A Different Spin on Finding Gold (Conclusion)

 (If you're gonna take a run at the wheel, why not try a different spin?)

I'll be winding things up on this series in this post. I'll have a few more tips for you as well as a couple more examples of the "different spin" gold that can be found in mining areas. So let's get to it.

Logic Plus Intuition

When it comes to finding placer gold or gold specie stashed away around old mining camps or locations, one of the best tips I can give you is to approach things with your eyes and mind wide open. When you're out there prospecting for lode or placer gold, your trying to tune into the clues that Ma Nature leaves you in terms of the visual, geological, hydrological, and depositional factors involved. Finding old-timer caches is much the same in that you must look around yourself closely and then try and step into the mind of that old timer who hid his gold stash or, alternately, into the mind of the thief or robber who stole that old timer's goods and then hid them away himself. Where would they hide a stash? Where would you yourself hide your goods in the same location that the old timers lived and worked in? Both logic and intuition (that "gut feeling") are good tools to employ in this regard and, of course, having luck on your side doesn't hurt either. Tune yourself into anything and everything around you that may seem unnatural, unusual, or out of place in the immediate environment. That could be anything and everything: a small, stacked pile of rocks (no, not tailings); tree blazes or rock cravings; a very large or unusually shaped tree; ruins of an old cabin; an old hearth or chimney; a small rock ledge or cave nearby; a large or conspicuous looking boulder; and so on.

(Obverse and reverse sides of a gold saloon token from the early 1900s.)

Stock in Trade

Another thing to remember is that not all mining camps were large, permanent affairs. For every large gold camp that eventually became a town there were dozens and dozens of others that sprouted up around those same diggings and then disappeared just as quickly. These latter are your best bets for finding something good gold or artifact-wise. Most small-scale gold miners are familiar with California's Motherlode Region (either directly or indirectly) and the names of towns like Columbia, Mariposa, Nevada City, Placerville, Rough 'n Ready, and Downieville. These were gold camps established back in the early days of the California Gold Rush that eventually blossomed into full-fledged towns that still live on today (although some are sparsely populated). Around these towns are numerous smaller gold camps that no one remembers today and that are hidden from "normal" view. You just have to find them. And how do you do that? Research, research, research. With the availability of online information today, there's no excuse for not doing some preliminary research before heading out the door. Once you've done that research and located one of these old camps, you're next determination should be whether that old camp (however small it might have been) had a saloon, gambling hall, store, post office, and so on. Most camps, even the smallest ones, had a saloon and some sort of gambling den even if these were situated in canvas tents and not permanent structures. What you're looking for is to locate and "work" the grounds of the actual sites of these venues because the stock in trade back in the old days was placer gold fines, flakes, and nuggets. Like Jess and Dot Coffey, find and run the material from the ground beneath the flooring (often just wooden "duckboards") and you could go home with ounce after ounce of gold that was inadvertently allowed to slip away during various transactions in brothels, saloons, stores, and gambling halls. In many instances, the old timers imbibed too much liquor as well, which makes the likelihood of lost "pinches" of gold all the greater.

(Old saloon floor boards. Many an ounce of fine gold slipped through the cracks!)


Now some of you are undoubtedly saying to yourselves, "Well yes, I get this OK. But isn't old J.R. talking about treasure hunting here and not mining?" A reasonable question in the grand scheme of things. I'm talking about BOTH brothers and sisters. Gold prospecting and mining is a form of treasure hunting and treasure hunting has its parallels with gold mining. Who cares what you call it as along as you enjoy it and gather a few goodies together along the way? I'm sure the prospecting club member who was recently swinging his metal detector near an old mining camp in California didn't debate the issue when he found a small glass jar filled with placer gold. Nor did the couple who literally stumbled across a fortune in gold coins stashed inside a rusted tin can near the base of a tree in California's Motherlode Region. I could cite many other cases like this but I think you get the drift.

OK, if we can agree that there are similarities between prospecting and mining, and treasure hunting then it's time for me to once again lay out a few basic rules you should adhere to in both regards:

1) Keep your mouth shut about your finds. Be an ego-driven blabbermouth and see just how quickly the lawyers, county, state, and Feds take the majority (or all) of your recently found goods away.

2) If you hit the "big one," NEVER try and sell everything off at the same time. Be patient and parcel it out, bit-by-bit if you can. This keeps thieves, money hungry relatives, and the Internal Revenue Service off your back. The main problem with this strategy? The fact that most people go completely bananas after a big find, shoot their mouths off about it, and then want to cash in all at once. Locating and recovering treasure is is one thing. Disposing of it is something else again. It requires infinite patience and great discipline...attributes sorely lacking in most miners and treasure hunters I've come across

3) Keep your locations to yourself. You don't even have to find something good to suddenly have people elbowing their way into the location you spent so much time researching. Just start running your mouth about it and see how many others turn up at that site too, many just ahead of you!

4) Keep as few people in your research and "finds" loop as possible. Just basic common sense, right? The more people who know what you're after or have found, the more likely you'll get burned or ripped off. Or alternately, hauled into court over contested finds. Don't think so? Then tell every Tom, Dick, and Harriet what you're about and what you've found and see what transpires.

5) Trust only those who've earned your trust and then doubt them as well. It's a rare pair, trio, or quartet of pards who can come together on a decent find and then maintain their cool as before. Once REAL money becomes an issue, you'll see how quickly a trusted pard can turn on you. I know this for a fact because I've lived through it and my face still turns beet red at the thought of how naive I was and how much was stolen from me. Don't ask for details because I hate to even think of that particular situation. I won't say don't trust anyone, but the closer you can get to that golden rule the better off you'll be in the long run.

On that positive note, I'll depart for now. Be safe out there, OK?

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

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


  1. All true. Mel Fisher learned that the hard way. I was at the marina when his boat came in after finding his last big treasure. The gov was waiting on the dock to take it all for "safe keeping". The first time that happened, it was 5 years before he saw any of it again.


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