(Elluvials may be hit or miss, but take a shot anyway.)
Most small-scale gold prospectors don't place too much emphasis on hunting for or recovering elluvial gold deposits. There's no doubt that finding elluvials is a hit-or-miss enterprise, but if you're tired of the same old burnt-out alluvial placers, then you may want to step outside that limiting box for a bit and read this series of posts.
Here are a few notes or tips that may be of help if you're thinking of trying your hand at elluvial gold:
Do your research up front. Yep, there's that old J.R. broken record routine once again. In this case you want to try and find out all you can about the area you'd like to search for elluvial gold deposits by asking these sorts of questions:
"Is the area I'm interested in mineralized for gold, especially lode veins?"
"Were elluvials ever found there?"
"Can I gain access to this area or is it off limits?"
"Is the area noted for blow outs, country rock outcrops, or lots of small lode mining operations (test pits, adits and tunnels, 'coyote' holes, etc.)."
(Desert-area "coyote" hole.)
"Were adjunct alluvial placers found nearby?"
"Does the area contain sloping ground, hills, or mountainsides that would facilitate the movement of elluvial gold downslope into low-lying areas?"
You get the picture here, methinks. The more you can learn about a potential elluvial gold site or area on the front end, the less frustration, time, energy, and money you'll expend on the far side. Again, some elluvial areas aren't going to have a ton of historical literature written about them but you should be able to learn something (no matter how slight the source material) about any given gold area. No, those books, diaries, and geological reports aren't going to shove your nose directly into an elluvial gold deposit but they may provide the one little clue that'll point you in the right direction. Going to a totally new gold area (lode, elluvial, or alluvial) that you know absolutely nothing about is, paraphrasing Confederate General James Longstreet at Gettysburg, "Like going into battle with one boot off."
Desert locations offer easier elluvial pickings. Note that I use the term "easier" here. Nothing in gold prospecting or gold mining is truly easy, but there are numerous ways to work smarter and one way to do that regarding elluvials is to focus your search for them in dry or desert gold areas. Why is that. Common sense, brothers and sisters. Plain old common sense. The overall inhospitable nature of desert locations means that vegetation is typically quite sparse (not always as true in high desert areas) which means that more ground is visible to the naked eye and things are "easier" to get at (there's that word again). All this means is that your hunt for elluvial gold will be facilitated, not hindered, by the openness of the terrain and its inherent visible features. Sample holes, test pits, "coyote" holes, and mine entrances can be easily spotted if you know what you're looking for. Most importantly of all, vein outcrops, ledges, and blow outs are exposed and ready and waiting to be examined. Ditto for the slope(s) directly below them. Sure, heavily forested areas or locations with lots of ground cover contain their fair share of elluvial gold deposits and some of these could (and have) put their desert cousins to shame. The primary problem with wetter areas is the lack of exposure or visibility downslope of mine shafts, blowouts, or country rock ledges. In most instances non-desert elluvials are buried at depth under trees, scrub oak, shrubs, layers of pine needles and forest detritus, stack rock piles, and so on. This makes finding those same elluvials problematic, to say the least. But every dark cloud has a symbiotic silver lining. In this case the very factors that make non-desert elluvial deposits such a hassle also mean that the potential for unworked elluvial gold is significantly greater. At any rate, that's my opinion.
(Elluvial possibilities exist here, mining activity or not.)
(Important Note: Please remember that ALL outdoor environments have their inherent dangers and risks. This is especially true of desert locations. Be smart and be properly prepared for your elluvial gold hunting excursions into dry or desert gold locations. In both types of elluvial areas (wet or dry) STAY THE HELL OUT of old mines and "coyote" holes. The risks are great and the rewards very small. If you're searching for elluvial gold you won't find it in those spots anyway. So please heed my advice here and don't be intent on getting hurt...or worse.)
Use a hand-fan search pattern for elluvials. The fan-shaped search pattern is, in my mind, the best method or technique for elluvial searches. You should begin your search uphill or upslope at or immediately below what you've determined as the potential source (mine, blow out, vein, outcrop, etc.) for that elluvial gold you're looking for. That point or spot is the apex point of your search. In other words, where you begin hunting or sampling is at the very tip of the end of the fan's handle and from there the fan gradually spreads out until the lowest lying area below becomes the widest point of the fan's spread. The fan search method is highly functional because most elluvials "spread" from their source as the gold they contain moves farther down hill. That spread of gold widens and widens as it moves farther away from its source but there's no exact science that'll tell you just how wide or how far down that fan extends, sad to say. You'll have to depend on that electronic gadget you're swinging or on those samples you're digging at regular intervals as you work your way down and side-to-side from what you consider the potential elluvial source.
(This aerial photo of a large-scale alluvial fan is a microcosm representation of a much smaller elluvial deposit. Now you know why the hand-fan search method makes sense.)
You should also take note of any drainage systems coursing their way downhill below the source. Even the smallest fold or rivulet in the immediate vicinity could serve to channel elluvial gold downward (at least part of it anyway). Now, as sure as big black bears shit in the woods I'm 100% certain some wag out there is going to chime in here with "Well, can't you reverse things and start your search at the bottom and work your way up to the fan's handle?" (I'm counting from one to ten very slowly right now.) Yes, you can do that Einstein. In fact, if you find it easier to work your way UPHILL and farther away from the potential elluvial source, then far be it from me to advise you otherwise. Geeze Louise...
OK, that's all she wrote for this round. I wish all of you (and all of yours) the very best this life can bring.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org