Where to Prospect for Gold

One of the questions that most gold prospectors ask when they are first starting out is, ďWhere do I go to find gold?Ē That is definitely a good question; obviously a gold miner isnít going to have much luck searching in an area that has no gold at all. Areas that have no known history of gold production have a very low probability of producing any appreciable amounts of gold. Researching gold rich areas is one of the most important aspects of modern day gold prospecting, yet it is often overlooked by beginners.

With a small amount of research, you should be able to locate a general area that has produced gold. There are many books with good information on various states, and there is an abundance of information available on the internet. Even in a known gold district, the gold is not evenly distributed across the landscape, so you need to look beyond the general references and try to identify specific areas that gold is likely be found by identifying the exact locations that the old timers worked. Sometimes the signs of historic mining are obvious; bucket line dredge tailings, hydraulic mining, and open adits are good examples of things to look for. Other locations you should look for include hand-placered streams, hand-stacked rocks, exposed bedrock, old iron rubbish, and drywash piles. These are all indications of past gold mining. Finding these areas can be easy or difficult depending on your experience, but a bit of knowledge will help you train your eye to identify what to look for.

Before doing any on-the-ground research, most successful gold prospectors today use some type of mapping program like Google Earth to locate potential prospecting areas. This is an excellent tool to help you find areas, even if you are thousands of miles away in the comfort of your living room. Surface disturbances like dredge tailing and hydraulic washouts will show up clearly in these aerial photos, and you can use this in conjunction with maps and GPS to plot areas to investigate when you get there. You can also identify areas that would concentrate placer gold like bends in the river or large exposed boulders. Just about every successful prospector I know uses Google Earth and other types of mapping software to research gold areas. This research is critical, because the combination of aerial photos and topographical maps in combination with documented historical gold locations gives todayís prospector an advantage that the early gold miners never had.

Some beginning prospectors assume that the areas that were mined have been worked out, and you need to find new undiscovered areas to find gold. The truth is that the old-timers didnít come close to finding all the gold. Sure they got most of the easy stuff, but they also missed a lot of gold too. Historic mining methods were very inefficient, and a lot of gold was lost by the old timers. Donít be afraid to rework old ground; it can be surprisingly productive.

This isnít to say that you have to only rework old ground. Many successful gold prospectors search for new and unknown areas that gold has never been found before. However, it is important to understand that just because they are prospecting for undiscovered gold deposits, they are not going at it blindly. Prospectors that successfully locate these deposits are still doing their research. Usually they are searching areas on the peripheries of known gold districts, and also identify geologic similarities that indicate at least the potential for gold. This type of prospecting takes a lot of patience, but the reward of potentially finding an unknown gold deposit can more than make up for the long days searching.

The technological advances that we have today give us a significant edge in finding gold that the gold miners of the last few centuries never had. Just think of how much more gold they would have found if they had equipment like metal detector and suction dredges, not to mention bulldozers and backhoes. This advanced equipment along with books, maps, historical documents, aerial photos, and everything else available to us give todayís prospector a huge advantage. If you are just starting out, I highly recommend that you use all of these resources that are now available, as they will greatly increase your odds of success in gold mining.