8 Tips for Finding Those Elusive Nuggets

There is no greater thrill in small-scale placer gold mining than finding a nugget (or more than one for that matter!). But if you've been at mining for a while like I have, you already know that nuggets don't come easily or that often out in the field.

So here are 8 tips that may help you find those elusive nuggets in both wet and dry (or desert) placer locations:

1. Make sure that the area you are working has a recorded history of nugget production. After all, you can't find nuggets if they aren't there in the first place.

2. Ask around and find out from local miners where nuggets have been or are being found in a given locale. Granted, some miners will be tight-lipped when it comes to directing you to better gold locations but just as many others are more than willing to help (as long as you don't become a royal pain-in-ass about it).

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3. Always search areas of exposed or shallow bedrock (or "false" bedrock") first. Remember that gold is very dense and heavy and the larger, heavier pieces will work their way downward over time. Also understand that quite often the oldtimers (and even many modern miners) failed to clean out every bedrock crack and crevice thoroughly and finally, remember that some good crevice "drop off" points get replenished over time.

4. Be smart and check old tailings piles from earlier mining activities. Even though I personally am not the biggest fan of working tailings, I've seen a number of nice nuggets recovered from them by other miners over the years. Concentrate your efforts on the older (or oldest) tailings and if you are a nugget shooter use a shovel or rake to spread them out before detecting them.

5. Use a "come along," winch, or a combination of leverage, muscle, and sweat to move larger boulders from their current resting places. This is an absolute must if those boulders sit atop bedrock or on shallow overburden. Many nuggets can been found "hiding" behind or underneath large rocks or boulders in this sort of context...something I myself can vouch for.

6. Understand that when and where you find very coarse black sand, chunkier pieces of gold and large flakes, a nugget may be "lurking" nearby. Be thorough in your crevicing, sniping, and/or gold recovery techniques and keep your eyes open. Sometimes what appears to be a "chunker" or large flake wedged tightly in a crack or crevice is often just the outer edge or point of a nice nugget.

7. If you are working auriferous gravels that are clay bound or locked in caliche ("desert cement"), make sure you break the latter up thoroughly and "puddle" (soak in a water bucket) the former first before panning or processing. You'd be surprised how many small nuggets can be locked inside or stuck to these sorts of materials. Over the years I've recovered a decent number of small nuggets that were "bound up" in these sorts of materials.

8. Remember that two heads and two sets of arms, legs, and eyes are better than one when it comes to finding nuggets. If you can, partner up with another miner or nugget shooter. You can cover more potential nugget-bearing ground this way, move larger rocks or boulders out of the way easier, and brainstorm about where those nuggets might be hiding.

Of course, most of this is just plain old common sense. But you'd probably be surprised how many would-be gold miners I've known over the course of time who would have found more nuggets (and more gold in general) had they followed these simple rules.

Good luck out there and I hope those bright, shiny nuggets find their way into your gold pan.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Mining Questions and Answers: Part 16"


(c) J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com