The Thrill of Prospecting!
The pursuit of gold fascinates men. Man has been attracted to gold for quite some time now. Prospecting for gold is a popular recreational activity today; although it wasn’t always the case. Gold prospecting was serious business once even for individuals. The most memorable case in point being the California gold rush of 1848. Empires and fortunes have been built and lost over gold. Of course there was a time when silver and even salt were more expensive than gold.
Prospecting for gold gives us a chance to get out into the wild outdoors and explore nature. And then there is the thrill of your pan yielding a nugget when you are least expecting it.
People prospect for gold because it’s out there waiting to be found. The dense yellow metal attracts with its property of ductility and malleability. An ounce of gold can be beaten into a wire that is 80 km long and you can flatten it to give you a sheet that is nearly 100 sq ft in area. Gold can be designed, hammered, and cast into intricate shapes. Gold retains its luster and beauty indefinitely. And yes, you can exchange it for very good money.
Where to Find Gold
Streams are the most popular locations for gold prospecting. Gold deposited on stream beds is known as placer gold. Undammed streams in a mineral-rich area are the best bet for gold hunters. Black sand usually signifies a mineral-rich place; so if the beach in your town has black sand, read on!
During spring floods, the water should fall from sufficient height for the minerals including gold to be churned and deposited when the flood waters recede and the stream slows down. Areas where placer gold settles are known as pay streaks. The insides of stream bends and the downstream side of obstacles such as boulders and tree stumps are places where pay streaks are found.
In America there are many states in which the streams and rivers have yielded and continue to yield a lot of placer gold. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Gold is also found in the solid rock in which it was deposited. This is lode gold. In the US most of the rocky outcrops containing lode gold have been thoroughly examined. Some understanding of the geological nature of rock that can contain gold is very useful.
How to Pan for Placer Gold
The classic prospecting image is of a weather-beaten man with a gold pan and shovel. The equipment required to prospect for placer gold is inexpensive and easy to obtain. You need a small bottle to store the gold; something like a long pick, trowel, and spoon to clear crevices; a bucket to carry your tools in and also to remove sand while prospecting; a shovel; a magnet; and of course a gold pan.
Panning for gold is all about having some information and imagination. The best places to look for gold are rocks and bends in the river that are above the mid-summer water level. These are the spots where the slowing spring water will deposit its load. Fill the pan up to two-thirds capacity with the material gathered. Rinse the material to discard the less dense dirt and organic matter. At the end of the process, if you’re lucky you will find grains of gold.
Other Prospecting Techniques
Metal detecting a commonly used technique by prospectors. Sophisticated Pulse Induction metal detectors can unearth single grain nuggets at a depth of one inch and can locate nuggets the size of half-dollar coins at a depth of eleven-twelve inches.
Loaming is a technique used to test soil samples for gold and then trace a path to the gold deposit. If you have the resources you can add geochemical techniques to loaming and try to determine if the soil beneath the surface is auriferous.
Quartz is the most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust and quartz veins are a rich source of gold. Prospectors can try their luck with exposed quartz veins; particularly the ones that are difficult to access and hence have hopefully escaped notice.