Where to Find Gold
Before you can discover where to find gold, you first must know what kind of gold deposit you are seeking— Placer deposits or Lode gold. Lode gold occurs within the solid rock in which it was deposited and is best left to large-scale hard rock mining ventures.
Placer gold, because of its weight and resistance to corrosion, is the easiest to find and extract. Placer gold is a concentration or accumulation of different varieties of gold (flakes, wire gold, nuggets, pickers, flour gold) and is found in sediments of a stream bed, beach, drainage basin, river, or other waterway.
In addition to "wet" localities, placer gold occurs along many of the intermittent and ephemeral streams of arid regions, too. In many of these places a large reserve of placer gold may exist, but the lack of a permanent water supply for conventional placer mining operations requires the use of dry or semi-dry methods, such as a dry washer, to recover the gold.
No matter what type of gold prospecting you want to do, you'll have the best chance of success if you first systematically study existing and known productive areas. Why prospect where others have already been, you wonder? Over the years, new and better equipment has been developed, which means today you can more easily find placer gold deposits that were missed by earlier prospectors who used only a gold pan or an inefficient sluice. Nowadays, you can rely on professional trommels, power sluices, dredges, highbankers, automatic spiral gold panning machines, and lots of fine gold recovery methods that didn't exist in the days of the '49ers or before. You can even treasure hunt quite successfully with gold detectors nowadays.
Where to Find Gold in the United States
After you study where to find gold and know how to pan for gold in each state, mainly Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, you must determine specifically where prospecting is permitted and be aware of the governmental regulations at each location for the types of mining equipment you may use. In the eastern USA, limited amounts of gold have been washed from some streams draining the eastern slope of the southern Appalachian region in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Small quantities of gold have been mined in some New England States, but most of the land in the East is privately owned.
Of course permission to enter privately owned land must be obtained from the land owner, but each type of publicly owned land carries its own rules and regulations. For example, National Parks are closed to gold prospecting, but certain lands under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are open to anyone who gets a permit, which is generally inexpensive or free. Public land records in the proper BLM State Office will show you which lands are open and closed to mineral mining under the current laws. These offices keep up-to-date land status plat maps that are available to the public for inspection. Be sure to get a good gold prospecting map so you can study where to find gold. After you get the proper permits and start prospecting, if you discover a valuable placer gold deposit, you may stake a claim.
Where to Find Gold in a Streambed
After you've found a gold-bearing stream, the next step is to start sampling for gold there. But how do you know where to find gold in a streambed? Normal erosion, spring snowmelt, storms, and flash floods wash gold into waterways, and gold being heavy, settles naturally along the way— on the inside edges of bends in the stream, in whirlpools where two creeks join, in and around natural obstructions such as rock crevices and boulders, in the roots of plants and trees. Gold is often found mixed with concentrated strata of fine black or red sand. Black sands that are iron oxide are magnetic. Red sand is composed of tiny crushed garnets.
Also look for “hard-pack” which is created at the bottom of waterways; gold nearly always concentrates at the bottom of hard-packed layers. Gold is about six times heavier, by volume, than the average weight of the sand, silt, and rocks that make up an average streambed. During a storm, gold falls out of the turbulent water flow by dropping into cracks and holes. Then, rocks, gravel, sand and silt will drop out of the flow and form a layer along the bottom on top of the gold. This streambed material that lies on top of the gold will nearly always be hard-packed.
Gold's settling action applies in the desert, too, where rivers have long since vanished, but its outline remains. Most deserts are not completely dry all year. When it does rain, often in torrential downpours, water rushes down the gullies or "drywashes." After a heavy rain or flash flood, look along the dry banks as if water is still there—try to visualize how the heavy gold might be carried by the water and where it would naturally deposit, just like in a year-round streambed.