A Different Spin on Finding Gold (Part 1)

 (There's more than one way to get the gold.)

In this series of posts I'm going to put a totally different spin on ways of finding placer gold or lode gold ore. You old salts and sourdoughs may already know about the little gems of mining wisdom I'm about to dispense, but I might just catch you journeymen level and greenhorn miners by surprise. Do I have your interest? Good, let's get started.

Pushing the Luck Factor

First off, let me pose another question to you. How would you like to find a sizable amount of placer or lode gold ore without ever swinging a pick, swirling a gold pan in a stream, or shoveling material into a highbanker, dry washer, or sluice box? Sounds crazy, huh? Well, crazy is as crazy does but it can be done and, in fact, it has been done on many occasions to great success. Myself? Well, I've done my best in this regard but have come up short each and every time I've taken this road to finding gold. I guess luck wasn't on my side because on two separate occasions those I was mining with hit it and hit it good using one or more of the approaches I'm about to outline in this series. So therein lies a cautionary note. The tips and strategies for finding gold I'm going to dispense have a much higher inherent luck factor attached to them than your regular mining activities and that's a fact. However, backing yourself up with some good research, having a sharp eye, and rooting around in ways others wouldn't think of can definitely push the luck factor in your direction. Intrigued?

What "D" Dug Up

Let me introduce what I'm getting at by starting with a prime example of what I'm talking about here. Back in the early 1980s I was spending a lot of time in the fall, winter, and spring months dry washing dry placer claims in southeastern California and southwestern Arizona. These claims were jointly owned by myself and a couple of pards ("D" and "T") and provided decent gold in small amounts but their real value was that they provided us with an outdoor haven to escape the madness and crowding of Southern California where we were all living at the time. Late one afternoon "D" took a break from feeding his puffer dry washer and began poking around with his shovel in some old trash piles at the base of a small hill near the wash we were working. These piles were composed mostly of old tin cans, broken bottles of every size and description, Mason jar lids, and just about every other type of metallic, glass, or ceramic detritus the old timers (and some newcomers too) had discarded over the course of many decades. "D" was intent on finding an unbroken old bottle or two and had spent close to an hour digging and then carefully sifting by hand through the piles but every decent old bottle he came across was damaged or broken. He spotted a smaller trash pile farther up slope and decided to root around in it.

 (Old dump site in the desert.)

Myself and "T" kept on dry washing and not paying much attention to anything else when a loud shout startled us. We saw "D" jumping up and down like a madman and waving us on over. "All this for an old bottle?," I asked "T." He shrugged his shoulders and we ambled over to see what little treasure "D" had come across. He held out his hand and nestled in his palm was a round, silver container that later was verified as an old snuff box, circa early 1900s. It was about two and a half to three inches in diameter and maybe three quarters of an inch deep and was made of sterling silver, with ornate carved designs on the top. Quite a find, right? Yes indeed, because when "D" pulled the lid off the snuff box it was filled nearly to the brim with coarse placer gold including small nuggets! "D" said he'd shoveled away the old tin cans and broken glass from this little trash dump to see if anything good was at the bottom and when he got down to bare earth his eye was caught by a flash of slightly oxidized silver metal buried in the dirt. The snuff box filled with gold was what he'd dug up. How that silver snuff box ended up there is anyone's guess but I suspect it was hurriedly buried there just under the surface of the dirt by the person who'd mined that gold or who had stolen it from someone else. Who's going to look for buried treasure under a pile of trash, right? My unproven theory, anyway. By the way, the following year another miner swinging a metal detector on that same slope (but near the crest) on the adjoining claim found a silver pocket watch with fob and chain, also buried an inch or two under the earth. But here's the real kicker...after recovering the watch he scanned the immediate area, got a strong signal, and recovered an eight-gram placer nugget shaped like an arrowhead! Some people have all the luck, right?

 (Ornate sterling silver snuff box from the 1890s...not unlike the one "D" recovered.)

(Old sterling pocket watch and fob...in both cases described silver led to gold!)

There are Practicalities

So you see, there are other ways and means of finding goodies and gold in the goldfields without necessarily busting your hump with a pick and shovel all day or freezing your ass underwater with a suction dredge hose (if you can still dredge where you live, that is). Yes, the examples above imply more luck than some sort of system or practical guide to finding gold this way. But there are practical considerations, tips, strategies, and tools I can give you that just might make your day in this regard. In my next post I'll start listing those things and where you might want to search for "pockets" of gold outside those streams and dry washes you've been prowling. I'll also have more success stories to relate to you in this regard.

Be safe out there, OK?

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016

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


  1. JR, Old cabins and town sites can also be good. Especially if there were Chinese there.
    The Chinese were not well liked to put it nicely and were often robbed or murdered. Because of this, they were well known for hiding anything valuable, including the gold they found. Often they were never able to retrieve it. Not far from here, near Leesburg, there is a story even more interesting. There was a man made dam where two creeks came together above a steep canyon. The dammed up water was used to run a hydrolic monitor. At the bottom of the canyon was a camp of Chinese miners.....well the dam broke, some say it was blown up on purpose to kill the China-men. They, and all they had were buried under tons of rock and remain there to this day. A dirty trick to be sure, but if you were lucky, you might find some really neat stuff!


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