Serious gold has been found in about 3 out of every 5 states in the US. While there is still untold amounts of gold to be found, however, it’s not as easy as it was in the 1800’s to find open land to prospect. You can jump right in and start fishing through streams for a cache, but it can also be a risky and disappointing way to go about any serious prospecting. There are a few things to consider before loading up the mule and heading off to the mountains that will greatly increase your odds of success – and decrease your odds of ending up in court.
Just because a mine or claim is no longer worked does not mean that the gold is gone. That particular property, however, might still be off limits to hunters. Public lands are not always a free for all gold prospecting areas, either. Some public land contains claims and other areas are off limits to hunting at all. Some areas are restricted hunting, meaning you can use a pan, but not a dredge or sluice, or other equipment. If you are thinking that you can just slip into off-limits areas and slip out without notice, you are taking one healthy risk to your wallet or freedom. By getting some research under your belt before diving into the creeks with your prospecting gear, you can avoid not only fines, arrests, or being shot for claim jumping, you can also get a pretty good idea where your best bet is to find a good productive placer. The search for records can be time consuming, but it is a “must” do for anyone serious about gold prospecting.
While you will want to know the ownership status of the land you wish to hunt, it’s not going to do you much good to hunt if there isn’t a decent amount of gold to be found in the area. While you may have heard that gold can be found just about anywhere, a few flakes dropped by glaciers aren’t really going to make a hunt worthwhile. You should start your search by studying mining records to find areas from which good amounts of gold have already been found. State Bureau of Mines offices will have information about mining in the areas you are researching. Remember, thousands of people already have searched the country for gold. You aren’t likely to make much headway in new and untouched territory. Your best bet is to stick with known territories. While some people believe that areas that contain mines are tapped out, this is rarely the case. Gold in these areas still works its way down into streams and forms placers downhill from the sources.
The city office in the area you are researching will have records of current mining claims as well as records of claims that are now abandoned. Once you study these and are content with pursuing prospecting in an area, you will want to do another bit of study. The BLM offices have maps containing land status plats that show the ownership of public lands. Their offices also have mining and mineralogy maps. These offices are where you find out where you are free to prospect.
Claims become abandoned for many reasons. Some might be abandoned because the area had been worked until the claim quit producing. Others may just have never been fruitful in the first place. Others could be abandoned due to other difficulties that the owner encountered, such as inability to get to and from the claim, illness or death, and a myriad other reasons. If a claim is abandoned and the land is open to prospecting, you might be able to pick up the claim for a low price and continue work on it. If it has been a considerable amount of time since a claim has been worked, it may contain fresh gold which continues to wash down into placer areas over time.
Local assay offices are sometimes willing to provide information about their own records of gold assays from local area claims, although sometimes you will be charged for records searches. If the claim produced gold recently enough, someone in the office might just even remember that it produced well.
A bit of geological study about gold is always a good idea for those who are extremely serious about prospecting, too. What you learn may just help you identify “new” localities near the older, known ones.
While these studies can be time consuming, most areas have several months a year (in some places most of the year) which are not suitable for hunting in the field so these are excellent months to do your “indoor” prospecting.
Once you have the information you need about open land and available claims, you are then ready to go out into the field and try your luck in the 2010 Gold Rush.
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