Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cripple Creek's Gold Placers (Part 1)

(Old mine workings near Cripple Creek.)

One of the Most Famous Hard-Rock Districts

Colorado is noted for extensive hard-rock or lode silver and gold production, but its reputation for gold placers falls somewhat short of the mark. This fact is driven home with even greater emphasis when the "Centennial State's" placer production is compared to other Western states like California.

Carhartt Wear

Be that as it may however, one of the most famous hard-rock gold districts of the entire western U.S., Cripple Creek, holds a bounty of fine placer gold that many small-scale miners have neglected over the years. One reason for this is that many miners assumed that the refractory, telluride-type gold ores of the Cripple Creek District were not conducive to placer gold formation. They were both right and wrong in this assumption.

Large Amounts of Very Fine Gold

Although tellurides are not typically noted for lots of free-milling gold like many sulphide quartz ores, they can still contain reasonable amounts of very fine gold particles that can be released through weathering, erosion, and compositional breakdown. Such is the case in the immediate vicinity of Cripple Creek and two smaller communities to the southeast, Victor and Goldfield.

(Magnification of Cripple Creek gold ore loaded with fine gold.)

Many of the gold-bearing drainages and gulches in this area can be found below historic lode mines such as the Stratton, Morning Glory, Gold Dollar, Ajax, Pharmacist, Lost Dollar, Victor, Cresson, Anaconda, Portland, and others too numerous to name. Large amounts of very fine, often crystalline, placer gold is said to be scattered throughout this region.

Here's My Take

This latter fact is what tells the tale at Cripple Creek and nearby areas. If you're used to recovering coarse placer gold or nuggets, the idea of working your butt off to recover fine gold isn't always appealing. Am I right?

Placer Gold Locations

OK, that said, here's my take on this...I'd rather pull a troy ounce of fine gold any day than a 1/4-ounce nugget. For me, it's not about mounting that 1/4 ouncer on a gold chain and wearing it around my neck to impress's about getting the gold and lots of it. Oh, and no matter how hard I have to work, enjoying the hell out of myself while doing it.

There it is, brothers and a nutshell.

I'll have more on Cripple Creek's gold placers in my next post. Until then, stay safe and sane.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold, Platinum, and Diamonds: Whitecourt's 'Triple Treat'"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Very Impressed with the "Gold Bug Pro"

(Fisher's "Gold Bug Pro.")

Most Sensitive Gold Machine

I finally did it. I broke down, shelled out the bucks, and bought myself a Fisher "Gold Bug Pro" metal detector. Thus far I'm very impressed with this lightweight little dynamo of a gold detector and I can't wait to get it out in the field for some real testing.
I don't want to go into too much detail about the preliminary bench and outdoor tests I put my "Gold Bug Pro" through this past weekend because I intend to write up a full range of tests for you in the next week or so. Suffice it to say this machine is the single-most sensitive gold machine I've personally used in my entire prospecting, small-scale mining, and treasure hunting career(s).

Meaning No Disrespect

In the past, I've owned (or still own) a White's "Goldmaster II," and I've swung the Fisher "Gold Bug" and "Gold Bug 2." Meaning no disrespect to the other machines here, but when I compare them to the "Gold Bug Pro," well...there just isn't comparison really.

Wolverine Boots

Granted, this comparison is a bit unfair because the "Gold Master II" (which I purchased in the early '90s) and the original "Gold Bug" can be considered "ancient technologies" when compared to the design and overall capabilities of the newer gold machines. The "Gold Bug 2" is still a very good and viable machine but if I had my druthers...gimme the "Gold Bug Pro!"

(Face plate and display for the "Gold Bug Pro.")

What do I like about the "Gold Bug Pro" so far? Off the top, here are a few things:

"GB Pro" weighs about 2 pounds. You could swing this puppy all day long and never tire methinks.

Easy to ground balance. The "GB Pro" has an easy to use touch pad function to automatically ground balance the machine. This auto ground balance works great, by the way. Alternately, if you're stuck in the past, you can manually adjust the machine's ground balance function.

Gold Prospecting and Mining Tips

Electronic prospecting and coins or artifact hunting. Normally, I don't think much of gold machines that are dual or triple purpose. But the "GB Pro's" abilities as a gold detector are so strong the fact that it can also be used in discrimination mode for coin or artifact hunting is just more icing on the cake.

Anyhoo, I'll have much more to say about this slick little gold machine later. In the meantime, good luck to one and all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Detector Reviews: Garrett's 'Infinium LS' (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another Miner's View on Where to Prospect

(Section of the South Yuba Trail.)

Well, it seems that the "License Guru's" original query about where to prospect has not only created a great amount of interest out there, but quite a few responses as well. Here's one from another California placer miner named Randy that I think is also right on the money:

"Most are BS"

"I'm fairly new to gold prospecting...been at it less than 3 years. Most of my mining has been done on the South Fork of the Yuba River, along various portions of the South Yuba Trail."

"There are numerous boundaries on the South Fork: state park, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tahoe National Forest, and some small parcels of private property. One good section is open to anything but motorized equipment and you can highbank legally from the Missouri Bar Trail upstream to the little town of Washington. I've seen a few claim signs here but most are BS (no claim number, no contact info...just a name on a mining claim sign that anyone can buy and hammer onto a tree)."

"Areas of Good Gold"

"There are areas of good gold in this area. For example, this past summer in less than a two-day period, I panned 3.5 pennyweights (dwt) from a spot near Missouri Creek. In March of last year, a friend and I sluiced 13 dwt in 5 days near Humbug Creek."

(Note: For those of you out there who are "newbies," there are 20 dwt in a troy ounce. J.R.)

"All of the locations we worked are on the South Yuba Trail, but none anywhere near where you could wonder there was still good gold there. It took my friend and I My friend two days just to pack into the Humbug Creek location and a day and a half to pack out. Humbug Trail is only 2.7 miles long, but parts are very scary with a 60-pound pack on your back...but that's what I was willing to do for good gold."

(Beautiful and juicy bedrock along the Humbug Trail. [Photo courtesy]).

"If you put the effort into it, you can find good gold just as well as this near-greenhorn can. By the way, on one gold mining forum that I belong to, one of the member's signature is:

'Gold Mining: not for the faint of heart or the lazy of ass.'"

Hmmm...seems like this is something yours truly has said time and time again here in "Bedrock Dreams." Go figure...

Dickies Work Clothes

Anyhoo, Randy (being the good guy he obviously is), has allowed me to print the GPS coordinates to the locations he's mentioned here:

"GPS Coordinates"

"Sure Jim, the locations can be left intact. Me and a couple other guys cleaned them out but of course there is always something left!"

Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment

"The Missouri Creek spot likely has good gold left in it, but in the river itself. Humbug Creek is tough, mainly because you can't run a highbanker there and your only option is to walk buckets of gravel 100 feet or more over boulders to get to your sluice box. If anyone wants to give either spot a try, I'll even give them GPS coordinates:"

Humbug Creek:

39.338075° -120.931779°

Missouri Bar:

39.345722° -120.885431°

I can't thank Randy enough for his openness and his willingness to share this info with all of you out there. (I wish you nothing but yellow in the bottom of that sluice box and in those pans Randy.)

Good luck to one and all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Main U.S. Gold Deposit Types (Part 1)"
(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012
Questions? E-mail me at

Friday, January 20, 2012

More on Where to Prospect: a "Miner's Miner" Speaks Up (Conclusion)

 (It's hard going as you get farther up the Yuba watershed...eventually, you'll be on foot.)

Here's more from veteran placer and hard rock gold miner Stan M.:

"No Claims Whatsoever"

"Based on that geologist's statements, I once took a trip to the 6,000-foot area of the Yuba River headwaters to look that area over...the mountains there look like saw teeth standing on end. At the time though, I was already too old and too out of shape to even attempt much."

"Anyway, that geologist's report may have been a little bit optimistic in terms of the 300-foot wide and 13-foot deep areas of rich placer gravels, but everything else was exactly as he reported it to be as best I can remember. There are no claims whatsoever at the 6,000-foot level in those mountains. (You know, I still have that report laying around here somewhere but it'd take an immense amount work for me to find it!)"

"Fortitude, Stamina, and Persistence"

"Getting back to Northern California and Siskiyou County, there are lots of creeks around Happy Camp, the Seiad Valley, and Hamburg that produce gold. At the upper ends where they reach the Oregon border, Thompson Creek and Indian Creek are nearly claim free. Some of the biggest gold ever found in Siskiyou County came out of those two creeks."

Gold Prospecting and Mining Tips

"I'm sure, like you said, that the easy gold locations are gone. But who wants an easy spot that's been picked clean of gold anyway? You have to have the fortitude, the stamina, and the persistence to get out there and look for the good stuff. It's still out there and if I were a younger man, that's what I'd do. In my mind, if someone has to be told where to go, I don't think that person is very serious about gold prospecting and mining."

"Very Rich in Gold"

"Let me tell you a true story about Titus Creek, just west of Happy Camp. I have a good friend who's lived in Happy camp all his life...he's a member of the Karuk Indian Tribe of this area. When he was 16 his uncle came to him for seems my friend's uncle had found a rich vein of gold that crossed Titus Creek (this is in the Independence area which is very rich in gold)."

 (As Stan M. can tell you, the Siskiyous and the Klamath wilderness are rough and tumble in many locations, including around Titus Creek.)

"Titus Creek runs on the south side of the Klamath's between 5-7 miles long and located in extremely rough terrain. If someone took a good gold detector into that area and had the stamina to walk Titus Creek detecting from bank-to-bank, I'm sure that vein of gold could be found. At the time my friend was more interested in his new car and girls never did anything about it. Now he doesn't know exactly where on Titus Creek the gold was."

"Hope all is well with you Jim...I really enjoy reading your 'Bedrock Dreams.'"

Take Note

All of you take note what Stan has said in these two posts. He reiterates what I've said time and time again in "Bedrock Dreams."

If you REALLY want to recover good gold you're gonna have to get off your duff and go to where the good gold is...wherever it is. And I can tell you right now that's not gonna be in a stream 15 feet from a parking turnout off Highway 49, the same worked over public panning area, or some borderline/hard-scrabble prospecting club claim.
If you don't believe me, then you need to believe Stan.

(My sincere thanks to Stan for sharing his views and experience with us all.)

If you liked this post, you may want to read:  "A Basic Mining Plan of Attack"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More on Where to Prospect: a "Miner's Miner" Speaks Up (Part 1)

 (The Klamath River in Siskiyou County, California is one of the West's Top 10 gold-bearing streams.)

"Miner's Miner"

Every now and then you'll hear me apply the term "miner's miner" to certain individuals who've been around the mining block for some time now and who truly know their stuff when it comes to all things gold prospecting and mining. I never use this term lightly, but instead reserve it as the highest accolade I can give to a fellow gold miner.

California prospector and miner Stan M. is one of these select individuals who has my respect. You know, I like to think I've been at this mining gig for a while now (32 years) but I'm a babe in the woods compared to Stan... he's been at it for 43 years or more (both hard rock and placer mining).

Stan wanted to give his perspective in response to my recent series, "Reader's Query on Where to Prospect Prompts Response." What he has to say should be of great interest to you all:

"Like You Said..."

"Hi Jim, I just read Part 2 on 'where to prospect' in your 'Bedrock Dreams' website. I don't know about too many other places but I do know about gold in Siskiyou County, California. I also think there are lots of open places in the deserts of Southern California too."

"I've been mining Siskiyou County since 1969. There are lots of places in the County where someone can prospect all he or she wants and nothing will be said. Like you said in your post, if people want easy access they're going to have to do some research or join a club like the New 49ers."

"Untold Millions in Gold-Bearing Material"

"There are probably untold millions in gold-bearing material just waiting for someone to prospect. The Trinity Alps Wilderness Area of California is loaded with some of the finest gold I have ever seen; then you have the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area also. You're gonna have to hike in and you'll either have to pan (not recommended), hand sluice, do some underwater sniping, or try gravity dredging. When I lived in Etna some time ago, two young men came out of the wilderness with several nuggets that would not fit in their hands. The gold is still there, you just have to go for it...but like you said, it won't be easy."

 (Placer gold from one of The New 49ers Prospecting Club's Klamath River claims.)


"I used to be a subscriber to a California geologist's report back in the 1980s. If my memory is correct, state geologists reported that gold was discovered in the headwaters of the Yuba River at the 3000-foot level but no one ever thought there would be gold at the 6,000-foot level. The geologist I subscribed to reported that he found overlooked pay streaks 300-feet wide and 13-feet deep at 6,000 feet. This same geologist speculated that a person tunneling on bedrock at these locations could make anywhere from 200 to 600 ounces of placer gold a day! "

(Note: During the California Gold rush many locations below the 3,000 foot level on the Yuba and its tributaries were even richer than what Stan is saying this geologist stated. However, don't think for one minute that finding and recovering all that gold will be a walk in the park for you or anyone definitely won't be. J.R.)

There's more to come from Stan in my next post. In the mean time I'll check with him to see if he wants to provide an e-mail address for readers who may want to contact him (if not, I'll respect his privacy as I've always done in the past).

Good luck out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Mining History of California: Significant Locations, Dates, and Information (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reader's Query on Where to Prospect Prompts Response (Conclusion)

(There's an open area with placer gold in the ravine below these peaks but it won't be easy to reach.)

In my last post I responded to "License Guru's" query (slightly abbreviated version here):

"How do people like myself go prospecting without being claim jumpers? Obviously there are exceptions. Permission from the claim owner, pay as you go, etc. But those exceptions aside, how is it possible to prospect without being a claim jumper?"
What the "Guru" is asking here is, to some extent, a reflection of the frustration that many of us feel these days about the lack of open areas to prospect or mine. My response (which I've alluded to elsewhere in "Bedrock Dreams") was pretty basic in the last post so now I'll flesh things out a bit:

1) Do your research: If you're truly stymied or fed up with the status quo as it relates to small-scale and recreational mining accessibility issues these days and you don't want to buy a or lease a claim (neither of these is recommended), try pay-as-you-go sites, or join a club, then good research is going to be your best mining "pard." With the cold of Winter upon many of us right now and preventing us from prospecting or mining, research is a good way to fill those non-mining hours and perhaps pin down some gold locations that are off the beaten path.

What sort of research? Reading and studying old diaries or first-hand accounts by old timers, geological bulletins (especially those from the past), gold production figures, mining histories, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) name it. Anything and everything (whether in hard copy, digital, or online) related to the area(s) you're interested in, particularly those locales that are NOT near main roads or highways and that may require a bit of hiking or packing in. Other info sources like Google Earth or Google Maps can help as well.

2) Be willing to go where others don't or won't: I know age, health, and physical limitations may prevent some of you out there from following this dictum, but the rest of you need take heed. You can't expect to find an open gold location away from the maddening crowds by being a "couch potato" or by taking the path of least of resistance and driving to the usual easy access gold locations. It's just gonna be more of the same, brothers and me on that. (But that's long as you're OK with it.)

I've mentioned this before, but I had a mining acquaintance back in the early '80s who got fed up with the crowds in various wet and dry California gold locations who did his research and found and old gold mining spot with great potential in Montana. This location was so remote he packed in using horses (all on his lonesome). The upshot? Over the course of  a few summers he recovered specimen gold in white "sugar" quartz  to the tune of at least $150,000 by the time he was finished (if indeed he ever was finished). Of course, this miner's story is an exception to the general rule but isn't that what we're talking about here?

Metal Detectors
Gold Concentrates

By the way, I would NEVER recommend anyone go it alone like this guy did from a personal safety standpoint. If thing's had gone awry for him, he might've lost his life in that remote location. If you decide to take an extreme approach like this dude did, make sure to "buddy up" and take a trustworthy "pard" with you. All the gold in the world won't do you a bit of good if you're dead.

3) Expect to spend lots of time and effort on Numbers 1 and 2: Boy oh boy, is this true. You're probably going to have spend many, many hours and work harder mentally and physically on getting these two things accomplished than you've ever done before if you truly want to find that gold spot away from the prying eyes of others (including those ubiquitous local, State, and Federal bureaucrats).

Sorry, but if you know in your heart of hearts right now that you're just plain lazy or don't have the desire or will power to carry difficult tasks through to their logical conclusions, then this whole deal isn't going to work for you. I'm not nagging you here...just telling it like it is, something most of the other online gold prospecting/mining "experts" out there won't or don't do (just had to get that dig in here, didn't I?).

Anyway, I hope this helps. By the way, if you're interested in sharing your view or commiserating with the "License Guru" he can be reached at:

Good luck all!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "State Geological Surveys Links (Part 2)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reader's Query on Where to Prospect Prompts Response (Part 2)

What to Do?, What to Do?

 In my previous post on this topic I set the stage for answering "License Guru's" query:

"I have a question that might make a good blog post, unless it already is.  But I was wondering, with every square inch of the California Motherlode under claim, how do people like myself go prospecting without being claim jumpers?"

"Obviously, there are exceptions. Permission from the claim owner, pay as you go, etc. But those exceptions aside, how is it possible to prospect without being a claim jumper?"

Path of Least Resistance

To be perfectly honest here, it's difficult for me to answer "Guru's" question without addressing the exceptions he's mentioned. For most of you out there, those exceptions and others (mining clubs, leasing a claim, working a public panning area, pay as you go mining locations, etc.) ARE the path of least resistance to doing your thing and finding a bit of gold.

Sure, things are tough out there these days in terms of open and/or accessible areas to prospect, pan, or mine on a small scale. That much is known. But in truth, it's fallacious to assume that every square inch of a given area is claimed up or 100% off limits, California Motherlode included. Even if 99.9% of an area was claimed up or on private property, 0.01% of that area is still open! (Yes, very slim percentage...but I'm trying to make a point here.)

Most People Want...

Here's the my humble opinion, most people (and that includes me at times) want quick and dirty solutions to their problems, whatever those may be. In recreational or small-scale gold prospecting and mining, this translates into a sort of laziness where folks want to get at the gold the easiest way possible. They don't want to drive too far, they want easy access, and they want their mining "fix" with the least amount of effort, hassles, and disturbance overall.

Gold Concentrates
Gold Concentrators

That's OK, but if you follow that sort of logic with all things being as they are right now, you're going to be disappointed, you're going to get frustrated, and you're going to end up feeling that there are no viable alternatives. Hells bells, even I've fallen into this negative thinking the past few years because I'm always comparing my mining experiences 20-30+ years ago to what's going on now.

 An Answer Summed Up

My answer to "License Guru's" query on where to prospect without being a claim jumper can be summed up like this:

1) Do your research.

2) Be willing to go where others don't or won't.

3) Expect to spend lots of time and effort on Numbers 1 and 2.

I'll expand on these three items in my next post. So I urge "License Guru" ( and all the rest of you out there to take a deep breath, think on what I've said here, and know that I DO feel your pain regarding this issue.

Best of luck to you all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "True Bedrock vs. False Bedrock (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

 Questions? E-mail me at

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reader's Query on Where to Prospect Prompts Response (Part 1)

Many of you out there are loyal readers and over time we've come to know each other pretty well as far as distance and the Internet are concerned. In some instances, I've even had one-on-one conversations with a few of you over the phone, usually to answer a direct question or two.

Learn More About Placer Mining Equipment

One of the "Bedrock Dreams" readers that fits into the above category is California miner who calls himself  "License Guru." The "Guru," who is fairly new to small-scale mining asked me this very pertinent question last week:

"How is it Possible to Prospect?"

"J.R., I have a question that might make a good blog post, unless it already is.  But I was wondering, with every square inch of the California Motherlode under claim, how do people like myself go prospecting without being claim jumpers?"

"Obviously there are exceptions. Permission from the claim owner, pay as you go, etc. But those exceptions aside, how is it possible to prospect without being a claim jumper? Thanks."  

Any Number of Reasons

Unfortunately "License Guru," these days it's extremely difficult to find open areas to prospect and mine, not only in California but nearly everywhere in the West and Southwest (and probably in the Southeastern U.S. as well). I've been doing this small-scale prospecting and mining thing for a little over 32 years now and I've watched with frustration and dismay as once-open areas have become off limits again, and again, and again over time.

There are any number of reasons for this:

Increased population and urban sprawl: Essentially, "more rats in the cage." With more people come more demands for housing, business, name it. Many open mining areas get swallowed up this way (including one here in Northern New Mexico that I used to work for many years, for example). Private property issues become much more amplified in this regard.

Anti-mining legislation and agendas: California (my home state) is the "poster" boy or girl for this madness, which is spreading to other nearby states. The once-Golden State's anti-dredging moratorium is a classic example of this BS. Self-proclaimed "greenies," including some "hippie-dippie" radical factions, have  been very active in pursuing their agendas and forcing the hands of weak-willed, self-serving politicos in fostering anti-mining attitudes...yep, even toward small-scale folks like us.

Bureaucratic interference: This follows hard on the heels of the previous section. Many panning or mining locations that were once fully open and free wheeling have been taken over and are being "managed" by the states or the Feds under all sorts of restrictions and limitations. In some instances, no panning or mining is allowed at all and in others you have to get a permit just to use a garden trowel and a gold pan. I crap you not.

Gold Panning Kits
Gold Concentrators

Mining and claim frenzy: Record high gold prices today have not only increased the interest in both placer and lode gold mining but have drawn more prospective miners in to the fold, so to speak. In  the broadest sense we all have more "competition" to contend with at time when fewer mining locales are available or open. Tie this in with the fact that unpatented mining claims are hard to find these days in most historic or productive areas because everyone wants a slice of the pie, including claim scammers. The end result? More areas off limits.

Okay, okay...I know. I haven't answered "License Guru's" question. Forgive me for that, but I wanted to set the stage. I'll have a response for  the "Guru" and you the next go around.

If you'd like to touch base with "License Guru" and compare notes on this topic, he can be reached at:

Good luck to all of you.

If you liked this post, you may want to read:
"Gold Mining Questions and Answers: Part 10"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gold in California's Coastal Ranges (Conclusion)

 (Northern California Counties.)

Here's my final post in this series of hard rock and placer gold in California's coastal ranges:

Placer Gold in the Coastal Ranges

Up to this point I've been talking about hard rock gold deposits in the coastal ranges, but it's time to shift gears and cover gold placers in this region. Although many of the known placer deposits in the region are small in size and limited from a commercial mining standpoint, these deposits (and others that remain to be located) may hold decent potential for small-scale prospectors and miners.There isn't much information or literature out there concerning gold sizes and overall values in California's coastal ranges but I tend to think that most of the gold to be found there will range from micron-sized particles to small flakes and nuggets in some instances.

Gold Pans
Gold Concentrators

One of the things I personally find attractive about the placer mining potential in the California coastal ranges region is that most of the efforts of other small-scale miners have been focused in the Motherlode's historic gold districts an hour or two's drive east. This may mean less competition and the chance of discovering "virgin" or semi-virgin ground (albeit limited in nature) for those you willing to put a bit of time and effort into prospecting and working the coastal ranges.

Known Gold Placers

Here's a short list of known gold placers in California's coastal ranges. Remember, these are key locations only. You should also prospect/sample any and all tributary streams in these areas for the presence of color:

Big Austin Creek (just north of the community of Cazadero in Sonoma County)

Cache Creek (a bit northwest of Capay in Glenn County)

Bear Creek and Sulphur Creek (near Wilbur Springs in Colusa County)

Wolverine Boots

Napa River (in the immediate vicinity of Calistoga, Napa County)

Mitchell Canyon (north of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County)

Russian River (Mendocino and Sonoma Counties)

 (Section of the Russian River.)

Cottonwood Creek (near the community of Platina in Shasta County

**Coastal Beaches (particularly those in the San Francisco area and near the Oregon border)

Klamath River (the Klamath is a well known gold producer, especially farther inland in Siskiyou County)

(**I actually recovered very small amounts of placer gold on a San Francisco beach in 1983. E-mail me for particulars. J.R.)

Please note that some of the placer areas listed above may only have water at certain times of the year. Also, be aware that some areas may be gated, on private property, or placed off limits by one (or more) of the once-Golden state's anti-mining bureaucracies or special interest groups.

I wish you well if you try your luck in California's coastal ranges. Let me know how you do, OK?

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "'Can I Make a Living Gold Mining? (Part 3)'"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gold Ore Fire Assays

 (Fire assays have been around for a long time as this woodcut from the Middle Ages shows.)

Fire Assays are the Way to Go

I've received quite a few queries here as of late from folks wanting to know the why's, how's, and where's of getting their ore samples assayed. So, I thought I'd write this as an interim post before continuing on with my series on gold in California's coastal ranges.

First of all, for those you who are strictly placer gold miners you probably are not going to need the services of an assayer at any point. However, if you are hard-rock gold miner (gold or silver), a rock hound, or a placer miner who has some ore samples you'd like to have tested then a fire assay is the way to go.

 Fire Assay Steps

What's a fire assay? It's the oldest, cheapest, and probably the most reliable method of determining precious metals concentrations in rock (ore) samples. The process received its name because back in the old days the sample was smelted along with lead oxide in a very hot fire. These days, electric furnaces are used for smelting.

There are essentially six basic steps to a fire assay:

1. Crushing (an ore sample is crushed and ground into a fine powder)

2. Splitting (the sample powder is split into additional samples)

3. Weighing (powder samples are weighed down to 30 gram units)

4. Mixing /Firing (lead oxide is added as a firing flux and any gold or silver present will mix with the flux. After firing and cooling, a solitary metallic "button" remains containing the lead oxide and any precious metals)

5. Cupelling (the "button" is placed into a cupel or dish made from bone ash and fired in what's known as a cupelling furnace)

6. Parting (here the lead returns to its oxide form and is drawn into the bone ash plate, leaving a tiny speck of metal called a "parting" bead)

Since Our Main Interest is Gold...

The "parting" bead is then weighed on a micro-balance. Since our main interest as miners is in gold and not silver, a further step is needed here and that is to heat the precious metal bead in hot nitric acid which dissolves the silver and leaves only the gold.
 (Gold bead remaining from fire assayed ore sample.)

The gold bead is then carefully weighed and this amount of gold is then compared to the original weight of the ore sample(s). This gold value will typically be expressed as "troy ounces to the ton" for larger mining enterprises (e.g., "This ore sample indicates .089 troy ounces gold per ton."). For you and I, the result of a fire assay on a single ore sample we submitted would probably be expressed in grams or fractions of grams of the gold contained in that sample alone.

Cost of a Fire Assay

How much does a typical fire assay cost these days? That depends. I've seen prices quoted as low as $30.00-$50.00 per sample on up to thousands of dollars per sample. In terms of my personal knowledge and experience, as an individual miner you're better off dealing with a lower priced "mom and pop" fire assay operation than some of the bigger name, corporate type assay businesses. The latter tend to cater to larger mining companies and charge much higher fees.

Gold Concentrators

Are there reputable folks and companies out there conducting fire assays? You bet. These are the folks you want to deal with because they are competent, cheaper, and won't rip you off. If you need a lead or two in that direction, let me know.

Best of luck to you all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 4)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at

Monday, January 2, 2012

More From Canadian Miner "Greywolf"

(The historic Cariboo Gold District in the Canadian Province of British Columbia.)

"Cariboo Bushcraft"

A short while back I introduced you to Canadian gold miner Eric "Greywolf" Brigden in a post titled, "Sinking a Placer Test Shaft: 'Greywolf's Method.'" Now "Greywolf" is back with a new video on YouTube and a brand, spanking new online website/forum called The Gold Prospectors Forum.

Greywolf's new video is titled, "Cariboo Bushcraft Tips for City Slickers" (I had to smile at that one!). I can tell you this about "Greywolf"...he knows the outdoors and he knows gold mining. No, not just the usual "here's how you pan for gold" routine, but the real nuts and bolts aspects of gold prospecting and mining.

You'll Learn a Thing or Two

Want to know how to crib a placer test shaft? "Greywolf" can show you. Need to learn how to properly set up or repair your equipment? Ask Eric. If you think I'm BSing you (something I'll never do, by the way), take a look at some of "Greywolf's" mining videos on YouTube. You'll get "schooled up" in a hurry. Eric works his own claims in the historic Cariboo Gold District, so he knows what's what.

I also urge all of you out there to visit The Gold Prospectors Forum and give Eric your support by signing up and becoming a forum member.Unless I miss my bet, I suspect you'll learn a thing or two there you won't learn here at "Bedrock Dreams" or anywhere else for that matter.

Dickies Work Clothes

I wish "Greywolf" well in this new endeavor just as I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and the best of luck out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Rushes of British Columbia, Part 1"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at