Gold Exactly Where it Shouldn't Be (Part 2)

( A section of the Laguna Dam not far from the "Potholes" District. The terrain viewed in the top left of the photo is typical of the area.)

Once again, you'd do well to remember that good ol' Mother Nature likes to play tricks on us sometimes when it comes to where placer gold should be and where it actually ends up. Here's another example of what I'm talking about:

Gold at the "Potholes"

Back in the 1980s during the fall and winter months I'd usually make dry washing forays to claims in the high desert near Randsburg, California or to the "Potholes" District near Winterhaven, California and the Laguna Dam. Sometimes I would also work dry placer locations on the Arizona side of the Colorado River outside Yuma, Arizona.

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

Eventually, I came to know the "Potholes" pretty well and managed to get some decent gold there over time with my old "puffer" dry washer built by Sam Radding. This despite the fact that most of the ground around the "Potholes" had been turned over pretty well by other miners in the past, including the Spanish who were first on the gold scene there wayyyyyyyy back when.

No Piece of Ground is Ever "Worked Out"

However, as I've said before in "Bedrock Dreams," no piece of gold ground is ever truly "worked out." Good gold values were still being recovered at the "Potholes" by small-scale and recreational miners with a bit of savvy and a willingness to work hard to get their share of the yellow metal.

Most of the gold at the "Potholes" was widely dispersed and there were 2 main ways of getting at it. The first was by running the oldest tailing piles left by old timers who had run less efficient gear and the second was by working the low-laying alluvial ground beneath a series of small but rugged and parched desert hills.

One Fine and Warm Day

One fine and very warm day I was working  my favorite section of bench gravels at the "Potholes." My puffer dry washer's little Briggs and Stratton gas motor was actually purring and keeping a nice rhythm as it drove the cam that slapped the dry washer's bellows up and down, puffing the lighter material down the riffle tray and leaving the gold and heavy black sands behind.

Mining Tips

A few other miners were also scattered around working old tailings or the numerous low-laying areas. One miner, however, began swinging a Garrett "Deepseeker" metal detector along the steep sides one of the small hills nearby.

Waving His Arms Like a Maniac

Not long after I heard a loud yell in that direction and whipped my head around to see this guy jumping up and down waving his arms around like a maniac, but keeping his right fist tightly closed. Well, miners being miners, the rest of us went hustling in that direction as this dude came running down the hill toward us.

He was out of breath and could hardly speak but when he opened his fist there in his palm was sitting the the largest gold nugget I'd ever seen recovered at the "Potholes." It was surely at least 7-10 grams (1/4-1/3 troy ounce) and maybe a bit larger than that, coarse and yellow-orange and shaped somewhat like an arrowhead.

The Moral of This Story

Needless to say, a mini-stampede ensued as other miners scrambled up the hillside to haul buckets of gravel down or to swing detectors. The finder, poor soul, forgot one of the most basic rules of mining and treasure hunting...keeping your mouth shut!

Where to Find Placer Gold

Why that nugget and nearly 3 additional troy ounces of dry placer gold came off that desert hillside is open to interpretation. But the moral of this story is not: gold sometimes ends up exactly where it shouldn't be.

Good luck to you.

If you like this post, you may want to read: "Prehistoric Rivers of Gold (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2011

Questions? E-mail me at