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Monday, December 23 2019
Did you know that “bad” weather can be a plus for prospectors? 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!
Typical winter storms 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 or for an extended period of time, 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. Benched gold deposits can be released and transported back into running streams.
If you’re in an area that experiences high-water events, get out and keep an eye on the water flow so you can try to figure out where the gold actually drops out. Watch the flow lines around boulders and trees. Watch where the flows slow down. The rule of thumb — gold is in the inside bend where water is slowest — is a rule of thumb, but not always 100% accurate.
On the flip side, if drought conditions prevailed last fall and continue this winter, adequate water levels needed for panning and sluicing may be difficult to find. By knowing this ahead of time, you won’t waste your time. You can plan to travel to better areas in the coming months.
Water isn’t the only force that can work in a treasure hunter’s favor. If you are a detectorist, keep an eye on the wind. Downslope winds can strip and scrub away a great deal of surface material. This wind-driven movement of top sands can make an exciting difference— areas that came up empty just last year may suddenly be productive for a metal detector!
Whether you’re in the midwest, southeast, or way out west, water table elevations and annual precipitation can have a significant impact on the amount of gold exposed in waterways, which can affect the probability of what you’ll find in your pan. Greater than average winter precipitation may swell waterways, liberating trace gold previously stranded in ground by droughts of late summer and early autumn. Good luck and be safe!
Sunday, December 30 2018
When prospecting an area that’s known for gold, put yourself in the boots of the old-timers who came before to help you decide where to begin. Look at your site from all directions and think about what they could and could not do way back then. Your modern-day equipment and knowledge are a lot more advanced than what they had to work with, so you’re already a step ahead! Many times miners jumped in with both feet and started mining to beat the other guys. But being in a hurry meant they could have missed a lot, or moved on too quickly from their original discovery before it was completely worked out. Considering the lay of the land will reveal important clues that can help you better formulate a plan when you're out in the field. Here’s what to look for:
Host rock (or bedrock) could be shale, diorite, granite, quartz, clay or other material. Keep an eye out for changes in the area’s host rock and notice the direction in which it’s running.
Contact zones occur when a rock or mineral cuts or crosses the host rock. Generally, gold is deposited along contact zones, which can be a few inches or several hundred feet wide. If bedrock in your area runs north to south and you notice a color change in material that runs east to west, you’ve found a contact zone.
Outcroppings are a lump of high ground with weather-worn rocks which are generally rounded and usually situated on ridges, but can be located anywhere. Especially look for iron staining on outcroppings.
Ditch lines of yesteryear were generally dug into and run along somewhat level ground. Very close to diggings, especially in hilly or steep terrain, they may have been cut loose to wash downhill. Follow the old water ditches and see where they end up.
Exploratory trenches were not used for water but most of the time were deeper and would often circumnavigate a rich area that may be throwing gold from clay lines, pockets, quartz seams and any other local contacts. Trenches were dug simply to expose any contacts that may be present. As a contact was crossed, old-timers checked it out in both directions for values.
Rock cairns are piles of rock or stone used for claim corners. Standing high on a slope looking down is a great vantage point from which to spot cairns and other man-made landmarks. By locating a historic claim, you definitely have a great place to begin!
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!
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