Getting gold out of them thar’ hills is a little more challenging than it was for the first 49ers. America’s first gold strikes were primarily “placer gold”, literally gold left lying in stream beds after being washed down off mountainsides and other surface deposits. It was easy to spot, and easy to pick up.
The first prospectors cleaned up pretty good, with nothing more complicated than a pan. Back then, they were pretty simple, metal pans. Today they can get high tech, but not necessarily any better. Most pans have relatively high sides, with a base smaller than their top, and with “riffles” or grooves in the high sides which help to keep bits of gold from being dragged out with water and lighter materials. When filled halfway with promising dirt from a stream bed, it can be swirled gently in a circular motion, under the surface of calm water. It’s easier to see the lighter material being lifted and washed away than if you are in a faster moving current. Once it is half empty, you can lift it above the water, and swirl it while gently tilted to one side, so that the riffles deter the heavier gold particles from moving up the sides with the dirt and bits of other materials. It takes some practice, but is great fun for the whole family, and takes very little expenditure on equipment. All you need is a pan, small containers for anything found, tweezers and a suction device for picking gold flakes out of the water in your pan.
Don’t forget the weight of gold! While it was washing down a mountainside or riverbank, it didn’t all make its way to the bottom. Gold can still be found in the fissures of rock formations. And even in the mosses that grow on top. Recovery of crevice gold is relatively easy, requiring only a few tools such as a chisel, rock pick, gold claw, a tablespoon and for the techie, a portable vacuum that fits in your back pack. You’ll also need a classifier, a type of “sieve” that fits over top of your bucket, and keeps larger rocks on top, while allowing dirt, flakes and crystals to drop down below. Remember when seaching rock cracks, to choose the ones that run towards a river, and not along it. These are the ones likely to have caught the most gold runoff.
Is an art that goes back thousands of years, but with many other uses including locating tumours, water, and lost items. It came to be part of gold-finding lore in the usual way. Someone took perhaps a forked stick, held it in front of them, and walked over a field, whereby the stick took a nosedive, and they found Granma’s lost wedding ring. Whether it has any valuable gold finding properties or not, it is still a popular method for seeking out hidden deposits. The dowsing tool can be the aforementioned forked stick, often of a fruit tree, or it can be two L shaped rods of various materials, sometimes enhanced by adding that which you are looking for, in this case- gold. Modern scoffers of the technique, blame its “success” on ideomotor responses. This basically boils down to mind over matter, with the mind of the dowser having subconsciously assayed the area for the most likely features to promise success, and being determined to find something, influencing the action of the rods. But it doesn’t, of course, have any explanation for the spectacular record some people have for finding things, particularly water. Naysayers to dowsing maintain that the only real profiteers from the practice, are the manufacturers of high tech L rods and other devining devices. They assert that:
- if it were a reliable method of locating gold, major companies would be snapping up these tools and advancing their technology, and
- the people who invented these devices would not be so eager to share them.
These would be super devices if they detected only gold, but they don’t. They’ll buzz for most conductive or magnetic materials. Beach sand, wet salt flats, and even a human hand can cause interference because of the conductivity of the salt they contain. Many models of detectors have “discrimination” controls that allow you to filter out such things as iron deposits or items. The unfortunate side of this, is that iron has the same low conductivity as small nuggets of gold, which may get filtered out or rejected by the detector as “trash”. Successful metal detecting for gold, depends in large part, on understanding how the detector works, and using it in optimal conditions or circumstances. You’re not going to find deep veins of gold with a metal detector. Settle for small nuggets and flakes in areas close to the surface.
If you think you’ve found a “strike” on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, you make stake a claim to the mineral rights. Mining claims are generally 20 acres in size, and are granted in national forests for the development of natural resources. You can camp or live on your claim, as long as it is kept clean.
There are no claims that can be filed on moving water, such as streams. However some states may charge annual dredging fees if you are operating that kind of equipment. Claims basically relate to the mining of minerals on a section of land, although if a stream runs through yours, you might choose to exchange dredging rights with another prospector for a percentage of the find. Most dredging is done in mountain streams in summer months.