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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 togold indicators 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! 

Posted by: Denise AT 12:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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. 

bedrock goldAnother 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.

Residual placer gold is formed near the source of the gold and doesn’t really have a chance to work its way downward. Hillside placers are residual placers that are sliding and making their way down the side of a hill into a stream drainage. Gold generally is distributed all through these types of gravels and is not concentrated in any one place. A hillside placer often will be located up above a stream, making it difficult to determine it from a bench placer. Old benches of river gravel can be good places to prospect because they are virgin ground, but because the river used to flow at this location, it’s highly likely that the best gold will be right on bedrock or in crevices of the bedrock. The best way to tell the difference between hillside and bench placers is the shape of the rocks in the gravel. If the gravels and rocks are well-rounded and smoothed, then it’s probably an old river bench. If the gravel is angular, pointy, and sharp, it’s probably a hillside placer that hasn’t yet made its way into a stream.

Another type of placer—the windblown placer— concentrates on the surface, just exactly the opposite of what you would find in a river or stream. The lightest materials such as sand and silt are blown away by the wind. Heavy materials like gold remain behind on the surface. These types of placers are marked by desert pavement, which is a concentration of small to medium-sized rocks that cover the surface and prevent continuing wind erosion. They occur in dry regions with flat terrain, and are often favorite locations of metal detectorists who find nice nuggets at shallow depths.

The next time you find yourself in an environment with well-washed river gravels, you know that the gold will most likely be on the bedrock. But if you find yourself in other types of environments, especially in the desert, consider the possibility that the best gold may actually collect ABOVE it.  Good luck!

Posted by: Denise AT 06:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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