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Tuesday, October 17 2023
In the words of Tom Massie, son of the late George "Buzzard" Massie who founded Gold Prospectors Association of America... "my favorite way of prospecting is the way that gets me gold."
Suction dredging with a wetsuit can be quite lucrative— not only from the material you suck up but there's also the chance of picking nuggets out of a crack in the bedrock. Highbanking along the shore is a bit warmer and dryer, but just as fun. As is gold panning in a stream. Drywashing out in the desert surrounded by sunshine and solitude definitely has appeal. And so does uncovering buried treasure while metal detecting. And don't forget melting or smelting cell phone parts or old jewelry and coins. No matter your favorite way of finding gold, one thing is for certain, there's nothing quite like getting out there— in the field or in the water— and getting your share!
SIZES OF GOLD:
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 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).
Saturday, November 19 2022
If you’re used to water mining, having success in the desert might seem challenging— that is until you start thinking of desert ground as a massive sluice box. Many of the principles you’re used to when prospecting and mining in waterways, will translate into desert mining. The most important thing to remember is that water is crucial to gold movement. Unlike a running river or creek with highs and lows, desert placers are much different in that gold is moved quickly during a flash flood, leaving gold stranded as opposed to being moved further by continual water flow in a creek.
During a river high-water event in a non-arid area, gold is moved over a larger area by massive water flows that continue until the water slows as the source dissipates its energy. Spring snow runoff is a good example. Rivers rise and sometimes flood based on the upstream water source. When the snow has melted, the river will slowly get back to normal. In the desert, gold is moved in the exact same way with the exception that water powerful enough to move gold does so and then just simply stops. In a flash flood, gold is moved very violently and often a very short distance, sometimes percolating into valuable pockets. Here’s where the difference between water and desert mining principles comes into play generally flood gold will concentrate in areas that do not meet the standard thought of inside bends and where the water flow becomes lower.
For the most part, desert mining experts recommend staying out of the washes, gulches and dry river beds— that is unless you clearly see exposed bedrock. Gold will settle fairly quickly when it is trapped behind jagged bedrock and small fault lifts that have not been worn down over time by constant water flow. It IS true you can find areas of concentrated gold-bearing material in the washes, however, the amount of time and energy to get through feet of overburden is usually just not worth it, especially when there are higher values to be found outside of the wash.
Follow the leads out of the wash to where the gold lives in higher concentration. Test and sample areas you see with a great deal of runoff from a tributary coming into the main wash. Here you are only digging through the current flood layer and testing for flood gold. Make your way out of the wash carefully looking at the bottom of the tributary and the areas where the water flowed into the tributary. Look closely for jagged bedrock and slight lifts in the ground and then prospect. Continue to test each of those spots. What started as a few specks of flood gold in the main wash can lead to larger and larger deposits on the flats or in slight inclines across the desert floor. Keep in mind that when a flash flood is dissipating, there is not enough energy to move a lot of rock, but the sand will continue to flow a bit, creating great clues.
In general, cool season precipitation (October through April) is the most extensive source of rain in the desert regions. Rainfall is more widespread and of relatively long duration during the cool season. On the other hand, warm season precipitation (May through September) results largely from short monsoon-type thunderstorms.
If you’re ready to head to a sunnier climate this winter, keep these tips in mind and you just might find enough similarities between water and desert mining to make you return every year. Good luck!
Friday, September 30 2022
In an area either rumored or known to hold gold, where should you look first? The creek, the surrounding hills, washouts, or just where? The characteristics of the gold in that area will help you to know where to start. If the gold is flat and pounded, that indicates it’s been in the water a long time. If the gold is coarse and chunky, you know you’re getting closer to the source. When gold is smoother, stop and go back to the coarsest gold and start working upwards until you find the source.
Keep in mind that gold is gold, so there isn’t necessarily a better type of gold. Some is just easier to recover. There are only two types of gold deposits. The first type is “lode” which is simply everything that is still in the matrix and in the ground, and the other is “placer” —or everything else.
Lode deposits refer to gold that is still locked within its original solid rock formation. This formation of gold generally starts as a vein in rock and is formed over millions of years. Since the gold is locked up in rock, and can be mixed with quartz, calcite, pyrite, and other minerals, lode gold usually requires specialized mining techniques to extract. Lode mining takes a lot more equipment and generally a lot more expense and is usually undertaken by large commercial operations instead of the average prospector. Placer gold is the gold that most prospectors are more familiar with. Placer gold isn’t really any different than lode gold. It is simply a concentration of that same gold that has eroded and traveled away from the vein.
Since gold is very dense, it will move downhill much slower than the surrounding sediment. It tends to become concentrated on or near the surface of the lode, forming a “residual placer” close to the original bedrock exposure. Gold found downhill from the immediate outcrop above the nearest watercourse is called an “eluvial placer.” Once it reaches the nearest waterway and is transported by flowing water, the gold now is known as “alluvial placer.” The origin of the dust, flakes and nuggets found by panning and sluicing is usually from a vein up on a nearby mountain.
Bench placers were originally stream placers. Benches are simply where the water used to be, maybe even millions of years ago. They are formed by erosion or geological events such as uplifts, earthquakes or plate drops that changed the stream flow. Some of the most profitable mining is performed on benches. Many benches are highly concentrated by the alluvial deposits that still feed them.
Stream deposits are the last resting place for gold. Once the gold has been released from the lode, gravity and nature does the rest. And unless gold gets stranded on a bench, it will find its way to the water someday. It may take a million years, but it will get there.
When deciding where to begin prospecting, most of the time you’ll want to start panning in a water way, or a wash in the desert where water once flowed. Then let the gold tell you where to go from there. When the gold gets coarse and ragged, start to move up, looking in reverse of how it got to the spot where you found it. In addition to panning and sluicing you may wish to upgrade your mining efforts with a highbanker or power sluice, dredge or trommel. Moving soft soil or river gravel is obviously much easier than breaking rock, but for small scale miners, a rock crusher can pulverize 2 or 3 inch sized rocks into powder in no time. Move more material faster— get more gold!
Thursday, September 22 2022
Gold can hide down in the deepest part of a crack or crevice or behind a boulder and often is best reached with a hand dredge, also called a "sucker gun" or "suction gun." This gold prospecting tool is ideal for working below the water line when a motorized dredge cannot be used. It helps you get the gold out of some really tight spaces, a hand dredge is well, handy, when you're prospecting along a river. If you've found a rich spot that is hard to access, these two hand dredges can produce some decent gold! Also check out the many accessories that make your hand dredge even better!
X-Stream Hybrid Pro
Clamps are not necessary unless you plan to use the system in strong current and want to be extra cautious. For users in deeper water or stronger current, consider wrapping a leash around the lid and tie it off at your waist to prevent the bucket from breaking away.
The Quick Sniper is a tool that uses some new ideas to help you collect the hard-to-get gold from heavy sands under boulders, in crevices, and behind obstructions. The “NOZZLE” of the Quick-Sniper is where the magic happens. Inside the nozzle is a short white plastic pipe that extends into the tube. This allows you to pump the handle four or five times before you need to take steps to collect sand and gravel. Instead of pulling the handle and then ejecting the material into a pan or bucket after each pull, the cavity created inside the tube will hold your heavies, allowing water and the lightest material to swirl out and go back into the water before you pull again. Shaking the pump gently will transfer the heaviest of sands and gravel deeper into the cavity. Then, after you have repeated this action a few times, pull off the cap and dump the contents of the pump into your pan or bucket. The flexible tube extending from the end of the nozzle is designed to pull out, allowing you to extend the reach of the tube about 4-5 inches. If this tube is sliding too easily, wrap some electrical tape around the inner end, and it will be more secure within the Quick-Sniper.
Saturday, March 26 2022
Gold is gold, so there isn’t necessarily a better type of gold, however, mining for lode gold has many more challenges than mining for placer gold. The formation of gold generally starts as a vein in rock. This is referred to as “lode gold” and is formed when molten rock in the earth’s crust heats groundwater under great pressure. In fractured bedrock with appropriate rock chemistry, super-heated water (hydrothermal) at approximately 400-700 degrees Fahrenheit dissolves certain elements and molecules from cubic miles of crust and transports them in a circulation loop. When this hydrothermal solution cools or chemically reacts with local rocks, the elements and molecules will come out of the solution and solidify (precipitate), forming ore deposits. The hydrothermal solution will begin precipitating on the sides of the opening and slowly fill the entire crack over time. This is how gold veins can form. These geologic processes take place over millions of years, and can happen many times over many years in the same location. Since the gold is locked up in rock, it is usually pretty hard to get to— usually requiring specialized mining techniques to mine and extract. Lode mining takes a lot more equipment and generally a lot more expense and is usually undertaken by large commercial operations instead of the average prospector.
Placer gold is the gold that most prospectors are more familiar with. Placer gold isn’t really any different than lode gold. It is simply a concentration of gold that is created over time as it erodes from hard rock veins. When exposed at the surface, a mineralized deposit will break down and erode due to reactions with oxygen, water and wind, coupled with temperature fluctuations. Since gold is very dense, it will move downhill much slower than the surrounding sediment. It tends to become concentrated on or near the surface of the lode, forming a “residual placer” close to the original bedrock exposure. Gold found downhill from the immediate outcrop above the nearest watercourse is called an “eluvial placer.” Once it reaches the nearest waterway and is transported by flowing water, the gold now forms an “alluvial placer.” The origin of the dust, flakes and nuggets found by panning and sluicing is usually from a vein up on a nearby mountain.
An ore body is a mineral deposit that can be mined, processed and sold at a profit. All ore bodies are deposits. Few deposits are actual ore bodies. Valuable gold deposits in placers are referred to as “pay streaks” instead of ore bodies. Over time, eluvial and alluvial placers can become covered with sediment. When buried long enough and deep enough, these deposits will turn into “fossil placers.” Sometimes the fossil placers are re-cemented into sandstone or conglomerate rock and then must be mined using hard rock techniques.
Hard rock ores have mostly fine to micro-fine gold in solid rock; placers contain fine to coarse gold particles in a softer bulk material or matrix. That makes placers much easier to mine and process. Moving soft soil or river gravel is obviously much easier than breaking rock. For small scale miners, though, a rock crusher can pulverize 2 or 3 inch sized rocks into powder in no time! But for the average prospector, panning and sluicing will be more fun and more profitable, and as time goes on, you may wish to upgrade your mining efforts with a highbanker or power sluice, dredge or trommel. Good luck!
Monday, February 21 2022
Depending on where you live and where you like to treasure hunt, you might still be buried under feet of snow. Or maybe spring has sprung and temperatures are on the rise there. No matter the weather, you probably have extra time on your hands this time of year, so put that time to good use. Even though you might not have been out in the field for the last few months, you can still be prospecting and getting prepared for a new season of gold hunting! In other words, use your downtime wisely, so you can hit the ground running as soon as Mother Nature allows.
Inspect equipment. Did you properly clean and store your sluice and/or highbanker at the end of last season? In advance of heading out into the field this year, make sure the pump still works and the matting is in good shape. Run water through all hoses to check for cracks or leaks. Are the riffles bent? What about the header box or hopper? Check bucket handles to see if they’re still sturdy. Do you have adequate sizes of classifiers and gold pans? Inspecting all the parts now and taking inventory will save time in the field later. Ongoing supply chain issues can cause delays, so order early if buying replacement parts or new equipment online.
Prepare your tools. Sharpen digging tools, picks, shovels, chisels and other specialty tools that require sharp edges. Now is also a good time to mark screwdrivers, magnets, crevice tools and other small implements with some bright colored paint. It’s amazing how easily tools can get “lost” in the dirt. A strip of bright yellow or red can help you more easily spot them. Double check the seals on snuffer bottles, hand dredges, and vials to make sure they’re tight. Pack your backpack or tool kit with everything necessary for a full day’s work.
Maintain your metal detector. If your metal detector is still under warranty or giving hints of potential issues, the off-season is ideal for sending it to the manufacturer or taking it to an authorized repair shop to be fixed or tuned up. Check your rechargeable battery and make sure it is fully charged. Better yet, purchase a new battery as a back up. It’s also time to dust off the operator manual or search YouTube for “how to” videos pertaining to your brand and model. You’ll likely uncover some helpful tips and tricks, or learn a new recovery method. Is this the year to add a new coil or pinpointer? Now is a good time to consider upgrades and make those purchases earlier than you expect to use them.
Do your research. 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— old mining district reports, mining history books, topo maps, aerial photos. Consult the Bureau of Land Management's LR2000 searchable database. The legacy system is undergoing upgrades; as the new systems is implemented, information will be easier to find. It can take a lot of time to research new areas, but when you find a new spot with good gold, it will be well worth your time and effort! It’s also a good idea to have alternate sites in mind just in case you cannot access your primary sites due to unforeseen closures.
Saturday, November 27 2021
If you’re ready to head to a sunnier climate this winter to do some desert prospecting, understanding the weather and topography can add to your success. Before loading up and heading to the Southwest, only to be disappointed by bad weather, first check out the weather patterns for the last 60 days and the predicted weather for the next 30-60 days. Why is that important? Well, it mostly comes down to rainfall— how much and how fast. For example, if there will be a lot of rainfall over an extended time, soils will be loosened and gravity will do its job and cause deeper, and sometimes more concentrated, pay streaks. In general, cool season precipitation (October through April) is the most extensive source of rain in the desert regions. Rainfall is more widespread and of relatively long duration during the cool season. On the other hand, warm season precipitation (May through September) results largely from convective precipitation in the form of short monsoon-type thunderstorms.
Friday, October 01 2021
Sluicing is one of the most popular gold-recovery methods, and a sluice box is often a miner’s first purchase after a basic gold pan. There are many options to consider— riffles, matting, brands, and sizes. You might want to stick with traditional z-riffle sluices with ribbed matting and miner’s carpet, try the new mini or vortex Dream Mats without riffles, or a combination of different types of miner’s moss. No matter what you choose or upgrade to, sluicing techniques are fairly straight forward. The three main things to concentrate on for best gold capture are: proper selection and set up, material classification and processing, and monitoring. These three key steps will allow you to maximize gold recovery.
Proper Set Up. This is by far the most important aspect of gold separation and recovery and includes angle, horizontal leveling, and water flow. Improper sluice angle is probably the most common error most miners make. The old rule of thumb of setting your sluice to “one inch per foot” is just a starting point and can result in too much water velocity. Too much water leads to improper breakdown and separation of heavy concentrates and material moving through the box too quickly, which can mean loss of fine gold. A Sluice Setter Digital Pitch Gauge can help, and so can focusing on water velocity instead of just the angle. Try the “one second per foot” method. Measure 12 inches down your sluice and mark that spot. As you feed material into your sluice using a side-to-side motion, count “one thousand one.” Your material should be passing the 12 inch mark as you finish that count. If it needs to be faster, increase the rear angle. If it needs to be slower, decrease the rear angle. As material travels down the sluice, be sure you are utilizing the entire capture area. If material is being forced to one side or the other, leaving one side clogged with too much material, while the other side is not processing at all, it could mean the sluice is not properly leveled horizontally.
Material Classification and Processing. In order to capture small gold in quantity, finer classification is usually necessary, even though it’ll take more time to do so. Processing speed and the volume of material to put into the sluice (by hand or by scoop) must be matched to the volume and velocity of the water. If too much material is introduced into the flow, the water velocity will slow down causing the sluice to back up and lose gold. Gradually add smaller amounts of material to the flow using a wide scoop.
Monitoring Your Sluice. When using stream flows, you are bound by the characteristics of that waterway—water speed, depth, and the ability to change your sluice angle. Mechanical flow is not limited by nature since you can control it. But no matter who is controlling the water (you or Mother Nature) monitor two factors while running gold-bearing material: how the sluice is processing the material, and the capacity of your sluice. How much can the sluice hold before it loses the ability to separate heavy materials and capture gold? If you see movement of heavy material down the sluice or movement of captured gold, it’s time to remove your sluice from the river, clean it, and reset it. When processing difficult material, set up a regular cleaning schedule so you don’t lose gold.
Applying these three main techniques while sluicing — proper selection and set up, material classification and processing, and monitoring — will allow you to adapt to changing conditions no matter the type or brand of sluice box you prefer. And remember that old saying "practice makes perfect" — using the same gold-bearing paydirt over and over again means you can learn these techniques and tips much quicker and recover more gold!
Tuesday, June 01 2021
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing approximately 245 million acres of Federal surface estate and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate. In the past, miners would have accessed the BLM’s Legacy Rehost system, commonly known as LR2000, to do research. While helpful, that system was also frustrating to use, so you’ll be happy to know that LR2000 has been decommissioned and the NEW Mineral Land Records System (MLRS) has taken its place.
Monday, March 01 2021
A gold pan is the simplest and most basic prospecting tool and is one of the oldest types of gold concentrating equipment. Plastic pans are recommended over the steel pans used by the 49ers. Plastic is light weight, so when you add water, dirt, and gravel to your pan, your arms won't get as tired compared to using a steel pan. And they do not rust or conflict with the use of a magnet. Size, color, and shape are really a matter of personal preference. You might want to have a couple different sizes of gold pans on hand (10 inch, 12 inch, and 14 inch are the most popular). Plastic pans generally come in green, black, and blue. The color doesn't effect performance, but green is the most common. The bright blue cone-shaped batea is the newest type of gold pan to hit the U.S. market. Gold panning kits are often the most economical way to purchase gold pans and classifiers (often called sifting pans) and other small accessories all in one convenient box.
The point of panning is to shake the gravels, allowing the gold to settle downward and then to wash the lighter material off the top. When all the lighter material has been removed, only the heavy concentrates will remain in the bottom of the pan, including, hopefully, some gold! With a little practice, anyone can learn to pan for gold. Buying a bag of gold-bearing paydirt to use over and over again for practice in a tub is one way to get good at panning without ever leaving home. Gold panning “how to” steps founds here.
Gold concentrations are spotty, even in known gold-bearing areas, so sample and test often. Be sure to move on with your gold pan and don’t stay in one spot less you have good results. If you find a spot with fairly large amounts of gravel that yields good gold, then it’s time to bring in a sluice box. A sluice is simple to operate and have been used all across the world for thousands of years. After you’ve mastered gold panning and are ready to increase the amount of gravel you can process, a sluice box is your next step up from hand panning. Sluices come in a variety of sizes, most with gold-catching matting in the bottom that you need to clean up at the end of the day. Other models such as the Gold Well Vortex Drop Riffle Sluice, has no matting or carpets and uses vortex technology to catch fine gold.
The basic sluice box is set in a stream and runs off the natural flow of water in the rivers. An experienced prospector might be able to pan up to a cubic yard of gravel per day, yet you can run that same cubic yard of gravel through a sluice box in less than an hour. Surface flood-type gold or gravel bars on inside bends of streams can both be very productive with just a simple sluice. It’s not too difficult to operate because it is fairly forgiving of the surges of gravel that drop in with each shovel full. To work properly, a sluice needs a good amount of water. The simple rule is just enough water flow should be going in the feed gravels to move the material through and out of the sluice in a reasonable time, allowing only a little of the heavier materials to build up behind the riffles. With too little water, the incoming material simply piles up as the rocks stop and get stuck in the sluice box. If the flow is too fast, fine gold will be blown out with the gravels. The optimum water flow is just what it takes to keep things clear in a reasonable time — no more than 20 or 30 seconds. The riffles should not become fully buried, with the entire bed of the sluice blanketed over by gravel. For maximum recovery, the flow should be a little turbulent, yet not frothy in any way. Excessive turbulence results in poor fine gold recovery.
As with the pan, the real secret of successful prospecting is not in operating the equipment, but in the skill of finding those natural gold catches. Learning to read the river or stream and recognize the places where gold might accumulate and then sampling those places to see if you are correct is the best technique. Inside bends, behind boulders or bedrock outcrops, and inches above the stream flow are all good places that you might sample, but there are plenty of other possibilities as well. The sluice and the gold pan may be among the most basic prospecting tools, but they are tried and true ways of finding some good gold!
Sunday, December 20 2020
There is truly no single “best” type of detector when it comes to gold hunting. But understanding the differences between a VLF (very low frequency) and a PI (pulse induction) detector and their coils can help you decide which detector might be the “best” to use in a particular situation. VLF metal detectors are the most common. It is a single or multi-frequency machine that consists of a continuous sine wave. Sine waves travel down into the ground to find a metallic target, and once it does, the machine charges the target, releases an eddy current, and sends back a signal. The PI metal detector is not a continuous sine wave. Instead, it pulses on and off and on and off. It “talks” and then “listens.”
A VLF machine can have an advantage on shallow and very small targets, on and off of bedrock— as long as you can keep it stabilized, ground balanced, and the sensitivity set properly. PI detectors generally do better at greater depths than VLF machines, especially in highly mineralized soils.
Mono coils are designed for PI detectors. There is a single winding inside the coil that puts a concentric pattern into the ground. You will always get more depth with a mono coil, but it is more susceptible to ground mineralization noise and it will be affected by the ground mineralization itself.
Double D coils work for both PI and VLF detectors. Double D coils have two back-to-back D shaped windings inside the coil. At all times the coils are transmitting and receiving across the plane of the coil. The Double D design is like a knife blade that goes into the ground down the center of the coil. These coils are great at handling mineralization where it essentially takes the ground mineralization and distributes it all the way across the blade, lessening its effects.
Concentric coils work with VLF detectors by using two separate windings inside the coil— one sends and one receives.
When it comes to a round versus elliptical coil, there is really no difference in the size, only shape. Coils are measured off of a round coil configuration. For example, a 14 x 10 inch coil will have the same attributes as a 12-inch coil. The key difference is that elliptical shapes work extremely well in difficult areas.
Although each metal detector has its pros and cons, you can’t go wrong by wearing the best headphones possible, no matter which brand or model you choose. Many gold nuggets you will find are only slight whispers in the detector’s threshold, so you want to always wear high quality headphones. Plastic scoops and a digging tool with a wide blade should also be in your accessory bag. When hunting, limit the amount of metal on your body, which includes wearing non-magnetic boots and belts. Put your car keys in your back pocket. Keep your cell phone in your back pocket, too, and make sure it’s off to avoid any interference.
Saturday, December 05 2020
With gold prices on the rise, you might be wondering if now is a good time to sell some of the gold you’ve found over the years. And if you decide it is, you might also wonder how to best sell that gold and to whom. The type of gold any buyer is interested in varies, and will largely depend on what form of gold you have.
Gold dust consists of flour, fines and flakes. This is the stuff most prospectors find as a result of panning, sluicing and dredging. This form of gold is probably the lowest value because it will have the most impurities. Small nuggets start at about 1 gram and are a step up from gold dust in value. Medium nuggets, on average, weigh up to 31 grams or 1 troy ounce. Large nuggets are defined as weighing 1 troy ounce or more. Larger nuggets usually command higher prices, and could be considered museum quality. Gold in quartz is usually a collector’s item or a museum piece, therefore, prices widely vary.
Keep in mind, though, that even nuggets that appear to be pure gold are not. They will have impurities embedded and blended into the matrix. There is no such thing as 100% pure gold from nature. In fact, in North America, the average purity for prospected and mined gold averages 60% - 85%. The impurities in natural gold consist of metals such as silver and copper and other minerals that have combined with gold on a molecular level. Tests, referred to as an “assay” must be performed to accurately measure the purity of gold. Some jewelers and pawn shops can analyze your gold to determine purity with an XRF gun (X-Ray Fluorescence); expect to pay a charge for that service.
The majority of gold bought and sold from small-scale prospectors include: private buyers (some advertise on eBay, Craigslist, and other online sites) pawn shops, independently owned jewelry stores that craft and repair their own jewelry, museums looking for unusual specimens or rare nuggets, and refiners. Most refiners are contracted by large gold mining operations, but some smaller refiners will purchase gold from prospectors in any form or mesh size. An internet search will reveal refiners that will buy from individuals.
If you want to sell your fine gold or nuggets, there are a few things to do first. You may not get a totally accurate assessment of your gold’s value, but you’ll at least have a ballpark estimate. Do NOT melt your gold. Keep it in its original form.
When you make contact with potential buyers who specialize in raw and natural gold, be sure to ask about and understand their procedures and policies and payments. Ask how your gold will be assayed and how the purity is determined. If you are shipping your gold to a buyer, understand their requirements for packaging and shipping, insurance, and other safeguards. Some buyers pay for the testing and shipping, others pass along the costs to the seller. Remember that buyers have costs and will not pay 100% of the spot price. The exception to this would be if you have museum specimens or very large nuggets. In those instances, buyers will pay more than the spot price.
Be patient and shop around to not only get the best price, but to find a buyer who you can work with now and in the future. Get recommendations from fellow prospectors, or clubs such as GPAA (Gold Prospectors Association of America). If possible, make your first transaction with a new buyer a small one to assess your experience and satisfaction with the overall sales process. When you feel you have had a successful first transaction, you’ll feel confident you can continue that relationship in the future.
If you've not yet found your first gold, get Alaska paydirt here.
Monday, November 16 2020
The use of water for grinding and milling has been in practice for thousands of years. From simple water wheels to inventors such as Archimedes of Ancient Greece and Bernoulli, a Swiss mathematician and physicist in the 1700s whose principles appear on modern day dredge nozzles, science has always advanced the use of water in our everyday lives. But have you considered just how much the dynamics of water can affect gold recovery?
Water Flow. The easiest example of how water dynamics affect gold is the classic inside bend in a waterway. When stream flow is straight and velocities are at their highest, gold will be suspended in the flow. As a bend in the stream causes flow to begin slowing down, the heaviest gold begins to drop out because the water no longer has enough velocity to suspend the material. The stream continues to lose power as the bend length increases and smaller and smaller gold continues to be deposited until there is no longer any in suspension, or the remaining water flow and speed cannot carry it farther downstream.
Water velocity and flow affect attempts at recovery in all capture devices in exactly the same way. Each piece of gold in classified material requires a certain flow and length of time to separate, drop out, and be captured based solely on its relative size and weight. If the velocity and flow are too great, the gold will remain suspended and will exit the machine regardless of machine length or method of recovery. This is why some miners are lured into a false sense of security just by using longer sluices.
Improper water depth in the sluice can create additional problems in recovery. Methods of material collection have much less effect if the gold is suspended in the upper part of the water flow. Most sluices provide little or no material agitation to break up the classified material and provide the necessary change in flow that facilitates gold separation. Lack of agitation allows smaller pieces to be carried through the equipment.
Classification. There is a direct relationship between material classification and water speed, which is often overlooked. It is common to classify for ease and speed of filling buckets rather than size of gold being targeted. Larger classification requires increased water speed to push the material through most recovery systems. The trade-off is forfeiting recovery of finer gold by increasing the length of drop time. This reduces the number of gold capture attempts and even machine effectiveness by having concentrations of larger material wedging into riffles, drops, etc.
Running dry material requires the sluice to liquefy the material while it is passing through. Gold particles will suspend in the dry material, reducing the chance of capture. Many miners use a scoop and drop their material into the machine in large clumps. This also allows particles to suspend instead of being processed. Material should always be wet prior to processing, and material should be cast (sprinkled) side to side across the machine when using a scoop.
Riffles. Some riffle designs are actually not that ideal for gold recovery. Some sluice riffles are evenly spaced, making them too far apart to impart the “vortex” or reverse underflow. What actually happens is an up-and-down wave motion as the water travels down the sluice. The only “action” imparted is the same negative flow that happens when water flows over a rock or some other obstacle in a stream. Material suspended at the bottom of the flow is deposited as the water climbs over the riffle and slows. Material that is heavy enough and can no longer be suspended drops. The rest of the material remains in the flow and continues to be carried down (and possibly out of) the sluice.
Flare. Most modern riffle sluices (standard and drop designs) are susceptible to improper setup angle, which can either clog the machine with material or blow it out completely. Either problem results in the loss of gold. Another big mistake in sluice design and operation is the “V” fallacy. The idea that channeling your water towards the center of the sluice using a wide-angle flare will increase its effectiveness and therefore increase gold recovery is false. On top of that, miners drop material into the center of the slick plate. This forces material into the center of the sluice, which is quickly overloaded by the volume of material and will cause the first series of riffles to lose their effectiveness.
Remove the flare from your sluice to eliminate the center concentration and create an even flow across the machine. You can create a V-shaped wing dam with a short straight section in front of your sluice if you need increased water flow or speed. Casting your material across the width of the sluice will eliminate overloading of the riffles.
Understanding how water height and speed changes your recovery can also make all the difference in boosting gold returns:
Water height. Begin with the water flowing just above the riffles or drops. Run small amounts of material and watch as the dirt passes through the sluice. Notice how the material enters the riffles or droops. Be sure to use the correct method of casting material evenly from side to side. Gradually increase the water height until processing suffers. This will determine the minimum and maximum water height for your sluice or highbanker.
Water velocity (speed). Set your sluice water height for max processing and a fairly fast flow, then gradually reduce water speed as you process small amounts of material. You may have to adjust your sluice to maintain proper water height through this process. Note how changes in water speed decrease the quality of material processing.
Spend some time exploring water dynamics. Introduce only one variable at a time, and verify how your gold recovery is affected before moving on. No doubt, with a little more understanding and experimentation, you’ll recover more gold with your sluice!
Tuesday, June 23 2020
Ocean beaches can be compared to the Mother Lode. Why? Because you can find GOLD on many by mining with a highbanker, and by searching with a metal detector. How lucky is that?! TWO ways to find gold at the same location! Think about it, who hasn’t lost a ring or coins at the beach? Whether you prefer recovering gold by swinging a detector or shoveling into a high banker, your chances of both are higher by visiting a beach this summer that is located in a gold-bearing area. A side benefit is that you’re enjoying the nice weather while it lasts while mining the beaches in different ways.
Beach Mining with a Highbanker
When you consider the advantages of beach mining with a highbanker— easy access in all seasons, no classifying material down to size, no digging in heavy cobbles and moving boulders, no worries about rattlesnakes or poison oak— the idea is very appealing. Of course any new environment means there will be a learning curve. Recovering 100 mesh gold from the beach requires a little extra attention to detail to prevent loss, so you’ll need to readjust your equipment and process. Don’t expect chunky nuggets; you’re going for the flour gold here. High tide, not your watch, will dictate your schedule. The general principles you already know are the same, but also keep these tips in mind.
• Slow down. Expect to process about 10 gallons of material an hour. If you try to feed a highbanker faster or use bigger scoops you will likely lose gold. The most efficient way to locate the paying black sand layers is to use a post hole digger or earth auger. The pay layer is usually right on top of a golden brown sand layer that pushes up into the black or blue sand. Frequent storms can remove the light sands and reconcentrate the black sands.
• Use about 25% of the water you would normally use. You may need to modify your spray bar to compensate for less water volume so you aren’t fighting foam and bubbles.
• The beach is a level playing field—literally, so tip your box to a 9-degree angle and go from there. Most beach miners use battery-powered bilge pumps to run their beach sluices. A small gas-powered pump also will work. A Gold Cube is also an excellent piece of recovery equipment to concentrate beach material, then run it through a Blue Bowl.
• Do frequent clean-ups.
Beach Mining with a Metal Detector
Water and sunscreen have a sneaky way of slipping rings from fingers of swimmers and sunbathers, making beaches a lucrative location for metal detecting. There are actually several similarities between beach hunting for jewelry and hunting for gold in the rivers. At the beach, stuff that is lost in the upper sand areas make their way down into the surf during large storm events just like gold is washed downstream in the same storms. You can find an occasional nugget above a river in gold country, but you’re going to make your best finds when you locate the pay streak where nature has concentrated the gold. The same is true of the beaches.
You will find that the surf sorts out materials, and when you are really lucky, you can identify a pay streak. In a river, the gold pay streaks follow the downstream flow of the river, but on the beach the pay streak will typically run horizontal across the beach. After items have been in the sand/surf for some time, the wave and current action tend to sort thing by weight and density. The pull tabs will be in a certain line, the lighter coins further down towards the deeper water, and when you start detecting fishing weights, you are likely nearing a pay streak. That is where you are most likely to strike gold— as in gold rings, bracelets, pendants, etc.
Wet sandy areas are particularly lucrative for detectorists. The reason for this is that beach-goers first congregate at the "towel line" and then migrate to wet sand. The "towel line" is an invisible area where the majority of people plop down their towels and coolers and umbrellas. At the towel line, sunbathers slather on slippery sunblock and tanning oil that acts like a lubricant and lessens friction. After baking in the sun for a while, they will need to go into the water to cool off a bit, which is where the body's natural reaction to cold is to shrivel up. Less friction + shrinkage = rings in the wet sand you can find with your metal detector!
In all types of beach hunting, the discrimination must be kept very low, eliminating only small iron (bobby pins and nails). Aluminum pull tabs and tin foil should not be discriminated or you will lose some gold and/or platinum rings as well. Some beach hunters operate with zero discrimination and dig everything. Use of a sand scoop makes target recovery fast and easy. It’s important to realize that most gold rings will read in the “middle” tones (above iron but below coins). If you’ve ever hunted the beach you have no doubt found your share of unwanted nails and other litter. To solve this, lace a rare earth magnet in the scoop to quickly capture those small, annoying iron targets. If you’re going to hunt the salt beach areas, you’ll want to get a heavy duty plastic scoop. A steel scoop will rust fairly quickly in those harsh conditions.
If you intend to hunt IN the water, of course you will need a waterproof metal detector and waterproof headphones — one that can handle salt water mineralization. There are some good pulse induction machines that work extremely well in salt conditions. Very shallow water is no problem but when you hunt waist deep water and deeper you should consider a mask and snorkel. If possible, hunt at low tide. That way you can get further out and hunt where other detectorists might not have gone. Plus, the surf tends to pull things down the beach and out into deeper water.
Saturday, May 02 2020
Researching new areas in which to prospect for gold, gems, or whatever you are seeking can be a lot of work, but since we’re now about six weeks into the Coronavirus quarantine, most of us have extra time that could be put to good use. Even though you may not be out in the field every day, you can still be prospecting! And even if you’re not making plans for out-of-state road trips just yet, you can still dig down into the history of local areas for new ideas. In other words, use your downtime wisely, so you can hit the ground running with your gold pan, highbanker, pick and shovel, metal detector, or other equipment as soon as shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted.
Tuesday, February 11 2020
The big gold rushes of the 19th century have long since ended, but in most cases you can still prospect for the precious metal in these same historic areas. If you’re interested in giving recreational gold mining a try but not sure where to go, below are some key locations where you can still find the yellow metal by gold panning or metal detecting. Since gold was found in these areas, likely the old-timers didn’t get it all— so you may get lucky and strike it rich (or at least catch gold fever)! Rules and regulations differ from state to state, so always be aware of the local laws. And if you want to metal detect on private land, you’ll need permission from the landowner.
Below is a very short list that offers a few ideas only. Beginners should search the internet or join a local gold prospecting organization for more information.
Keep in mind that even if there has been no major “rush,” major amounts of gold have been found in many other states, too, including Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Good luck!
Thursday, January 30 2020
Anyone who prospects for gold knows how elusive it can be. Even when you’re for certain on “good ground,” you can end the day with not much to show for your efforts. On the other hand, you may have a really great day and recover some of the shiny stuff, only to return to the same spot at a later date and find nothing. Often, the amount of gold you recover changes when you use a different piece of equipment or a different accessory. Sometimes it’s the weather that exposes or releases gold after a flood or storm. The environment can change, but sometimes the positive difference can be new places to look for gold. Besides hiding in the usual places in streams and on dry land— in crevices, behind boulders, in the roots of plants and trees, in tailings piles — have you ever considered looking for gold in MOSS? Yes, the kind of ordinary moss that thrives in wet conditions!
Mosses are small flowerless plants that usually grow in dense green clumps in shady moist places. That might be the forest floor, or on trees and rocks along the banks of a waterway. Moss is seedless and only grows roots shallow enough to attach itself to surfaces where it will thrive. Moss doesn’t have a root like a flower has, but it does have root-like structures that attach it to the host rock. These structures are known as rhizoids. Instead of sucking up moisture through the roots, moss collects rain and stream water that runs over top of them. It may also collect fine gold in the same way.
If you’ve visited a particular stream at various times of the year, you know that water levels can vary greatly. Sometimes water completely covers mossy rocks that are along the banks, other times when the water level is low, the moss is exposed and dries out in the sun. Have you ever considered processing that ordinary moss for fine gold? It doesn’t sound too crazy when you think about gold being heavier than water and how it hides under boulders and rocks. So why couldn’t fine gold collect in moss as well? The next time you see moss growing along a gold-bearing waterway, try processing that moss (and all the dirt and sand and — hopefully — GOLD) that is mixed in with it. If you don’t have a convenient gold vacuum such as a Vac Pac, try scraping the moss into a bucket. Then break it up to release the dirt from the roots. Once you work the dirt and sand out of the moss, pan that material. Depending on the number of rocks located along any given waterway, you may find plenty of moss to work in addition to sluicing or panning in that river. Give it a try. You may just recover some of that elusive gold that would ordinarily gets overlooked by most prospectors. Good luck!
Sunday, July 14 2019
Alluvial gold refers to tiny gold flakes that come to be through water erosion and movement. In geology, alluvium is loose sediment which has been eroded from a primary source, transported and further eroded by water, and redeposited. Since gold is extremely dense, it is easily trapped alongside other dense alluvial particles. The bits of gold found in these deposits of alluvium are called “alluvial gold.”
The alluvial environment is a very complex one, with many natural forces competing with each other. The forces that lay down gold are a summation of many flood water events of varying intensity that cause the reworking of sands and gravels. Between major flood events, water naturally flows along the already created path and typically the gold present in the gravel or on the surface will not move much. But the larger flooding events can change the drainage routes and even the river’s shape. Some curves can be shut off from the stream and bypassed. Where the water speed decreases, gravels will drop out of suspension, creating alluvial pay streaks that are typically located along and near the riverbed.
To identify where a pay streak might be located, take the flow of the waterway into consideration. The most productive streaks are formed as a result of major floods that are significant in terms of both water flow and intensity of erosion. Greater amounts of gold are present here as compared to regular gravels. Pay streaks tend to possess a comet-like form. At the “head” or “heart” is found the richest concentration of gold. At this location, the gravel is coarser and the sandy and silty fraction is much less. This little bit of silt is present only for a few centimeters on the surface, laid down in the last phases of the flood as the silt is dropped. The gold in these gravels is typically small flat flakes, with maybe a small picker or two.
As gold prospectors, our objective is to learn to read a stream and recognize the pay streaks it contains. Think about where you are going to dig before you start and then repeatedly test the gravel you are processing. It is important to consider the presence, form, and depth of the bedrock on which the water and all the alluvial gravel deposits are sitting. In many cases, the gold will naturally concentrate in the lowest part of the riverbed, making a gold-rich path. During high water events, much of the gold is picked up and put back into motion, which leads to forming new pay streaks. Some will be laid back down along the low line of the stream, but may also end up a little farther downstream. The gravels in contact with the bedrock or false bedrock base are often the richest. The same facts apply to the alluvial pay streaks that are formed on gravel bars— the lowest level of the gold-bearing gravel is normally the richest.
The alluvial environment changes over time. Alluvial pay streaks generated 100 years ago could become buried, then subsequently be eroded and exposed again. The erosion might be in part or in total, generating a new series of paystreaks further downstream. Pay particular attention to large boulders and trees. Obstacles like these may partially block the water flow and provide an opportunity for increased gold concentrations, especially behind the obstructions. If there are fissures, holes or natural traps in the stream, be sure to sample these areas, too.
Although high water events are sporadic, when you do find a paystreak caused by one, it can be a very productive spot. Stick with it and keep in mind most are small and narrow and best worked by hand with a sluice and gold pans.
Nugget of News Blog
Friday, February 01 2019
Did you know... there is actually more gold still out there waiting to be found today than the old-timers ever recovered way back in the 1800s gold rush era? And did you also know that attending a GPAA Gold and Treasure Show (Gold Prospector's Association of America) is a great place to get started on your modern day treasure hunt?!
Browse the show floor to find dozens of leading worldwide manufactures and local vendors demonstrating the latest and greatest gold mining and metal detecting equipment, attend free seminars, ask questions of the pros, and enter to win thousands of dollars in door prizes. Pick up a pan for the first time or hone your skills at the panning zone, where skilled instructors will help you recover gold, for free. Keep all the gold you find!
Saturday show hours 10 am - 5 pm and Sundays 10 am - 4 pm in these cities:
Visit the GPAA website for more details and to buy your $5 adult tickets; kids 12 and under plus military and veterans with ID are FREE. If you can, make a family road trip out of attending one or more of the shows this spring. In addition to the show itself, each city has fun touristy things to do, and if you're a GPAA member, you can visit nearby mining claims.
Whether you’re a family with kids or a lone enthusiast, a GPAA Gold & Treasure Show is your one-stop-shop for all of your gold prospecting and treasure hunting wants and needs. By attending a show, you're sure to have a blast, meet interesting people, find new tools, and learn new tricks of the trade. All of that is enough to make you hollar Eureka!
Nugget of News Blog
Monday, October 01 2018
A highbanker, sometimes called a power sluice, is a very flexible and efficient piece of equipment when you’re gold mining in areas with a good amount of water. Their main use is to allow you to pump the water to the gravels rather than carrying heavy buckets of gravel to the water. The optimal place to use a high banker is a location along a river where there are lots of bench gravels that have been left high and dry by erosion. Just shovel material directly into a high banker and let the equipment do the rest of the work! As long as there is sufficient water close by so the hose can reach it, you’ll be good to go. High bankers are available in various sizes. The bigger the unit, the more gravel it will handle in a day. That also means it will likely be heavier and less portable. High bankers are fairly simple to set up and operate. They have three main components: a hopper feed box, and sluice box, and a pump.
Hopper: The feed box contains a grizzly screen with a water spray bar. The water is normally sprayed from simple plastic pipes with a series of small holes drilled into them. A water valve located ahead of the spray pipe controls the amount of water flow going into the feed box sprays. A series of rods are arranged to make a slat-type screen (called a grizzly) that allows water and smaller material to fall through and go down into the sluice box. The large rocks that are caught by the grizzly are washed with the spray and then rejected. The slats should be set on an angle so that most of the larger gravel will slide off the slats by the pull of gravity without you needing to push them off by hand. Some rocks may hang up, but for the most part, they will slide off on their own. The spray water comes out under a lot of pressure and washes any loose sand or clay into the sluice and also provides part of the water needed to move material through the sluicebox area.
Sluice: High bankers utilize a normal sluice to recover the gold from the gravels, and the operation of the sluice box portion of a high banker is basically the same as that of a hand or stream sluice. With a highbanker, the water is supplied by a pump rather than the flowing water of a stream. The matting and miners moss underneath the sluice’s riffles are the same. Gold flakes get caught in the riffles and moss the very same way as it does in a hand sluice. A nice back-saving bonus on a high banker is that it will be on legs, so you can operate it on any terrain. A normal hand sluice lays on the bottom of a streambed.
Pump: The centrifugal type pump should be set near the water as it is more efficient to pump water uphill to the sluice than to suck it up to the pump. This is only important where there is a lot of vertical distance between the pump and the sluice. If there is less than 10 feet of vertical distance, it does not matter much. Pumps can be set up quite a distance away horizontally from the sluice. It will work so long as there is sufficient water at the source where the pump is located. Vertical distance is more of a problem than horizontal distance; 30-40 feet is the maximum vertical climb for most pumps. The standard lay flat type of hose is used to carry the water up to the feed hopper. Be sure to have enough hose and some extra in case you spring a leak! Remember to position the pump so that you aren’t breathing motor exhaust fumes all day!
The big advantage of a highbanker is working materials that are found in a location away from a river, like benches and other isolated patches of gravel. Moving the water to the sluice with a pump saves you from carrying the material down to the stream. The only disadvantage to highbanking for gold might be that it’s more equipment to pack around than just your usual digging equipment. It would be wise to test your ground before hauling in your high banker. Testing will indicate if there is enough gold in the gravels to warrant bringing in more than a hand sluice. If you have at least an amount of gravel that represents a full day of digging and sluicing, bring in a highbanker.
The adjustment of a high banker is much less than the steep slope you usually would use with a hand sluice. Adjust the water flow to the minimum flow rate that it takes to get all the rocks that fall through the screen to keep moving down the sluice box section. If rocks or gravel hang up and bury the sluice, you need more water and perhaps a steeper box angle to wash that stuff away. The height of the feed box is another important adjustment. You want it low to allow you an ease of feeding in the material. If too high, you will hurt your back lifting heavy shovels full of gravel. Too low and you may be constantly sweeping away tailings at the back of the sluice.
The feed box itself should be adjusted to ensure the angle of the slat screen rods (the grizzly) allow the gravel to be well washed before it moves out as waste. This is because a lot of small gold adheres too the larger cobbles. If rocks and cobbles just roll through without getting a thorough washing, you will be losing gold. The rejection of the large oversize rocks is important as it lets your sluice to a better job. If those bigger rocks make it into the sluice, you’ll be getting much worse recovery of fine gold.
Be sure the foot valve or strainer on the intake hose is clear and able to deliver a full water flow. Sometimes the foot valve can get clogged with leaves or other debris. A blocked or partially obstructed foot-valve won’t allow the high banker to operate properly. For environmental reasons, it is a good idea to have your water drain into a pond or pit that is not directly connected to the stream. This is so that the clay and mud can settle out, otherwise make sure there are no legal issues of putting that mud back into a flowing stream.
Some models of highbankers can also be run as a dredge. These highbanker/dredge combos can save you money, offer flexibility, but are also a bit of a compromise since the dredge portion is generally small. Combo units will be equipped with a suction nozzle type of intake. This design is best for working small shallow streams and tributaries. These systems are designed to be set up alongside the stream edge and have adjustable legs rather than float systems that you’d normally see on a larger suction dredge. With a suction nozzle and more hoses, the combo unit will operate as a suction dredge, picking up material from underwater crevices and delivering it to the sluice. Highbanker/dredge combos also can be ideal for working in and around ponds in old hydraulic mining pits.
The next time you are out in the field, consider if a highbanker or power sluice can help you get more gold. To determine if the answer is yes, ask yourself these questions: Where is the nearest water? Can I shovel directly from the diggings into the feed hopper? Can I set it up to allow gravity to do a lot of the tailings clearing work? Where will the pump go? With a little thought and planning, you’ll be able to decide if highbanking for gold will increase your productivity. In most cases it will. Move more dirt, get more gold! Good luck!
Monday, August 06 2018
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Nugget of News Blog
Monday, July 30 2018
Places where gold naturally concentrates in an environment of streams and drainages are known 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!
Friday, April 27 2018
A good rule of thumb that most prospectors agree on is to look for placer gold on bedrock and within crevices in the bedrock. This simple principle makes sense— placer gold is heavy and dense and therefore settles at the lowest point as it is pushed around by flowing water. However, gold isn’t always going to make it all the way down to true solid bedrock at the bottom of all gravels. Instead, in certain conditions, it will be found ABOVE bedrock. When these conditions exist, gold will collect on “false bedrock.” For example, a clay layer in streams can act like bedrock and yield more gold than the true bedrock below it.
Another situation where gold cannot make it to bedrock is where the streams and gullies have “caliche.” Caliche is a form of cemented gravel often found in desert areas. The gravel is deposited by water flows, just as it would be in any other stream. The difference is that the water contains dissolved calcium salts, and as the water dries up in the streambed, the calcium salts turn into calcium carbonate or calcite. This material gets deposited on the gravel a little at a time and eventually the calcite glues it all together into a solid mass. The solid mass then acts like false bedrock and any new gold flowing across it is stopped in its downward movement by the caliche.
Tuesday, February 06 2018
Historically, California has been known as the land of the big nuggets. After the Gold Rush began in 1849, some 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.
Unlike 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 gold 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
Thursday, September 28 2017
For those of us with a strong dose of gold fever, the price of gold doesn't make much difference. Most prospectors seem to get much more pleasure from the process of finding the gold rather than selling it. It's the thrill of the hunt! Plus, gold remains a sound investment over time as a hedge against inflation and instability.
You might recall when gold peaked in August 2011 at $1890 per ounce. That was a very exciting time in the news— media hype always follows whenever gold takes a strong rise or dips. Over the last few years, the price has come down and is averaging around $1200 per ounce. But you might be wondering where the price is going from here. If you take a look at the chart of gold prices, it can be an indicator of what's to come.
The key to the chart is recognizing resistance levels and support levels (high and low points). When a price bottoms out, it establishes a new floor. When it breaks below that floor it is considered "bearish" and likely to drop further since it broke a supporting base price. When it breaks above a resistance level, it indicates there is strong demand which could push the price to higher levels.
Between 1978-1980, gold prices went from $172 to $830 per troy ounce. In 1982, gold prices dropped back to $328 an ounce. It was not until 1999 that the price hit the low of $253 after the peak in 1980. Never having broken that price floor, it entered a recovery where it eventually broke above the high set in 1980, pushing to $944 an ounce by February 2008. Later that same year, in October, the price hit just under $830 before skyrocketing to that crazy high of $1890 per ounce! Since then, the price has dropped from its high just as it did in the early 1980s. Gold dropped to a new floor of $1066 at the end of 2015, before bouncing back to its current levels. Since the new floor was established, it has not been broken. Instead, the price climbed to $1340 per oz. by August 2016, dropped but stayed $100 above the prior low to $1163 and has since bounced back to around $1200. If the price continues to set new highs, even if it drops thereafter and continues to set higher lows on its way up, it is considered "bullish" or positive.
Why is the price of gold so important? Maybe it's not to the average prospector, but the price of gold has a direct impact on the level of involvement in prospecting. The next sharp rise in price might bring with it additional involvement from more people. The treasure seeker in all of us might just kick in, bringing more families out to the gold fields. Good luck!
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!
Graduating 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 increasing 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 inches, 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!
Saturday, April 01 2017
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 over a “bad” winter, a great deal of gold can be set free, creating a bonanza for gold hunters in spring and summer. 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). Flooding on this scale occurred in Colorado in 2013. After the heavy rains in the west this winter (in California, Oregon, and Washington to name just a few affected states), this summer promises to be one of the best seasons for small scale miners in many areas. Even farmers in Thailand are looking for gold now to try and make up for the economic loss of ruined pineapple crops caused by floods.
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. In early spring, rivers are still high in most places, but in the next few months, stream beds could be exposed for better gold hunting. 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 shiny stuff! With so much more runoff than normal shaking gold from them thar hills, the best prospecting will come in the summer months when the water has receded. Good luck and be safe!
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 and 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.
Friday, December 02 2016
Metal detectors are electromagnetic devices and can detect items that are conductive or magnetic, or both. Gold is an example of a non-magnetic conductive item. Iron is both conductive and magnetic. Almost all major advances in prospecting metal detectors over the last 40 years revolve around improving ways to ignore and see through ground mineralization while still finding gold nuggets. If you’re using any brand of VLF (very low frequency) metal detector to prospect for gold, choosing the correct operating mode (also called search mode) can make or break your success.
Experts recommend that any metal detector you are considering for gold prospecting should have a true all metal mode. This mode is important because of its lack of filtering applied to the signal. It will normally offer the best depth and the best sensitivity to small gold. Unfortunately, two common problems occur when using All Metal Mode: interference from ferrous iron and steel junk, and from hot rocks. A hot rock is nothing more than a rock that has a different magnetic content than the ground. Some rocks are that way because they contain conductive minerals besides gold. The Discrimination knob on your detector will help with these two problems.
Discrimination is a type of electronic filtering. The signal is analyzed, and depending on the discrimination setting, identified as either a target to be dug or a target to be ignored. Applying more discrimination eliminates more trash, but be careful—you don’t want to completely eliminate all ferrous trash because an aggressive level of discrimination easily tunes out gold. So be prepared to still dig ferrous junk which usually turns out to be larger chunks of steel and iron. Also know that discrimination circuits can be fooled, especially in ground with lots of iron mineralization. This ground condition can override the small gold signal and cause a faint gold signal to be identified as ferrous. Even with this limitation, the discrimination mode can be invaluable for finding gold in extremely trashy areas. Trashy areas are where a VLF detector can really outshine a PI (pulse induction) machine, especially when dealing with nails, bits of rusted cans, and other small trash. If you’re in the market for a metal detector, some manufacturers offer special holiday packages such as the 3 listed below. You can also shop for Fisher, Garrett, Bounty Hunter, Minelab, Tesoro and Teknetics metal detectors here.
Through Christmas only... FREE Recharge Kit and FREE 15” Coil and FREE Shipping with purchase of either Fisher F75 ($599) or Teknetics T2 ($499) detectors! Both machines are recommended for Coin Shooting, Relic Hunting, and Gold Prospecting.
Garrett AT Pro holiday package ($594.96) includes detector, headphones, instructional DVD,
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 turn 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!
Thursday, September 24 2015
Teknetics T2 is a multi-purpose high-performance computerized metal detector. When this detector was first released the price tag was $849 -- now it's only $499! It has the high sensitivity and ground cancellation features needed for professional gold prospecting, the discrimination responsiveness needed for serious relic hunting under difficult conditions, and visual Target-ID considered essential in searching for coins. The ground cancellation system can be adjusted to allow searching saltwater beaches.
This detector comes with an 11-inch elliptical Bi-Axial searchcoil for maximum detection depth in mineralized soils. An accessory bundle for the T2 includes a smaller coil, backpack, hat, and more is also available (additional charge). This machine is light weight and the best balanced of any high-performance metal detector, so you can hold and swing it almost effortlessly. The armrest position is adjustable to fit your arm. The grip is durable high-friction foam elastomer, comfortable in any kind of weather. The controls are conveniently located and easy to learn how to use. Locking collars on the tubes eliminate rattling. The entire menu is always visible on the LCD display. The LCD display indicates the electrical signature (Target-ID) of the detected metal object. The display provides continuous information on battery condition and on ground mineralization, which affects detection depth. Help messages are automatically displayed on the lower right corner of the display when necessary.
A great benefit of the Teknetics T2 is that it is easier to learn to use properly than other comparable metal detectors. A few of its best features inclue:
The T2 is powered by four AA alkaline batteries, which will typically last for more than 40 hours of use before needing replacement. The lead engineers on the design team were John Gardiner, firmware engineer, and David Johnson, whose expertise is behind many of the best-known high-performance metal detectors offered by major U.S. manufacturers for the last 26 years. 5 year manufacturer warranty from First Texas Products, LLC.
Most metal detectors, like the Teknetics T2, use VLF Induction Balance technology. Here’s how it works: The searchcoil (also called search head or loop) contains two electrical induction coils which are like antennas. One coil transmits a rapidly alternating magnetic field, illuminating the region surrounding the searchcoil. If metal is present, its electrical conductivity distorts the magnetic field. If iron metal is present, its magnetism also distorts the magnetic field, but in a different way, allowing the metal detector to distinguish between ferrous and nonferrous metals. The other coil is a receiving antenna which detects changes in the magnetic field caused by the presence of metal. Electronic circuits amplify this weak signal, analyze it to determine the changes which occur as the searchcoil sweeps over the target, and then convey the information to the user in the form of a visual display or audio tones. Most modern metal detectors perform many of these tasks in software running on an internal microcomputer. The iron minerals which are present in most soils also distort the magnetic field, obscuring the weak signals of small or deep objects. This can cause the object to go undetected, or to be misidentified when it is detected. Much of the technology that goes into modern metal detectors is devoted to the task of eliminating the unwanted signals from iron minerals in the soil, while not losing the signals from metal objects.
If you're considering a multi-use detector that's ideal for relic hunting, coin shooting, and gold prospecting, learn more here about Teknetics T2 Metal Detector and/or download the operating manual.
Monday, July 20 2015
As you read this, water levels in many Western states will be at their lowest of the year— in some cases, the lowest in a couple of years. Snow levels in many of the mountain ranges were only a fraction of normal for the second or third winter in a row. Drought conditions continue in the majority of California, Nevada, and many parts of Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico. About now, water temperatures are also at their warmest in many places. What does this mean for gold prospectors? OPPORTUNITY! Low water levels in rivers and streams offer the best time to snipe for gold, so take advantage of this unique way to gold mine this summer.
Gold sniping, also called crevicing or cracking, is basically cleaning out cracks and crevices in and around bedrock— areas that were submerged for many, many years but are accessible during times of drought. These areas have the potential to trap and retain gold. After visually determining the best places to snipe (more on that later), all you need are a few simple tools for collecting and panning the high-grade material from those cracks. Basic, yet effective!
When normally rushing rivers and streams are reduced to a trickle and boulders and bedrock are exposed, you won’t need a wet suit or snorkel, only some waders. The boulders can still be very slippery, though, so keep that in mind when crossing waterways. Most snipers do use a mask and snorkel and wetsuit. In addition, the basic tools for sniping include a plastic gold pan, long stainless steel tweezers, snuffer bottle, plastic vials, pry bars to loosen jammed-together rocks, a garden trowel or similar tool to dig behind boulders, and a bucket. A hand dredge or nugget sucker can really come in handy, too.
The first step in prospecting, of course, is to stop by the appropriate BLM or Forest Service office to determine where you can recreationally hunt for gold. You don’t want to accidentally trespass on someone else’s claim. Once you’re there, visually study the river and think about all the areas that gold might be hiding. Loose flakes or nuggets of placer gold are much heavier than the surrounding sand and gravel, therefore, the dense metal gradually works its way downward and collects in seams in the bedrock. The inside bends of rivers tend to be good collection spots because the water slows there, allowing the heavier sands and metals to collect in and around anything that obstructs its path. Try investigating the exposed underwater root systems of any trees found along the bank, too. These act as natural gold traps. Large boulders offer opportunities as well. It's best to snipe on the downstream side of these monoliths since the back eddies occurring there sometimes pull gold and other heavy materials out of the passing current and force them to settle.
If you’re sniping underwater, float on the water with your mask and snorkel, going downstream with the current. Look for crevices below the waterline that are reachable. When you locate a likely spot, remove the loose sand that commonly fills crevices in the bedrock. “Fan” away the sand and lighter debris with your hand, then use a pry bar or other crevice tool to loosen packed gravels. Once exposed under water, gold just seems to glow, especially on a sunny day, so it’s easy to use tweezers to collect the flakes and pickers. Walnut-sized nuggets are few and far between, but the thrill of the hunt will keep most snipers looking! Be sure to thoroughly clean out each crevice because the majority of the gold is going to be concentrated at the very bottom.
When you need a break from getting your feet wet (or the rest of you), panning along the bank or using a gold vacuum in the dry material along the shoreline can be lucrative. When the water level is low, plants, logs, and smaller rocks that used to be below the waterline are now visible. Gold might have collected around these obstructions when they were under water, but no one thinks to look here because they’re now in plain sight and almost too obvious. What others miss could be your bonanza!
Bigger is not always better. With most mining operations, the more dirt you move, the more gold you get. Sniping is about the little things— working smaller areas very thoroughly. Perhaps the most pleasurable thing about sniping is its simplicity. You can hike in and get away from the crowds, and enjoy some peace and quiet and lovely scenery. It is a cool way to spend a hot summer day, and if you have patience and really learn to read the stream, you will find more and more gold using this method. If you’re new to gold sniping, you also might want to search YouTube for videos showing snipers in action.
As difficult as drought conditions are for farmers, ranchers, and many others, prospectors can use the low water levels to our advantage. Now is the time to work potential bedrock hot spots that could never be reached in normal years. Summer won’t last long, so get out there and get your share of the gold… sniping is just one more mining method that could have you yelling “Eureka!”
Monday, September 01 2014
In the spring of 1859, flakes of gold were found in Clear Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River in north central Colorado. Some prospectors were happy finding rich gold dust, but John Gregory was determined to find the source. For months, the Georgia native followed North Clear Creek upstream from the present-day city of Golden, and on May 6, 1859, made the first lode discovery in the Rockies! Gregory sold his two claims for $21,000 a few months later and left the area, but his name carries on. “Gregory Gulch” is located between the towns of Central City and Black Hawk. The Gregory Mining District encompasses these towns plus several other mining camps, and as a whole, this area is referred to as "The Richest Square Mile On Earth.” Central City takes it name from being “central” to all the mining activity.
Within two months of Gregory’s initial gold discovery, 900 fortune-seekers were living in log shanties and tents. By the following summer, the population had swollen to 10,000. In no time, businesses and mills were thriving and the area became the leading mining center in the Kansas Territory. At this time, Colorado wasn’t yet a state, but its prominent place in mining history was already secured. Between 1859 and 1918 (considered by the National Register of Historical Places to be the area’s “period of significance”), the total gold output was $83,364,157! Most of this was in the form of placer gold, which was extracted with pans and sluices. This “easy” gold played out within the first five years of discovery, and by the end of 1863, most work had shifted to hard rock mining.
The promise of riches continues to lure people to Central City today, but it’s not so much to find gold— but to gamble. Limited stakes gaming was legalized in 1991, and has made this area an important destination once again. Gambling was big business here in the 1880s, drawing the likes of Doc Holliday, and even Soapy Smith all the way from Alaska. The downtown core is now a National Historic District, and casinos reside in many of the restored historic buildings. Much of the beautiful and original woodwork, ceilings, and ornate furnishings date back to the 1870s. A scenic loop drive in the hills above the town is the place to find gold rush cemeteries, abandoned mines, headframes, and many other mining relics.
Take a Walk
The best way to learn more about Central City’s gold rush and admire its architecture at the same time is to stop at the Visitor Center on Eureka Street for a walking tour map. Choose from several self-guided walking tours, depending on your interests. Many of the town’s most magnificent buildings are in downtown, whereas Victorian residences are located outside of the business district. No matter how much ground you want to cover on foot, keep in mind you’re above 8,000 feet in elevation here, so pace yourself. Some buildings are open for guided tours (admission charged) but even if you don’t peek inside, you’ll get a good sense of the town’s history right from the street. If you want to shake hands with one-armed bandits or play poker at any time during your walk, you’ll find a chance to meet Lady Luck every step of the way.
One of the most notable buildings in downtown is the 150-room Teller House Hotel. Located on the corner of Eureka and Pine Streets, it was built in 1872 at a cost of $87,000, plus another $20,000 to furnish. From its non-descript exterior, you’d never believe that the Teller House was once considered to be the most elegant hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. Financed largely by Henry Teller, who became the first senator from Colorado and later, Secretary of the Interior, it’s no longer used as a hotel but is the center for opera-related activities (Central City Opera House is next door).
In April of 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant came to see his friend Henry Teller. To impress the president, mine owners decided to lay 26 ingots of solid silver to make a path to the entrance to the Teller House so President Grant wouldn’t have to dirty his boots when he stepped from his carriage. Those wealthy citizens also had an ulterior political motive. At the time, Congress was debating whether gold or silver should back the dollar. Legend has it that Grant became angry when he saw the silver bars and walked up the boardwalk instead of on the silver path so as not to show favoritism. As we know, gold eventually won.
The grand opening of the Opera House in 1878 (next door to the Teller House Hotel) started a tradition of community theatre, ranging from opera to vaudeville. Buffalo Bill Cody performed here as well as P. T. Barnum’s circus. The Opera House is known for its elaborately frescoed ceiling and perfect acoustics. In addition to Central City’s very popular Opera Festival held each summer, performances are held year round in this beautifully restored 550-seat theatre. The Opera Association also owns the Williams Stables building on Eureka Street. Initially constructed in 1876 for the use of Teller House guests, the building was purchased a few years later by Sheriff Dick Williams and his son. It was from here that a Stanley Steamer automobile could be had for hire— quite an achievement back in the day!
Many of the Main Street establishments are identified by “blocks” and named for their original builders. In addition to the Teller House Hotel, Henry Teller also built the Teller Block for $6,000 in 1874. The upper floor was purchased a few years later by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which retained ownership until the 1990s. The Mullen Block was completed in 1874 by Thomas Mullen. Originally a drug store and clothing store, the Elks Lodge bought the building in 1902. The Harris Block was built in 1875 by Robert Harris and was home to the New York Store Mercantile that sold dry goods, clothing, and furnishings.
Gold in Them Thar Hills
The scenic forested hills above town offer evidence of the thousands of mining claims that placed Central City and the surrounding area in the history books. When you’re ready to take a short loop drive, the helpful staff at the Visitor Center will point you in the right direction. The route is mostly a well-maintained dirt road that takes you past headframes, abandoned mines, and sites of once thriving communities. Nevadaville is one such mining camp that 1,200 gold seekers used to call home. Along the route you’ll see the Coeur d’Alene Mine. Originally opened by Robert Cameron in 1894, the shaft reaches some 700 feet into the depths of Gunnell Hill. Records indicated that in 1915 this mine employed nine men who earned from $3-$4 per day. You’ll also see the shaft house of the Boodle Mill. Because of the serious safety hazard posed by abandoned mines, trespassing laws are strictly enforced. Although tempting to explore, keep away from old mines and tailings to avoid accidents.
Known for their excellent stonework, the rock retaining walls visible in various places along the route were built by a very large population of Cornish miners. The walls were part of the former Gilpin Tramway, a 26-mile narrow gauge railroad that once looped around the gulches and through the surrounding communities. Sidings went to many of the major mines. Most of the retaining walls don’t use mortar, and were instead constructed using a dry-stack method. After more than a century, most of the rockwork is still holding up— no maintenance required.
The loop drive also takes you through the “cemetery district.” Many stories are told through the memorials and headstones. Harsh weather, less-than-clean water, mining accidents, and few physicians were the norm during the gold rush. So were epidemics of scarlet fever, diphtheria, and the Spanish flu. Sadly, you’ll notice that a large number of children are interred within the cemetery fences. When you visit, please remember these sites are historical grounds, but are also still in use today. The Gilpin County Historical Society also holds an annual “Cemetery Crawl.”
"Oh My Gawd Road"
After getting your fill of gold rush history and gambling, a popular route leading out of Central City to Idaho Springs takes about 30 minutes. It isn’t quite as bad as its moniker, but it’s not for the faint of heart either. The “Oh My Gawd” Road (CR 279) is more dirt than pavement and wouldn’t be wise for drivers who don’t like narrow, twisty roads, but the mountain views make it worth it. Along the bumpy route you’ll pass the famous “Glory Hole” mine workings, drive through Russell Gulch, and see many more mining relics that attest to “The Richest Square Mile on Earth” in days gone by.
IF YOU GO:
Central City is located in the Rocky Mountains, only 35 miles west of Denver. With the newly opened, Central City Parkway, visitors can reach Central City 12 minutes after exiting off of I-70 at exit 243.
The Central City Visitors Center is located at 103 Eureka Street, at the northern end of Main Street in the old Wells Fargo Building.
Articles and photos by Denise Seith. This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Gold Prospectors Magazine, published by the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA).
Thursday, July 03 2014
Victor, Colorado -- the City of Mines
Victor is a small quaint mountain town now, but back in the late 1890s, more than 8,000 lived and worked here. By the time the town was platted in 1893, it was already known as the City of Mines because the largest and richest gold mines of the Cripple Creek and Victor District were located on Battle Mountain just above town. Today, several headframes still jut into the sky, and brick buildings dating to 1899 still line the streets. Between 1899 and 1902, booming Victor boasted 48 saloons, 29 doctors, 15 restaurants, 12 banks, eight pharmacies, six churches, five architects, two newspapers and more. In early 1899, a fire destroyed the original false-front pine buildings and left 3,000 people homeless. Within six months, though, the businesses were rebuilt in brick or stone. Just like in Cripple Creek, Victor saw its share of the Colorado Labor Wars, too. The Western Federation of Miners union hall on 4th Street has some telltale bullet holes to prove it!
Interpretive signs posted at intersections around Victor relate colorful stories about the Red Light Social Clubs, the famous girls who entertained at the Fortune Club, and about the town’s founders. Take a walk and envision the streets as they would have been over 100 years ago. If you need a little help imagining yesteryear, the photographs in the Lowell Thomas Museum depict life in early Victor, and it is also the best place to learn about the town’s pioneers. The museum’s namesake is none other than the internationally renowned radio news broadcaster, author, and film producer Lowell Thomas. Between 1930 and 1976, Mr. Thomas’s 15-minute nightly news and commentary aired just before the famous Amos ‘n Andy Show, and had a audience numbering more than that of the NBC, CBS and ABC TV news anchors combined. Victor was Lowell Thomas’s boyhood home.
American Eagles Scenic Overlook
A few miles outside of Victor, you’ll find an impressive view of the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District from atop the American Eagles Scenic Overlook. Stop at the Victor visitor center first (formerly a train depot) for a map. From an elevation of 10,570 feet, you get a bird’s eye look down into the CC&V surface operations where massive 240-ton haul trucks riding on 12-foot diameter tires haul ore up and down a abyrinth of roads. Mount Pisgah and the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Mountains make a nice backdrop.
In 1895, the American Eagles Mine at this site was the highest underground mine in the district. This mine had three shafts, the deepest had reached 1,540 feet by 1902. Shafts are vertical excavations through which miners and supplies are taken into and out of underground workings. Headframes sit above the vertical shaft in order to support the sheave wheel or pulley system that passed the hoist cable from the steam or electric-powered hoisting mechanism to the metal cage that hauled men and supplies. Tunnels on the other hand, are horizontal excavations, driven from the surface into the side of a hill to connect with the underground workings some distance away. Technically speaking, tunnels have surface openings on both ends. A one-opening tunnel is an adit.
The original American Eagles headframe is still standing proudly, and the double-drum hoist is still in its place, too. The shaft, however, has been sealed. Remnants of a blacksmith shop and mine superintendent’s house are also at the overlook. Interpretive signs around the site tell the story of Winfield Stratton who purchased the American Eagles in 1895 after a huge success with his local Independence Mine. In fact, Mr. Stratton was Victor’s first millionaire and sold the Independence Mine for $11 million. The American Eagles was worked until 1940, but unfortunately little is known about its actual production since it was a private claim.
On your drive up to the American Eagles Scenic Overlook, expect to stop at a checkpoint and give your name to a Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company employee. Your visit is welcomed, so the checkpoint is for nothing other than your safety. You’ll be told if it is OK to proceed (the road is closed during blasting), and will be cautioned about the giant haul trucks that share part of the same road. Access the American Eagles Scenic Overlook north of Victor at the intersection of County Roads 81 and 83 on Bull Hill Pass. The route is signed.
Trails of Gold
The remains of many mining operations pepper the landscape in and around Victor. Quite a few sites are connected by hiking trails (pick up a map at the visitor center in Victor). These “Trails of Gold” offer up-close looks at more relics of yesteryear as well as active mining activities. The trails include good signage about the area history. Some buildings are heaps of rubble, some are still standing— it all depends on Mother Nature. Be careful when exploring these sites, and if you’re normally a flatlander, remember that you’re trekking at elevations of 9,500-10,500 feet above sea level.
The Independence Town Site is an interesting stop. The steel headframe of the Vindicator Mine is hard to miss, and a gravel path takes you past what’s left of a surface plant, ore processing facility, and a residence that has definitely seen better days. Independence originated as Hull’s Camp on the Hull City placer claim. Although some placer gold was found, the real riches came from underground veins, so there were several different mines here. The Vindicator is credited with producing a total of 1,244,000 troy ounces of gold between 1895 and 1953. Also nearby is what remains of the Theresa Mine, which produced over 120,000 troy ounces between 1895 and 1961.
Cripple Creek and Victor continue to pay tribute to their 1890s heritage as The World’s Greatest Gold Camp. In and around these tiny towns, much of the area’s gold rush history has been preserved and continues to be a source of pride for the Centennial State (the nickname comes from Colorado becoming the 38th state, 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence). Whether you want to tour gold mines, participate in year-round special events, visit museums, or just marvel at the historic headframes and other vestiges of mining equipment backdropped by mountain views, there’s a wealth of activities and sites to keep you interested and entertained.
This photofeature by Denise Seith also appears in the May/June 2014 issue of Gold Prospector Magazine, published by the Gold Prospectors Association of America.
Wednesday, July 02 2014
The Town of Cripple Creek, Colorado
The gold rush not only brought prospectors into the quiet ranch town of Cripple Creek, but it brought in goods and services needed by those miners. Lumber yards, hotels, 100 saloons, 91 lawyers, 80 doctors, 40 assay offices, 14 newspapers, three railroads, two electric streetcar systems, and a trolley turned a small town into a booming gold camp of over 50,000. Interestingly enough, Cripple Creek was also the site of some of the worst mining labor conflicts in American history, culminating in the state militia being called in in 1903. Several celebrities also spent time here, including comedian and film star Groucho Marx, lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp, and boxer Jack Dempsey. Unfortunately, two accidental fires burned much of the city in 1896. Wisely, however, the city fathers declared that the business district be rebuilt in brick, and so many of those rebuilt buildings are still standing.
In addition to its golden history, the restored town of Cripple Creek is now known for its casinos. Limited stakes gambling was approved by Colorado voters in 1990, so visitors can try to strike it rich 24 hours a day. If cards or craps or one-armed bandits don’t hold any appeal, skip the dozen or so casinos in town and instead enjoy the town’s many other attractions.
A four-mile narrated ride on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad passes several historical sites that can only be seen from the rails. The train is pulled by a coal-fired steam locomotive that looks a bit like Thomas the Tank Engine thanks to the baby blue paint. You can also see what it would have been like to be part of the criminal element in the early 1900s by visiting the Cripple Creek Jail Museum. It is housed in the red brick building that served as the Teller County jail from 1902 until the 1990s. The original cells are there, along with displays that highlight the laws and lawlessness of the 1890s.
The Cripple Creek District Museum is housed in five original historic buildings— all filled with antiques and mining equipment. The Cripple Creek Heritage Center is a great place to learn about the entire Pikes Peak region. Looking for a highlight found in low lighting conditions? The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is located just outside of town, and is America’s only vertical shaft mine tour. After descending 100 stories, ride an air-powered mine train and learn how hard rock miners followed veins of gold. This historic mine was founded in 1891 and is named for its owner, Mollie Kathleen Gortner, the first woman in history to register a mining claim in her own name.
Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V)
As you drive through the mining district today, you will see signs of active mining in just about every phase. The Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V) operates a low-grade, surface gold mine, the largest in Colorado, between Cripple Creek and Victor. CC&V is doing extremely well and has poured in excess of 4 million ounces of gold from its Cresson Mine. CC&V, which has operated in the district for nearly 40 years, began its Cresson Project in 1995. The Cresson is named for the historic underground mining operation that was responsible for the famous great gold find of 1914— the “Cresson Vug.” A vug is a cavity in the rock, lined with crystals somewhat like a geode. The Cresson Vug produced 60,000 troy ounces of gold that was essentially picked from the walls of a room-sized void 1,200 feet below the surface. What a bonanza!
If you’d like to see a working gold mining operation, CC&V hosts seasonal tours. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to see giant haul trucks, shovels, and drill rigs in action. Watch boulders being crushed into gravel and learn about the safe, environmentally responsible mining and refining methods. Once you’ve seen a modern-day mining operation for yourself, you’ll gain another level of appreciation for the old-timers who didn’t have it so easy! And after learning about reclamation standards, you can set the record straight with those who argue that mining does nothing but permanently destroy the earth. Under current permits, CC&V plans to continue recovering gold here until at least 2026. If underground mining is resumed (exploratory results look good), work could be extended another dozen or so years beyond that. With an average pay and benefits package worth $80,000, several thousand CC&V employees are enjoying good paying jobs!
On Highway 67 between the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, you will cross the highest bridge on the Colorado State Highway system. The bridge across Arequa Gulch was built in 2000-2001 for $418 million by the CC&V to accommodate their expansion. The 1,218 foot long bridge is over 250 feet tall at its highest point. The road is currently being rerouted again due to more growth. Near the bridge is CC&V’s leach facility and gold ore processing plant. The Valley Leach Facility (VLF) is where the gold is recovered from the ore by leaching with a sodium cyanide process solution. You can’t miss what looks like giant rock piles. The VLF actually functions like a big bathtub filled with crushed ore. The solution is applied to the ore using a drip irrigation system. The sodium cyanide process solution dissolves the gold and silver on the surface of the rock. The “bathtub” has a triple thick liner and a state-of-the-art monitoring and detection system to ensure zero discharge. The gold-bearing solution (called "pregnant solution”) is captured at the bottom of the liners. Gold is then recovered from the pregnant solution with a carbon absorption process. North of the VLF is the crushing facility that can process approximately 50 tons of ore per minute. Trucks load up the pulverized ore and delivery it to the VLF. This process recovers a whopping 200,000 ounces of gold annually. Eureka!
Tuesday, July 01 2014
Like most gold regions that boomed in the 1800s, Colorado’s Cripple Creek Mining District came from humble beginnings. Little more than cattle roamed the high valleys perched nearly two miles above sea level, and prior to ranching, generations of Ute Indians had lived off the land. But unlike most boomtowns, the gold never completely ran out here, and it continues to be mined successfully today. Historically, the Cripple Creek Mining District has produced over 24 million troy ounces of gold, along with some silver. That amount exceeds the combined production of the California and Alaska Gold Rushes! The millions made from 1891 through the present has earned it the distinction of “The World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” Today, the district is not only filled with gold rush era buildings and mining relics, but you can also tour real mines, visit interesting museums, ride the rails of a narrow gauge train, hike and bike while admiring mountain scenery, and even gamble on Lady Luck at the casinos.
Pikes Peak Gold Rush
The Pikes Peak Gold Rush officially began in 1859, a decade after the California Gold Rush. At that time, the land was still part of the Kansas Territory. The first color was actually found a few years earlier in 1850 at the confluence of Ralston and Clear Creeks, but John Ralston was California-bound, so the shiny stuff stayed where it lay… for a while. Several prospecting parties returned to Ralston Creek in 1858 and 1859, but didn’t find much. In fact, many were so discouraged that they didn’t stick around. The dedicated prospectors who persevered referred to those who gave up as the “Go Backers.” Soon enough, though, a few productive placer deposits were found along the South Platte River at the base of the mountains, the canyon of Clear Creek in the mountains west of Golden, and South Park. Word spread of these glittering discoveries, and “Pikes Peak or Bust” became a popular mantra. During the next several years, 100,000 gold-seekers headed for Colorado; 50,000 completed the journey; half of those became “Go Backers” and the remaining 25,000 turned a territory into a state in 1876.
Cripple Creek Gold Rush
Most of the initial easy-to-reach gold deposits were largely played out by 1863, but then ranch hand Robert Womack started an even bigger gold rush. He found the shiny stuff in Cripple Creek in 1890, causing thousands of prospectors to head to the southwest slopes of Pikes Peak. Sadly, Womack died penniless several years later, even though his El Paso claim, which he sold for $500 and a bottle of liquor, produced millions of dollars in gold for the buyer. Between 1894 and 1917, over 500 mines operated in the Cripple Creek Mining District, which also included the thriving town of Victor. Headframes and other relics from many of those historic mines have been preserved, so it’s easy to get a good look up close.
Perhaps one of the reasons it took 30 years for gold to be found in Cripple Creek following the state’s first gold rush is because no one expected gold, especially not millions of ounces, to be in this area. Most of the old-timers’ theories about how to locate gold just didn’t hold up here. Modern geologists know that areas that were highly volcanic in prehistoric times, are likely places to create rich underground deposits. The six square miles that comprise the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining District are located in the caldera of an extinct volcano. From what one frustrated miner wrote in Cripple Creek Illustrated, some early prospectors were stumped by the gold in this region:
“Geographically, Cripple Creek is a freak. It is erratic, eccentric, and full of whims and caprices. That is, it is so to the man of science and the miner of experience. It is a vast crater bed in which the elements once were wont to make merry with nature and play unexpected pranks… The veins run here, there, and everywhere, cutting in all directions and even violating the theory that to have real value the vein should strike toward the poles of the earth.,, the experience has been that the deeper down into the earth the shafts penetrate, the richer is the ore, and the wider, more solid, and enduring the deposits.”
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.
Saturday, March 01 2014
Some 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:
Man-Made Factors to Consider Before Digging for Gold:
Wednesday, January 01 2014
Mark your calendars to attend a Gold Show in 2014!
Gold and Treasure Expos sponsored by the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA) are open to the public. Admission is $5 for adults; free for kids under 12. Each paid attendee will receive a 14 inch GPAA Gold Catcher Gold Pan and a copy of Gold Prospectors, the GPAA’s national magazine. Also, the first 100 paid attendees will receive a free vial of real gold!
2110 Frear St.
Lancaster, CA 93536
9777 Las Vegas Blvd.
South Las Vegas, NV
110 9th Ave. SW
Puyallup, WA 98371
ALSO MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the...
2014 Gold Prospecting & Mining Summit
After a hiatus last year, this Summit returns to the Eldorado County Fairgrounds and features 80 booths with the latest in prospecting and mining equipment. Sponsored by ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, a team of writers and experts will be on hand to provide you with the information you need to succeed at gold prospecting and gold mining.
Lecture topics include:
And back by popular demand... Two Additional Days of Hands-on Training! Admission is $5 at the door. Fairgrounds charges $5 parking per day. No pre-registration required for the Mining Summit, but pre- registration is a good idea for the Hands-on Training classes.
Thursday, November 14 2013
If you've been prospecting for gold using a pan, sluice, highbanker or other traditional piece of equipment, there's another tool you may want to consider— a metal detector. Gold detectors are not necessarily higher in cost than an all-purpose detector, but they are built with a higher sensitivity to pinpointing pieces of gold, and have better ground balancing and discrimination abilities.
If you're not familiar with metal detecting, the first thing you should know is that your detector does not actually detect metal directly. It detects magnetic fields. When switched on, your VLF (very low frequency) detector first creates a magnetic field and energizes anything in the ground that responds to a magnetic field. Next, your detector seeks to find a magnetic field that has a response to its initial magnetic field. Because metals conduct electricity, they respond to a magnetic field and generate a small magnetic field of their own. Detectors detect the secondary magnetic field that conductive targets create whey they are energized by the first magnetic field sent into the ground by your detector. In general, the larger the metallic target, the larger and longer and stronger its magnetic response will be.
PI (pulse induction) detectors work a bit differently by putting magnetic field energy into the ground and then switching off and waiting a very short period before they start to look for a response. This makes them better at handling ground mineralization than a VLF detector because during that short delay the magnetic response of iron trash minerals that you don't want to find dies out, but the signal from tiny bits of buried gold does, too. VLF detectors are more sensitive to finding the smallest bits of gold, but do not as easily cancel out ground mineralization.
Friday, November 01 2013
At first glance, metal detecting seems like the least demanding form of prospecting for gold. But it has its share of challenges, too, just like sluicing, drywashing, or panning by hand. Whether you've been swinging a metal detector for years, or just purchased your first machine, there might be a few things you could do to increase your chances of uncovering a piece of buried gold.
Nugget of News Blog
Monday, February 04 2013
The Gold Cube is now shovel ready! Take the hassle out of pre-classifying with this NEW Gold Banker (manufactured by Gold Cube). The 3/16th punch plate topper acts like a huge classifier. Already own a Gold Cube? Buy the top part only and then simply attach the stand extensions to your existing Cube stand and attach the 5 foot hose and you are ready to go for the gold!
The Gold Banker is constructed of thick ABS material with built in adjustable spray bar. The punch plate is anodized or stainless steel (your choice) that simply slides into the unit. Stainless is the best choice for salt water use, or just give the less expensive anodized version a good rinse with fresh water after use. Learn more about the Gold Banker.
Monday, November 05 2012
Drywashers are like highbankers, but they do not use water, making them excellent tools for recovering gold from dry material in desert areas. A dry washer is basically designed to be a waterless sluice. It separates gold from sand and other waste material with pulsations of air, vibrations, and static electricity instead of running water.
The top portion of a drywasher is called a hopper and consists of a box covered with wire screen. The screen is called a "grizzly." Dry gold-bearing material is fed onto the grizzly, which is mounted at a fairly steep angle. Thinner material, such as dirt and small gravel, falls through the grizzly screen and into the hopper. Larger material, such as rocks and sticks, roll off the grizzly and back onto the ground. Material from the hopper is then fed by gravity into the riffle tray below (looks like a sluice box), through an opening in the bottom of the hopper.
Wednesday, May 02 2012
Place your sluicebox in the flow of a stream or river so that the water enters the flared end and flows through the sluice. If the current is strong you may need to lay some stones against the edge of the sluice to keep it from washing away. The sluice should be set at a downhill angle that allows the material to briskly flow through it. The higher the volume of water available, the shallower the angle will be.
Monday, April 02 2012
Placer gold is any gold that has been freed from solid rock by weathering. There are several types of placer gold, including Eluvial (gold that has been pulled down hill through the force of gravity), Alluvial (running water has deposited the gold in streams and rivers), and Beach (gold is concentrated by wave action). Eolian placers form by wind action in arid regions. Material broken from the bedrock disintegrates and the winds carry away the surface sand and dust, leaving behind a layer of cement-like mixtures of quartz, schist, and other material. Gold, being heavy, settles in this sun-baked "pavement." For the most part, eolian placer gold can be found just about anywhere in a desert landscape. Look for obvious signs of wind erosion and soil depletion, or a flat area on a wind-blown hillside where vegetation grows. If seeds were trapped in a depression, perhaps gold was, too. Desert miners have learned from experience that since wind has carried away most of the lighter sand and topsoil, eolian gold is usually very close to the surface or even on the surface. You can sometimes spot shiny flakes and tiny pickers practically laying on top of the ground, or a metal detector will find anything that is hidden just below the surface.
Friday, March 02 2012
Ever wonder how much gold has been mined in all the world? The best estimate at the end of 2011 is that around 165,000 metric tons (or tonnes) have been mined in all of human history. That’s about 181,881 ordinary tons or 363,762,732 pounds, or 5,820,203,717 ordinary ounces. Gold typically is measured in troy ounces, which are a little bigger than ordinary ounces (a troy ounce is 31.1034768 grams whereas an ordinary ounce is 28.3495231 grams). There are 32.1507466 troy ounces in a kilogram or 32,150.7466 troy ounces in a metric ton.
Thursday, February 02 2012
What's the Difference Between a Karat, Carat, and Carrot?
The purity of gold is measured in 24ths called karats. 24K gold or 24-karat is 100% pure gold. 18K gold or 18-karat is 75% pure, and 14K or 14-karat is 58.3% pure. The value of gold can further be determined by its rarity of structure-- whether it is a nugget or wire gold or has specimen value.
Gemstones are weighed by the carat (notice the difference in spelling) -- which is 200 milligrams or one-fifth of a gram. There are 5 carats in a gram. In addition to weight, the value of gemstones is also set and judged on their color, clarity, and cut.
If you're hungry, choose a carrot!
Monday, August 01 2011
Fool's gold, iron pyrite, mica... no matter what you call it, at first glance it looks like real gold and sparkles like real gold in the sunlight or when viewed under water, but how do you know FOR SURE if those gleaming flakes are worth something... or exactly nothing?
Friday, July 01 2011
Simply put, gold comes from rocks. Huge rocks, in the form of mountains, are pushed upward by heat and pressure from deep inside the earth, and then the rocks are worn down by wind and water. Through water erosion, gold often becomes separated from the rocks, forming the rich placer deposits we're all looking for.
Thursday, January 13 2011
If you're looking for a Power Sluice /Highbanker that is
* HEAVY DUTY
* HIGH CAPACITY
* EASILY TRANSPORTABLE
* DESIGNED AROUND PROVEN RESEARCH
Then check out the CC690! This is a water operated, centrifugal concentrator and is capable of processing large volumes of material without the need for pre-classification. With the CC690, not only is the force of gravity at work to trap gold, but the very force of the water itself is used to create high energy vortices that trap and hold gold particles against the matting. These forces combine to help the smaller particles work their way deep into the looped, vinyl fibers of the matting and on down to the grooves of the underlying, v-ribbed rubber mat where they remain until it is time to perform the clean up operation. In other words, the CC690 Power Sluice / Highbanker helps small scale gold miners like you extract the greatest percentage of gold possible from the gravel you feed into it! Purchase the sluice only, or as a package with pump and hoses included. Learn more here.
Friday, November 26 2010
If you've got a treasure hunter, gold prospector, or outdoorsman on your gift list this season, or are your own not-so-secret Santa, you'll be glad to know about these holiday savings:
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• While supplies last, Fisher is giving away FREE headphones and pick with the purchase of a Gold Bug Pro with 5 inch coil or Gold Bug DP with 11 inch DD coil, or Teknetics G2 metal detector. No coupon code required.
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We appreciate your business! Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 10 2010
If you're like many prospectors, you collected a few buckets of concentrates this summer and figured you'd process them during the winter when you had more time. Now those buckets are probably in the garage, the basement, and taking up space in the shed — and someone else in your household might be complaining that they are in the way! Three great products can help you process those concentrates more easily and quickly, especially if it's fine gold: Desert Fox automatic spiral panning machine, the Magna Two, and the Catch-It II Water Table. All of these machines are simple to operate. You won't need much practice before you discover how efficient and easy they are to use. With gold around $1,400 an ounce, the sooner you get those concentrates processed, the sooner you can reap the monetary rewards of gold prospecting!
Tuesday, July 06 2010
When you are sampling for gold in a streambed, you should nearly always be looking for hard-packed material. “Hard-pack” is created at the bottom of waterways during major floods and storms. The reason that hard-pack is important to a prospector is because gold nearly always concentrates at the bottom of hard-packed layers. Therefore, it is nearly always important for a prospector to target his or her sampling efforts to reach the bottom of hard-packed streambeds.
Gold is about six times heavier, by volume, than the average weight of the sand, silt, and rocks that make up an average streambed. Because of this disparity in weight, when streambed material is being washed downriver during a major flood, most of the gold will quickly work its way down to the bottom of the streambed material. Because the gold is so much heavier, it will work its way down along the river-channel more slowly than the other streambed materials. During major storms, most of the gold moving in a waterway will be washed down across the surface of hard-packed streambed that is not being moved by the storm. At some point during the storm, gold becomes trapped out of the turbulent flow by dropping into cracks and holes. Streambeds form later in the storm, when the water-turbulence tapers off enough to allow the rocks, gravel, sand and silt to drop out of the flow and form a layer along the bottom (over top of the gold).
Streambed material that lies on top of the gold will nearly always be hard-packed. Why? Well, if there is enough force and turbulence to move substantial amounts of gold in the waterway, then there is also enough force to create a naturally-formed streambed on top of the gold as the same storm and flooding dies down.
Monday, May 03 2010
To learn about gold mining of yesteryear, take your family on a tour of the authentic Crystal Gold Mine in Kellogg, Idaho. Dress warmly, don a bright yellow hard hat, grab a flashlight, and follow your tour guide into the underground world of gold mining. For over 100 years, no one knew this mine existed. The original prospector simply disappeared, leaving his mine car, track, tools, and high-grade gold ore behind—sure signs he intended to come back, but strangely never did. During the years that the mine was lost and undisturbed, beautiful turquoise-colored smithsonite crystals formed on the walls. You’ll also see gold and wire silver, too. After the tour, pan for gold outdoors under the tutelage of your mine guide. Even if there’s no flash in your pan, you might find a star garnet—Idaho’s state stone. And what a rare souvenir that would be; these garnets naturally occur in only two places on earth—India and Idaho.
Monday, March 29 2010
Sunday, January 24 2010
Your chances of finding gold in the desert are about as good as finding gold in wet areas. Study the geology and history of the area where you're prospecting or detecting, and you'll have a distinct advantage. Many large-scale mining operations of yesteryear didn't set up in the desert simply because their equipment needed lots of water, and the desert was much more inaccessible a hundred or more years ago. They didn't have portable Gold Buddy drywashers or variety of spiral gold panning machines that operate on just 3 gallons of water like we do now. So that means less competition! Just like in the mountains during spring snowmelt, one big rainstorm in the desert can change the landscape forever and uncover gold that had been hidden for centuries. Perhaps one of the best locations to look for gold is where the hills meet the desert and fan out. This is where the water slows down during storms and drops gold in the gullies. There also are likely to be more gold traps further up the hillside. Concentrate much of your effort in drywashes, dry streambeds, and canyons. When water flows during a flash flood, areas where the greatest amount of erosion has taken place are natural areas for gold collection. In some areas, like Quartzsite, Arizona, nuggets can be found with a metal detector just under the ground's surface, or even on top of the ground. If you find one piece of gold on the surface of a dry placer area, it is likely that there are more pieces of gold in the immediate area because gold generally does not travel alone. So don't call it quits after the first find— keep looking!
Saturday, September 26 2009
After practicing a while, everyone develops their own personal technique for gold panning. Some vigorously shake the pan, some gently swish it from side to side. There are about as many different techniques, tips, and tricks as there are types of gold pans! In truth, there is no real "right" way to pan for gold-- if you're gettin' a flash in the pan, you're doing it right! If you're just getting started, though, and don't know where to begin, follow these easy steps and before long, you will develop your own methods:
Friday, September 18 2009
Thanks to the modern day gold rush, the Desert Fox automatic spiral panning machine has become a best seller! Most prospectors tend to favor the Variable Speed model, but it also comes in Constant Speed. Have you seen this machine work? It is very compact, weighs under 10 pounds, folds up and stores neatly in its own Action Packer tub. You can take it anywhere! Operate it right out of the tub, or remove it from the case and use it in a stream. The Desert Fox is aptly named because it was designed to conserve water and will operate on just three gallons. Recovers an amazing amount of flour gold so you never lose even the smallest pieces (which all add up!). Operates on any 12-volt automotive battery (not included) or even a 35 watt solar panel. Ships complete with an easy-to-understand owner's manual, a video, and a bag of practice sand containing real placer gold so you can get acquainted with your new machine even before you leave the house. You won't need much practice, though, because in no time you'll discover how efficient and easy it is to use. With gold at over $1,000 an ounce, get a Desert Fox automatic spiral panning machine and get out there and get your share!
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