I have already been prospecting and mining for gold both as a hobby and being an occupation for almost 30 years and for me it’s a blast! From the deep green forests to the rolling sagebrush hills, few people see the maximum amount of of America’s available spaces as I do. I kick around kooky little old towns in the midst of nowhere. I visit historic sites where the pioneers of the west toiled for a long time to extract precious metals from the ground. As fun as that is though, finding your own personal gold, either as a nugget or in solid hard rock is just a special experience that’s hard to equal.
School kids in California learn how James Marshall accidentally discovered gold nuggets while constructing a water powered sawmill in the Sierra foothills. The excitement resulting from Marshall’s discovery was a fire that ignited gold and silver rushes all across the western US. Well-known may be the story of O’Reiley and McLaughlin who accidentally discovered the Comstock Lode silver bonanza while working a small deposit of placer gold, tossing away a blue-black waste that later turned out to be rich silver ore. A century ago, Jim Butler, while traveling from his ranch in central Nevada, noticed some quartz vein material. Being fully a good prospector, he collected an example, but he thought so little of his find so it sat on his porch for months before it was tested. That sample became the initial of many rich discoveries at Tonopah. I possibly could write an entire book telling the stories of those individual prospectors who, whether intentionally or unintentionally, found rich deposits of gold and other valuable ores. These finds have experienced no small affect the development of our country – historically millions upon an incredible number of ounces of gold have already been recovered from deposits found by individual prospectors.
The gold prospecting world is actually split into two halves. They are placer gold and hard rock gold. Hard rock is gold, which remains in the original solid rock where it formed. Northern Nevada is very abundant with gold, mostly as these primary hard rock type deposits. The hard rock, open pit mines of Nevada have produced nearly 100 million ounces since their discovery in 1960. Although a few small operations still exist, hard rock mining is usually done on a large scale. The main problem for individuals interested in hard rock gold deposits is high capital costs for the equipment to crush and process hard rock ore to be able to extract the gold from its solid rock enclosure. As a result of this, many prospectors who look for hard rock gold seek to market their finds to large companies that possess the resources to develop them.
Any gold that’s weathered out of its original rock matrix, be it a quartz vein or another source is called placer gold. Once it’s freed from the vein, any accumulation of the gold is called a placer deposit. There are many different types of placers depending how far the gold traveled, its origin, etc. The four most common kinds of placer deposits are: 1) Residual – where the original vein has weathered, nevertheless the placer gold remains pretty much “set up” and still in just a few feet of the original source; 2) Eluvial – where the gold has traveled a brief distance down from the foundation, but hasn’t managed to get into streams and other drainages – these are often called hillside placers; 3) Alluvial – Where in fact the gold has managed to get into area streams and rivers mts gold. These placers are sorted by running water and usually the gold lies mostly on or near the bedrock; 4) Beach placers occur where small gold particles allow it to be completely down river to the ocean. Wave action can concentrate the heavier fraction of the sand, producing black sand layers containing fine gold.
Due to the comparative ease of recovering gold from placer deposits, most individual prospectors start off seeking placer gold nuggets and flakes. Some later progress to a pursuit in hard rock deposits, but many still start off searching for flakes and nuggets of free placer gold. Once you see your first gold, you won’t have much trouble seeing what kept the old pioneer prospectors going under such rugged conditions. It’s always great once you come up with your own personal gold, and the excitement is real. There is no doubt in my own mind that gold fever is just a condition which actually exists. In my own experience, staring too closely at gold nuggets or thinking a lot of in regards to the quest to locate them often causes it. Luckily, it’s a pleasurable condition with few, if any, harmful side effects. Prospecting for gold is a hobby that’s simple to fall into.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a mint to get involved with prospecting. It is as simple as investing in a gold pan for $10 and grabbing a bucket and the garden spade from the garage. On another hand, there are numerous great gold saving products offered to the modern prospector. Some allow the modern prospector to complete things no old timer could ever dream of. From metal detectors, to portable suction dredges, to dry placer machines and other gold recovery devices of all types, many significant improvements have already been made in small scale prospecting equipment. There certainly is no problem finding ways to spend the maximum amount of money on good equipment as you’d like – a lot of great stuff is available. Most individuals start small and purchase heightened equipment while they have more active in the hobby.
So whether its looking for another million ounce ore deposit or perhaps finding a small gold nugget you are able to call your own personal, rest assured, it’s still possible. For folks who enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, off road exploring or some of the other many outdoor hobbies so many folks take part in, prospecting may be something you’d be interested in. For nearly any outdoor enthusiast, it’s worthwhile to know a little about gold deposits – because another big find may be yours!