Sure gold is “where you find it”. Anyone even thinking about taking up prospecting has heard that one. It’s probably the most frustrating answer any beginning prospector ever hears when asking where to look for gold. Where the heck exactly is “where you find it” located and why do people keep telling you that?
While that answer is a bit frustrating for the beginner there is a lot of truth in it. Gold can turn up in some pretty unusual places. Sometimes it has been sprinkled through areas by ancient glaciers or waterways. There are stories of people finding gold and thinking they had found a place to stake a claim, to discover later that they had only found the remnants of some unfortunate prospector’s lost cache. Trains and carts being wrecked while hauling gold to smelters have spilled loads of ore which might be found later in the streams downhill.
While you might run into bits of gold scattered by such events, you might also appreciate a word of where you might be more statistically inclined to make an actual strike of some good concentrations of “color”. It’s really not as mysterious as it has been made to sound.
When you get to a gold bearing region you must choose a spot to hunt. Your main concern is that you are not hunting on someone else’s property or claim. There are places you can still be shot for this, and some places where the claim owners take this right very seriously, so always make sure you know you are not “claim jumping” before you dig in.
The best place for the beginner to start is where you know that there are mines or claims uphill and upstream from your chosen location. Gold will wash downhill into a stream over time. If you can find a spot where a stream flowing downhill from known gold localities converges with the stream you are going to hunt, this is a terrific place to start.
Gold is heavy. It can be carried by a rapid current, but when the current slows down, the gold will drop to the creek bed. Start by hunting down stream from a converging creek or area of color uphill from you. Look for spots in the creek where fast moving water is impeded or slows down. The base of a small waterfall is always worth checking as are areas where the current is diverted by large rocks. Bends of the creek where water rushes in the middle but slows along the shore of the bend are another good area. Don’t be afraid to be creative. I know a man that swept a year’s living expense worth of gold from an old corrugated pipe that ran under a road where a creek passed through. The grooves of the pipe had served as a sluice to catch the grains and nuggets.
When panning, you will want to dig a bit rather than just scoop from the top dirt. You might find some traces of color just scooping the top of the creek bed, but because of its weight, gold will work it’s way down until it eventually hits something that prevents it from going any further. The smaller the grain or the more recently it has been dropped, the closer to the surface you might find it. The deeper you dig, the more you will find if you are searching a good area. Cracks and crevices in rock are also a great place to find grains of gold, but you may need special suction equipment to get it out. There are items you can buy very inexpensively that will help you do that.
Just as there are the right places to look for gold, there are also the right times of year. You will want to wait until late summer or early autumn which is when the streams are at their lowest and slowest. A good plan is to go look the creek over during it’s high season and take notes of the currents when the water is high. Returning later during the low season, you will already have an idea of good places to look for gold that has been spilled by the full spring currents.
Through practice you will soon become able to size up good spots on a creek to pan. When you take your cache and proudly show it off, if someone asks you where you got it, you can just smile and say “it was right where I found it”.
Don’t forget folks — You can find everything you need for a successful gold season at: Black Cat Mining