Prospecting Your Placer Gold Claim
Last month we covered prospecting your claim with a metal detector. Detectors are inexpensive if you buy a used machine, and require no special BLM permits, bonds, etc. That method works fine if you have coarse gold or heavy concentrations of fines, flakes and pickers. Unfortunately, it does not work well if the area you are working has fines and flakes well disseminated in the sand and gravels that cover the bedrock where most of your gold will be found. A recent example was where two of us used top dollar detectors and never got a beep except an occasional hot rock. By changing methods and digging down 8-12 inches to bedrock we picked up a lot of very fine gold.
To eliminate that problem and be able to use dry washers, trommels, high bankers, gold wheels, etc., we use a proven method that gets the gold. First off, I suggest that you spend a day or so walking your claim to get familiar with the corners and study your claim terrain carefully. Ensure you are on your claim and not some grouchy old codgers who has a shotgun and an itchy trigger finger that hates claim jumpers. Study the desert washes and their current location and visualize where they drained or cut a channel a thousand or more years ago.
There is a common four letter word that I have used for over 40 years that is extremely effective to locate pay streaks, pockets and almost all types of ore deposits. The word is TEST. Testing requires time and lots of sweat but produces profitable results. The main question is would you rather make a lot of money per day or bust your butt for a few dollars a day. Through the years I have used mainly two methods of testing for placer gold. Before I go further there are a number of prospectors who park their RV or rig on or as close to their claim as possible. They set up their equipment and start mining until happy hour. Occasionally one gets lucky this way, on an average they are lucky to find a few flakes if that. Point being that the easiest place to mine is rarely the 'best' place to mine.
So if you are serious about finding gold you might try one of the following:
1. Grid the claim on say 100 foot spacing, taking soil samples to a depth of 12 inches or until you hit bedrock. Keep the weight of your samples consistent, say 3 to 5 lbs. Mark each location or take a GPS waypoint at each location and process the samples through your gold wheel or pan them if you are proficient at panning. Naturally you will start your small scale mining operation in the hottest area. If that gets mined out move to the next richest, etc.
2. Start at the lowest point (elevation) on your claim and work up stream or up-slope. Take your samples on a 100-200 foot spacing up the dry wash or uphill. Same depth or to bedrock and mark each location as before. Process each sample as above and focus on the hot spots. Sample each small wash or gulch draining into the main drainage. Chances are the best gold will be in the small feeder washes or gulches and higher up.
If the values improve dramatically during your testing, tighten up your grid to 50 feet or even 25. You might be right on top of the Mother Lode, especially if your gold particles are coarse with bits of quartz or rock attached.
If you have any questions or want additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us by email or call the office at (623) 374-5413.