic jam. Things that are HE all want to gather in the same deposit zone and you start to gather/open the window for more non-gold particles to pile up and that’s not good.

Incremental Processing: A great analogy of how this principle works is to picture a city bus. Imagine a rule where all passengers must enter through the front and must exit through the back. As they enter, passengers must fill the seats in the front of the bus first. Every time the bus makes a stop (you shoveling dirt into the hopper of your highbanker or sluice), the first few rows fill up quickly and remain full for a short period of time. As a new passenger (each new shovel full of material) gets on and finds the front seats taken, he must move further down the bus (sluice).  The result is a bunch of folks all competing for the same seats up front and when there are no seats up front, they must take the next available one. If all the seats get full, a passenger (your paydirt) never even gets to sit down and exits the bus (sluice) without ever sitting (collecting in the riffles).  As the working zones in your sluice fill up, slurry material will move down to the next zone before it settles there. During times of heavy loading, the first percentage of your sluice will load up heavy and take some time to exchange out. That means gold will keep traveling until it finds an “empty seat.” 

If you load too heavy or have too short of a sluice, you’ll have gold flowing over holding zones that are busy working and exchanging.  It may take an exchange center (vortex) 3 or 5 seconds to fully process down material and exchange out non-gold and heavies.

Fine Tuning: Because of the principles of Hydraulic Equivalence and Incremental Processing, you may have realized that slowing down a sluice can really cause problems and loss of gold. How do you know if your sluice is running too fast or too slow? Experiment! Of course doing so is a little scary because the #1 fear of most gold miners is losing gold, and quite honestly, until your sluice is fine tuned, that just might happen. To avoid losing gold, most miners start running their sluice at the “normal” or widely accepted pitch of 1 inch per foot. But this is just a starting point. If you see gold in your tailings, your first thought is probably to slow it down so you aren’t blowing gold out of the sluice. But perhaps that’s not the cause at all. Perhaps it’s because gold doesn’t have a place to sink down into and hide in your sluice. Experiment by running way too fast, say at a 15-degree pitch. Then take it to 13 degrees, then go down to 12.5. Keep adjusting until you find an acceptable capture rate for the size of gold you want to hold.

Lose your fear of losing gold through testing and experimentation. Not only will you fine tune your sluice, but you’ll also get a great education. Good luck!

Browse a wide selection of gold sluices here.

Posted by: Denise AT 05:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, December 01 2015

With the weather turning colder, you might think you're done prospecting 'til next summer, but you don't have to be! Even if you're not a regular snowbird heading to a warmer climate for the next few months, drywasheryou can take a short desert vacation some time this coming winter, and turn it into a lucrative gold prospecting trip, too.

Gold mining in the desert is especially enjoyable if you're not into crowds— the desert can be delightfully smog  free and people free in the winter. Experts say there is just as much gold waiting to be taken out of the desert as there is commonly found in streams and rivers. Why? Well, throughout history the desert mines just never got the publicity that wet places like California's Mother Lode did, so fewer prospectors went there. Plus, back in the day, mining used to be harder in dry conditions. Luckily that's no longer true if you have the right equipment.


• If you're used to highbanking in the summer, give drywashing a try this winter. Old-timers used the wind to separate their gold from the sand by tossing the gravel up in the air and catching it in a blanket. The gold, being heavier, fell in the blanket, while the wind blew away the sand. Using a modern portable drywasher is a lot easier!

• Metal detecting is another great way to hunt for gold in the desert. Gold detectors are not necessarily higher in cost, but they are built with a higher sensitivity to detecting gold nuggets, and have better ground balancing and
discrimination abilities.

• A bonus of prospecting in the desert is the abundance of interesting rocks. You can find many unusual rocks and semi-precious gems such as tourmaline, turquoise, agate, jasper, and more. Lapidary shops can cut and polish the rocks for you, or buy your own rock tumbler and lapidary tools and learn a new hobby.

This winter, consider extending your gold-getting season with a prospecting trip to a sunnier, warmer state. Good luck and have fun!

Posted by: Denise AT 08:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, January 11 2015

Desert FoxIf you're looking for a proven fine gold recovery tool that has been on the market for decades, consider the Desert Fox Spiral Gold Panning Machine. It's easy to use, and recently Kevin Hoagland, Executive Director of Development for the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA) conducted a field test review which was published on pages 14-17 of the January/February 2015 issue of Gold Prospectors Magazine. Here's an excerpt of Kevin's findings and you can also click on the image at the end of this post to download a complete copy of the field test review (4-page .pdf).

"... The Desert Fox ships in an Action Packer case that is the storage, transport, and water container unit. It provides excellent protection for the Fox while giving you a true compact recirculating unit that can be transported easily. Unpacking the container was simple and for those of us that spend little time looking at the way something comes out of a container, the manufacturer has included a photo in the manual to show you how to repack the unit so it's back to being travel-ready in just a few seconds. In the container you will find:

  • A-frame with variable speed drive motor connected as one unit
  • 7 lead 12.5 inch double wall spiral recovery wheel
  • Adjustable water spray bar
  • Tailings catch tray
  • 12-volt 750 GPH pump and flow hose from pump to spray bar
  • Instructions
  • Recovery cup
  • Nylon stocking for the pump
  • Small bag of practice sand with flecks of real gold.

Setup takes just a few moments. The wheel frame is a single point A-frame that sits perfectly in place in the container and allows you a stable, easy-to-set-up base for the spiral unit. The A-frame construction also allows the unit to be set up directly in a stream. Stand the A-frame in the container, lift the drive unit to a beginning angle, slide the double-wall wheel into the slot on the drive motor, attach the spray bar, fill with water, hook up to a 12-volt power supply (not included), and after a couple of fine tuning adjustments, the Desert Fox is ready to start running your concentrates. Total time from cased to running is about two minutes!

The A-frame mounted drive motor allows you to easily make small adjustments to the angle of the wheel. This ease-of-use factor can become critical when running materials that require more precision. Water flow is controlled by a single-point knob on the spray bar assembly, and the speed control is located on the back of the unit. These 3 adjustments are all you need to ensure efficient gold recovery. Before first use, be sure to clean with a good quality dish washing soap to remove all the manufacturing oils (mold-release agents from the plastic parts). Do NOT use a citrus-scented soap because the scent is derived from oils, which is exactly what you are trying to remove. Use hot soapy water and a non-abrasive pad.

Spiral panners work in reverse of traditional hand panning. Instead of gravity separating gold from concentrates with the heavies sinking to the bottom of a pan, a spiral machine uses speed, water, and the angle of the spiral wheel to keep lighter material in the bottom of the wheel, while the heavier black sand and gold is brought up the leads. When set correctly, the sands drop off at the last moment and only gold is moved through the center of the unit and recovered in the cup.

Desert Fox Spiral Gold Panning MachineI recommend classifying your dirt to a minimum of .25 inch to 1/8 inch mesh. Once classified and prepared to run, feed the material slowly into the bottom of the wheel. I've found it best to use a tablespoon. Increase the feed rate after all necessary adjustments are made.

Starting with the water first, find the lowest water pressure that will clean the light material from the leads as it climbs up the pan, adjust the angle and speed as needed so the heavy sands drop off at the right spot and you're ready to start processing your concentrates. After completing the basic setup, I adjusted the speed to keep the unit tuned in to variations in the types of material I ran. There are two models of the Desert Fox— a constant speed ($339) and a variable speed ($359). Since the difference in price is just $20, I highly recommend the variable speed model.

The Desert Fox is a straight-forward and simple spiral wheel system that recovers gold efficiently, and has been manufactured by Camel Mining since 1969. It is compact, weighs about 10 pounds, and is ideal for carrying into the field. Gold recovery is exceptional and the learning curve is short..."

Click here to learn more about the Desert Fox Spiral Panner on this website.  Click image to download .pdf of field test review.

Posted by: Denise AT 10:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, April 01 2014

Typical winter storms that regularly occur in gold country usually do not create enough havoc to force substantial amounts of "new" gold into movement. However, when major flooding like what happened in Colorado in September of 2013 is followed by a “bad” winter, a great deal of gold can be set free. 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.gold

Stream bed layers caused by several floods 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.

No one ever hopes that Mother Nature releases the type of fury that causes loss of life and property, but when a catastrophic weather event occurs in a gold-bearing area, take advantage of it. Get out there and get your share of the GOLD! Good luck and be safe!

Posted by: Denise AT 06:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, March 01 2014

quartz veinSome say that "gold is where you find it" and while that may be true, once you arrive at a known gold-bearing location, how do you decide where to dig first? Successful prospectors follow different methods, so there is no single "right" way, but no matter if you are sluicing, dry washing, or metal detecting, if you first consider the "lay of the land" you can better pinpoint a place to start.

Natural Factors to Consider Before Digging for Gold:

  • Types of Placer Deposits. Alluvial, residual, beach, and other types of placer gold are all worked differently. Alluvial gold forms in streams. The gold tends to concentrate on bedrock as it moves downstream and makes its way down through the gravel to bedrock. Residual placers form on the surface as rock materials weather and are washed or blown away and do not concentrate on bedrock. Knowing the type of placer makes a big difference as to where you should begin to look for it.
  • Quartz Veins. Gold often forms with quartz, so quartz veining can be a very positive sign. Quartz is very resistant to weathering, so it may hang around on the surface long after any nuggets have sunk below the soil. If you find a visible quartz vein outcrop, that can be a good sign. The outcrop, as well as any areas downhill from it, should be sampled. Also remember that not all vein quartz is white. Some can be stained red-brown from iron.
  • Iron Staining. Not all gold-bearing mineral deposits contain quartz. Gold-bearing veins can consist of calcite or mostly sulfides which often weather into iron-stained spots as the pyrites convert to iron oxides. While quartz is often a good indicator, it is not necessary for the formation of gold nuggets— but sulfur is necessary. In places where gold occurs with quartz, there is often a lot of iron, which was once (before it was oxidized) a sulfide such as pyrite. Any gold that was formed in these deposits is left in the red soils that remain, or perhaps nearby. The red soils can be deep orange or red-brown or brick red.
  • Favorable Rocks. The type of rock considered "favorable" will vary greatly based on the area. The same "favorable" rock in California may not be the same "favorable" rock for finding gold in Alaska. In some places the best rock to look for might be schist or slate, in other places it might be volcanic. In general, sedimentary rock is usually not a favorable host rock for gold.

gold mining ghost townMan-Made Factors to Consider Before Digging for Gold:

The sites of small, old-time mining operations can be some of the best places to look for gold. After all, the old-timers didn't have the modern-day equipment that you have, so they left a lot behind. Depending on their age, these sites from yesteryear can be overgrown, but if you look for these indicators they will help you consider where to dig first:

  • Ground Cuts. These are narrow trenches in the ground that carried the gravels to the sluice box.
  • Rock Piles. Sometimes old-timers encountered rocks that were too large to pass through their sluices under the water pressure they had to work with, so bigger rocks were picked out by hand and tossed aside. Piles of rocks make an easy marker. Any quartz you find in rock piles should be checked with a metal detector— you might find a gold-quartz specimen that's worth a pretty penny. Rock piles can be visible in the desert as well. Although the old-timers were not sluicing in the desert, they used dry washers that had to be screened for coarse rocks. If you see a series of short rock piles a few feet in diameter that cover an area that seems to have been dug out, you can reasonably assume you have found an old dry wash site.
  • Hydraulic Mine Workings. A sign that an area has been worked by hydraulic mining are the steep banks left behind when the gold ran out (or so they thought). These sites are also commonly marked by piles of big stacked rocks.
  • Shafts. Miners sometimes dug deep shafts or adits to access gold veins. These working are usually easy to spot even today. If the dumps consist of rounded gravels, it is most likely from underground placer diggings. If the dumps contain angular broken rock, that would indicate blasting from lode mining.


Deciding where to dig first comes from knowledge. You get that knowledge from reading books and magazines dedicated to prospecting and metal detecting, talking with experienced old-timers, and GETTING OUT IN THE FIELD. Evaluate the area, think about the geology, and then make a plan before you dig. You may not always hit upon a promising location by considering the factors listed above, but your chances for success greatly increase. Be flexible, keep sampling, and try again if you don't have any luck at first. Spending a little time evaluating an area can lead to a much more productive hunt, because after all, "gold is where you find it."

Posted by: Denise AT 01:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, October 24 2013

There is probably no more appropriate place for a mineral museum than in Butte, Montana, better known as the Richest Hill on Earth. The state itself is nicknamed The Treasure State, so with monikers like those, you know you’re going to see a lot of prized specimens! Situated on the Montana Tech Campus, the Mihighland centennial gold nuggetneral Museum is free and open to the public. While the museum’s collection numbers more than 15,000 specimens, about 1,300 from Montana and around the world are currently on display.

One of the highlights in the Mineral Museum is the “Highland Centennial Gold Nugget” weighing 27.5 troy ounces. The nugget got its name because it was found in the Highland Mountains south of Butte in 1989. The nugget is believed to be the 7th largest gold nugget found in Montana. A 400-pound smoky quartz crystal, referred to as “Big Daddy,” was unearthed just east of Butte. Because of Montana’s long tradition of mining, you’ll see impressive examples of colorful bornite, garnet, azurite, agate, sapphires, and more. If you want to take a sample home, you’ll find small pieces for sale in the gift shop. There’s also a good selection of books relating to minerals.

Don’t miss the museum’s display of fluorescent minerals. Cases are in a separate room and are illuminated in both long and short wavelength ultraviolet light. It’s amazing how ordinary-looking minerals radiate extraordinary vibrant shades of pink, orange, and blue when exposed to ultraviolet light. You won’t believe how halite (also known as salt) changes from white to red. Kids especially think it’s just plain fun being in the Fluorescent Room surrounded by a crazy glowing rainbow of rocks!

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Earthquake Studies office is also located in the Mineral Museum. Watch the seismic activity from Montana and around the world as it is recorded and printed on the seismographs.

IF YOU GO

Montana Tech Mineral Museum

Montana Tech Campus

1300 West Park St. • Butte, MT  59701 • (406) 496-4414

  • Summer Hours: Daily, 9 AM – 5 PM (June 15 through September 15)
  • Winter Hours: Weekdays, 9 AM – 4 PM
  • Admission is Free, although donations are appreciated.
  • Elevator Access to the Mineral Museum is located between the Museum building and the Chemistry building on the campus of Montana Tech.
Posted by: Denise AT 09:56 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, April 03 2013
Weighing gold and gemstones can be a bit confusing. Miners use pennyweight and jewelers use grams. Gemstones are weighed in carats. The word "carat" comes from ancient India where carob seeds were used as small consistent weights. The word "pennyweight" comes from the old Gold Rush days when a miner would compare the weight of his gold dust against the weight of a penny. Keep in mind that a penny in 1849 was somewhat larger than it is today.

Pennyweight Conversions
1 pennyweight (dwt) = 7.776 carats
1 pennyweight (dwt) = 1.55 grams
31.1 grams = 1 troy ounce
1 pennyweight (dwt) = 24 grains
480 grains = 1 troy ounce
1 pennyweight (dwt) = 0.05 troy ounce
20 pennyweight (dwt) = 1 troy ounce
12 troy ounces = 1 troy pound

Carat Conversions
1 carat = 0.20 grams
1 carat = 0.1287 pennyweight
1 carat = 0.0064 troy ounce
1 gram = 5 carats
1 pennyweight 7.776 carats
1 troy ounce = 155.5 carats
Posted by: Denise AT 08:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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