Gold prospecting

Gold prospecting is a rewarding activity that you can enjoy at any age. Not only does it give you an opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors; you also potentially make money doing it.

If you are planning a gold-hunting expedition but don’t know what techniques to use to make your trip worthwhile, this article is for you.

We have shared foolproof tips on how to find gold, where to find it, and the various methods that you can use to increase your chances of not going back home empty-handed. Read on!

Prepare Adequately

tool for finding gold
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To get the most out of your gold-hunting excursion, always prepare beforehand by doing the following:

Gathering the Necessary Materials

Get all the equipment pieces you need for the trip. Of course, you can obtain gold using a basic gold pan and nothing else.

But there are some extra materials that you could bring on your expedition to make the hunting easier like a shovel, magnifying glass, grizzly pan, small magnet, tweezers, and glass vials.

Dressing for the Occasion

Wear something that matches the weather. If it is cold, wear your clothes in layers so you can take them off easily when it gets warm.

Don’t forget the sunscreen and UV-protective clothing. You may also pack a pair of rubber gloves and boots, comfortable hiking shoes, sunglasses, and a winter coat.

Packing Snacks and Water

Depending on where you are going, gold-hunting can take all day. Plus the activity itself can be physically draining.

That said, make sure to bring enough food and water so you can stay fueled up throughout the expedition. Good foods to pack would be dried fruits and nuts, pretzels, granola, jerky, fresh fruit, and energy drinks.

Go to the Right Places

Even before you leave, do your research to find out where other recreational prospectors have found gold before. You can get this information online in gold prospecting forums or from talking to people who have experience in gold searching. Here are some excellent places to hunt for gold.

Rivers and Creeks

Rivers and Creeks
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One of the best places to find gold is in a river or creek, especially in areas with high erosion. The erosion process coupled with the heavy weight of gold, makes the metal accumulate naturally in waterways.

Digging in the gravels and rocks in rivers and creeks can help you find gold nuggets. Look in hidden bends where there is a reduced speed of water flow. Most of the gold pay streaks will accumulate here and you will have a higher chance of finding nuggets.

Near Old Mines

Near Old Mines
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There are many old, abandoned gold mines all over the United States, where you can try your luck. Some are lost and forgotten and others still have gold that can make your trip worthwhile.

Now, old mines can be dangerous places to be, so make sure you are staying safe around them. If you don’t have proper training, avoid searching for gold near the opening of the mine.

Instead of entering the mine, search the surrounding area. Sometimes you can find rich gold sources that were missed by the initial miners, and all you need is a simple metal detector.


Desert find gold
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Arid regions are also a great place to find gold. However, due to the lack of water to process the metal using the basic alluvial mining methods, prospecting in the desert can be a little difficult.

But this hasn’t stopped enthusiastic gold prospectors from visiting these areas. With advanced mining techniques like drywashing, metal detecting, and crevicing, finding gold in the desert is now easier than ever before.

Know How to Identify Places With Gold

While the above places can be a good point to start when searching for gold, learning some popular gold indicators can help you know whether you are on the right track and avoid wasting time in areas that are likely to yield no results. The presence of the following can tell you there is gold nearby.

  • Gold rock types: If a specific type of rock is known to produce gold in certain regions and you have bumped into the same rock in your hunt for gold, this would be an excellent place to do your search.
  • Rocks with lighter color: Acidic minerals in gold-mining regions can bleach the rocks, giving them a lighter color. If you see a different coloration in a group of rocks, it can be a sign that there is gold nearby.
  • Coexisting rocks: Most gold ores, especially those rich in placer gold contain copper, silver, iron, and other minerals in small quantities. When looking for gold prospecting sites, it is important to keep an eye on rocks that host these minerals.
  • Quartz: The hydrothermal conditions required for the formation of quartz are also favorable for gold formation. However, quartz is produced in large quantities, so most gold deposits will usually contain quartz but not many quartz deposits will contain gold.

Use the Appropriate Gold Mining Technique

Depending on where you plan to go, there are many different methods that you can use to find gold in different areas. Below are the most common.

1. Panning

Panning is by far the cheapest and most popular technique for prospecting for gold. It is not difficult at all; with a little practice, you will be able to take something back home from your trip.

All you need to do is scoop gravel with a shovel and put it into the pan. Then place the pan underwater and move it from side to side. Since gold is heavier than gravel, it will collect at the bottom of the pan.

Now, hold the pan at a slanting angle so the gravel and any other lighter material can sweep out. In the end, all you will have in the pan is gold and perhaps the heavy black sand.

Pans are excellent for gold prospecting because they are easy to carry. However, since they can’t hold huge volumes of material, processing even a small amount of gravel can take plenty of time.

2. Sluicing

Like panning, sluicing is a simple and effective way to obtain gold. A sluice box, the tool used for this technique, is an extended narrow trough that contains riffles mostly used to find placer gold in rivers and streams.

How the tool works is that you put gravels into it and place it in the river parallel to the flow of the water so that the water can wash over the riffles. This natural action of the stream water is what will separate gold from the lighter gravels and materials.

The gravels will be washed downstream by the water current while the heavier gold will be trapped in the sluice riffles.

Gold prospectors have used sluice boxes since the dawn of time. They are easy to work with and can process much more gold than a pan.

3. Drywashing

If you will be prospecting for gold in the desert or other areas where water is limited, get a drywasher.

A drywasher is a piece of equipment used for mining gold in arid regions. Instead of using water to separate gold from other materials, it uses air pressure and vibration to perform the same task.

The gold capture rate for the drywasher is not as perfect as techniques like panning or sluicing, but drywashing is one of the few decent options for finding gold in dry areas.

Also, drywashers have a lesser rate of recovery, but you can put gravel into them relatively fast, which sort of speeds up the process. Most prospectors combine drywashers with a metal detector to increase efficiency.

One of the things you should keep in mind is that any materials you feed into the drywasher should be completely water-free. If not, the gold will be trapped in the material and will be lost.

If you are exploring an area that is too wet, you will have to let it dry first. Wait until the weather is warm so it can thoroughly dry out the ground. You may want to check the weather forecasts to see the best time to go looking for gold in an arid region.

4. Crevicing

Another method you can use to obtain gold from dry areas is crevicing. This one involves simply cleaning out bedrock cracks using just the basic tools like a dry vac, then panning the material you collect.

One downside of crevicing is that it is a fairly slow process and you won’t get to process large volumes of material like you would with other techniques.

However, if the area you are exploring has plenty of abandoned bedrock, this method can get you ending up with high-quality material that has plenty of fine gold. The secret is finding a good location; the rest will work itself out.

5. Metal Detecting

Metal detecting involves using an electronic device to find metal located underneath the ground. How a metal detector is designed is that it comes with a long shaft that contains a search coil that is hovered above the ground and makes a sound when it comes across a piece of metal.

While this is one of the most effective processes of finding gold, one also requires quite an amount of learning to be able to use the device.

To succeed, make sure to invest in a good metal detector that is built specifically for locating gold. You see, when you go gold-hunting, you will bump into all kinds of metal like cans, brass casings, lead bullets, boot tacks, old rusty nails, etc.

As a prospector, you should be able to tell the difference between the sound of gold and that of trash targets. Even expert metal detector operators will spend considerable amounts of time digging through trash.

A metal detector will be most appropriate in areas that have large gold nuggets. Unlike other methods, this device requires that a piece of metal be large enough to get an audible sound. If the area you plan to visit is known to have large pieces of gold, a metal detector would be your best bet.

6. Suction Dredging

Dredging uses an underwater vacuum cleaner to suck up materials from the streambed through a gasoline-powered suction hose. Gravels move up the hose into a sluice box and after that, the water current separates gold from the gravel (see sluicing).

One of the advantages of using a suction dredge in your gold-hunting expeditions is that you won’t have to physically use a shovel and bucket to put the gravel into the sluice box. The gasoline-powered pump will suck the gravels to the surface for you.

Also, a suction dredge can process much more material than other small-scale methods, which will give you more gold in the end.

Pro Tip: Don’t be too aggressive when separating gold from gravels. Harshly sifting gold can get you accidentally throwing away some of this precious metal too!

Keep Realistic Expectations

Perhaps you decided to go gold-hunting because you have heard all these success stories about gold panning and drywashing that pushed you to try the activity too.

Well, it’s true, some people have had quite some luck in finding gold, but what worked for one person doesn’t mean it will automatically work for you too. So don’t go to the excursion with unrealistic expectations especially if you are just getting started with prospecting.

While you can still find something to bring back home, you will not certainly become a millionaire on day one. Even though you have done your research and know some of the best places to visit, do not go expecting to find large lumps of gold right away.

Instead of spending your time thinking about how much gold you will collect, appreciate the moment and delight in the experience of treasure hunting while it lasts. And when you find gold, take it as a reward for all the walking and hard work you have been doing.

Have you gone gold-hunting lately? What are some of the things you did to ensure a delightful and rewarding experience? Tell us in the comments.

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