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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
Saturday, December 02 2017
You might have heard the term “flood plain gold” and are wondering what it really means. A very simple definition is “fine-sized gold flakes carried or redistributed by flood waters and deposited on gravel bars as the flood waters recede.” When this “redistribution” occurs, it is usually after heavy winter storms that churned up rivers enough to turn part of the bedload over and move the river bar gravels from one place to another. Within these gravels is fine gold that was previously deposited there. When waterways flow way up and above their normal banks, they generally drop the heavier gold in the front of the bar, and as pressure decreases, the finer gold starts dropping into the mixed gravel. Over time, some of this finer gold will work its way down to bedrock, but generally it stays on the move.
How did the gold get there in the first place? There are many classifications of placer deposits, and their definitions can provide the answer. Among the most well-known is stream placers. Streams carry gold from eroded veins and concentrate them in various ways. Modern streams refer to present-day gold-bearing waterways that are the most common sources of gold for today’s prospectors. Tertiary and intervolcanic channels are rivers buried from mud and volcanic flows that existed prior to our modern-day waterways. High benches were created as rivers cut their way deeper into the bedrock and could be located hundreds of feet above today’s modern rivers. Desert placers are generally the result of torrential flash flooding and not a constant water flow. Glacial stream deposits are created by melting glaciers that can concentrate gold if the water flow is sufficient. Marine or beach deposits can come from wave action against cliffs, from off-shore currents bringing in gold-bearing material from under the ocean, or even from gold-bearing streams that flowed into the beach area eons ago.
Since there is a strong possibility that gold can get moved around during storms, it’s now important to know WHERE to find this “dropped out” gold. The secret is to find that drop point and to capitalize on its accumulation. Fine gold looks fantastic in a pan or box, but its weight can be deceivingly light. It takes a lot of fine gold to be equal to a larger piece and to have enough weight to make the recovery effort worthwhile. Some of the best areas to look for flood plain gold are where the stream or river widens out, or levels out, or changes direction. The inside of a bend is good. Rocks and weeds and small shrubs are also potentially good collection spots. When checking out collection spots, be extra careful. Calm water on the surface can hide swift currents underneath.
Keep in mind that the effects of heavy winter rains and snow will not be the same on all waterways. Redistribution might occur to a larger degree on larger rivers. Or it could be the opposite where you live and prospect. No one hopes for an especially “bad winter,” but if Mother Nature makes it so, this information could be the silver lining— a way to turn lemons into lemonade come spring when you can get out and take advantage of any gold redistribution that occurs. Good luck and be safe!
Nugget of News Blog
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!
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.
Nugget of News Blog