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Where Gold is Found
With the price of gold at an all time high it is little wonder why so many people are searching for "where the gold is found".
Gold is found throughout the earth and sea but there are natural spots where we can recover much higher concentrations of this yellow metal. Gold is typically found associated with quartz veins which are located in rock and granite in our planet Earth.
Depending on the surrounding rock (age and type) an outcropping of gold bearing material would appear like a "stained rust mound". What you would see possibly around the gold would be oxides or sulfides which can contain iron pyrite. This iron pyrite is also known as "Fools Gold". The oxides can also contain magnetite and/or hematite, more commonly referred to as black sand. When you pan for gold one of the most common things, besides gold, that you will find will be black sand.
But...most gold has eroded and is found in crevices and depressions in rock. The surrounding rock wears away and exposes the quartz vein. Quartz is very hard and will shear away because of its brittleness.
So how does gold get into streams and rivers? Through the natural progress of time and erosion most minerals, including gold, are concentrated into river and stream bottoms. Gold and other minerals that are located in a vein on a mountainside is worn down through landslides and centuries of weather erosion.
This is where you come in. The up side is now we know where higher concentrations of placer gold can be found but since they can vary from location to location our work is only partially done. We need to “sample” areas to find the choice spots where we can stockpile our efforts in recovering gold.
The best way to "sample" an area to see if gold can be found is to choose a likely spot in a stream or river, and shovel a few gold pans full of material and pan it. At this point we are looking for small amounts of fine gold and or indicator minerals such as black sand. This will start to tell the story of that stream and surrounding area.
Since you can dig up half the stream bed and not really produce a lot of color we want to use nature to our advantage. We use the bend of a stream, behind large rocks or fixtures or anything that is permanently in the stream to help us find higher concentrations of gold. However, one point that has to be mentioned, gold, if it is in the area will always be found at the lowest point. Sand is about twice as heavy as water, quartz rock is about 2 ½ times as heavy as water. Gold on the other hand is approximately 19 times heavier than water so you can see why gold flakes and or nuggets, if there are any, will be found at the bottom of the stream or lowest surface area of the bedrock. Bedrock is a solid base rock in which gold and other possible valuable materials can not pass through. If we find promising color, very fine gold or black sand, we can pursue looking for gold. Look for bedrock in the area. As mentioned, nothing can pass through bedrock so if gold is to be found it will be found on the surface if searching dry land. Look for the cracks and crevices. One trick that is worth trying is to look up on the shore or in the valley where a stream is flowing through. What you are looking for there is where the stream used to flow. This is known as a high bench and can be excellent. Cottonwood trees which grow in wet areas will grow over top of those spots. The trees will seem to be high and up out of the water, but, if you look at a valley bottom the stream will have changed courses many, many times. You can use that to your advantage simply by looking for depressions, where it appears to be dry land. If you find a bare patch of bedrock or a huge flat rock, it is an ideal place to try even though it is dry to do some sampling. Take a sample of dirt and sand off the flat rock if possible, or in another area where there is the depression and look for black sand and or fine gold. That will give you a more true indication of how good of a stream, river or area you are working in. Another more effective way is to go down deep for coarse gold. Don’t kill yourself in a hole by having it collapse in on you, but again, you can use nature to your advantage. The pioneers used to go deep for it by drifting. The term drifting down for gold basically meant to dig a deep hole such as the case in Barkerville, B.C. Canada. They used to use logs to shore up the walls and go down to bedrock Then using pumps to keep the water out they used mining ties to “drift” sideways and followed the stream bed where they found a great deal of coarse gold and nuggets. I don’t recommend this due to the obvious hazard to your life. Remember where gold is concerned, think smarter don’t work harder! Let nature show you the way. There are many things which I mentioned that you can look for but bedrock, huge rocks with depressions, false bedrock, which is a clay shelf usually found up higher on the dry bank of a stream and roots of trees are all excellent methods to go with. If you find coarse gold or nuggets go up stream or down stream and look for the bedrock we talked about.
One observation I want to mention is that horsetails have a strong affinity for gold bearing areas. You can often find very good pockets or veins of gold simply by being observant and watching for clumps of horsetails growing on top of rich gold areas.
Whether you consider gold prospecting to be a hobby or a business it is a lot of fun. Not only is it fun, but, it can be well worth you while as you can be highly paid for a little effort.
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