Off-the-Radar Placers That Deserve a Closer Look

 (Gold that's off the radar screen.)

When most folks think of placer gold mining and placer gold they usually focus in on the more well-known deposits or areas. This is understandable since going where the gold is (or has been found before) is always a decent strategy for small-scale placer miners. But there are some spots scattered throughout the Lower 48 here in the United States that deserve a closer look.

Blue Creek, Alabama

Yep, you heard right. Certain areas of "Sweet Home Alabama" have been producing placer gold for a very long time. Long before would-be Argonauts first rushed the California gold fields in 1848-1849. One of the best off-the-radar gold placers in Alabama that deserves examination is Blue Creek, a tributary of the Coosa River. Blue Creek lies about midway between Montgomery and Birmingham, and slightly to the northeast of Interstate 65 which connects those two cities. A mini-gold rush took place here in 1830 and Blue and Chestnut Creeks figured prominently in that rush. Yep, there was gold in nearby Chestnut Creek as well, but it was Blue Creek that was the big producer. Quite a few nuggets weighing in over 100 troy grams were taken from Blue in the old days and some weighing in the two, three, or four troy ounce range have been recovered in more recent times. That's good gold in my book. Coarse gold ("chunkers" or "pickers") is no stranger to Blue Creek so that should motivate some of you folks in the Southeastern U.S. to check this area out. As it is nearly everywhere these days (east or west) in the United States, gaining access to gold areas has become problematic. Private property issues and claimed-up ground seem to be the main culprits. Since Alabama was never a signer of the 1872 Mining Law, there are no claims (as such) in the state. So private property owners are the folks you're gonna have to talk to around Blue Creek, barring any open or recreational gold panning spots in the area. Whatever the case, Blue Creek holds good gold potential for the small-scale guy or gal.

 (Alabama placer gold.)

Custer County, South Dakota

While it's true that gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been lighting up people's "radars" for many, many years it's also true that some of the smaller creeks, washes, and gulches were either bypassed or not worked to their fullest potential in the old days. Although Lawrence and Pennington Counties contained the best gold ground in the old days and locations like Deadwood Creek became infamous, if I was heading to South Dakota I'd pull the ol' switcheroo and aim for Custer County. The county is named after the glory seeking George Armstrong Custer who led part of his 7th Cavalry command to their deaths at the hands of the Lakota and Cheyenne (along with some Arapaho if memory serves me well) at the so-called Battle of the Little Big Horn in June 1876. Custer got his just deserts on that hot summer day but it was also Custer and his Black Hills Expedition of 1874 that found gold inside "paha sapa," the sacred lands of the Lakota people. Those lands had been ceded to the Lakota for perpetuity under earlier treaty, but when it comes to gold anything goes, right or wrong. Custer paid for his sins (and those of the U.S. government) along the Rosebud so you're good to go these days, I reckon. French Creek was the location of the first gold finds in Custer County and I suspect placer gold is still there. But if I were you I'd spread out some and try my hand in the surrounding areas where various wet or dry drainages may be accessible. Get off the main roads and do some prospecting. Don't bypass even the smallest gulch, gully, creek, or wash. Again, mind your manners and get permission for access if where you want to search is on private property. One nice thing about the Black Hills region is that much of it is open to panning, sluicing, and the like. If you're not sure about things, check with the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Office.

 (French Creek.)

Eldorado Canyon, Nevada

The aptly named Eldorado Canyon is in Clark County, Nevada about 50-odd miles from Sin City itself...Las Vegas. So if you get tired of losing at the tables or machines and want to try your hand at gambling for real gold, the Canyon may be just the cooler months, that is. Anyone who heads to Eldorado Canyon in the summer months is courting disaster from dehydration or heat stroke. So mind yourself. Stay in that air-conditioned casino instead and hope for the best. Eldorado Canyon wasn't a big, big producer of gold which, of course, places it off-the-radar to a great degree. This is dry ground folks, so a dry washer is a must. Sure, the Colorado River is just south of the Canyon, but hauling water to run dry material is waste of precious mining time when a properly configured dry washer will do the job. I've made this point before in Bedrock Dreams so allow me to make it once more. USE A DRY WASHER IN DESERT OR DRY PLACERS. Forget that fancy re-circulating water rig you dreamed up and built last year in your garage while the little woman shook her head at you and the kids ran around screaming inside the house. Trust this old timer...I know my shit. Anyhoo, back to Eldorado Canyon. The gold here is small in size and scattered throughout the Canyon's gravels. The source of the gold is probably the hard rock mines up near Nelson which may still have some active claimed ground...I'm not certain of that, however. The closer you are to Nelson and those hard-rock mines the better you'll probably do since the source of Eldorado Canyon's placer gold was most certainly derived from those veins. Mining Eldorado Canyon is about moving dirt and lots of it to get decent amounts of placer gold. Thus, a motorized dry washer is your best bet. Oh, and keep your eye out for ore material or "float" if you make it to the Canyon. Look for highly oxidized (iron-stained) sulfide rock. That's what contains the gold in matrix. If you decide to splash around in the Colorado River nearby take your gold pan along. Very fine gold has been recovered from gravel bars and other likely spots in the River itself. And if you're on the Arizona side of the Colorado River opposite Nelson and Eldorado Canyon there's placer gold there as well.

(Old mine workings in Eldorado Canyon.)

Good luck out there!

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

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  1. Thanks for the tip about Blue Creek in Alabama. From topos, it looks like that creek is only about 2 miles long and drains a relatively small area. Am I looking at the right creek, or is there a bigger Blue Creek in the area that I'm missing?

  2. Blue Creek is very small in length so you're looking at the right place Max.

  3. Thanks! I'll keep this area in mind, although all the private land seems difficult.

    On another topic, I see that you have lived in the Santa Fe area. Did Forrest Fenn buy any nuggets from you and put them in his chest before he hid it? And what's your take on the Fenn treasure (apologies if you've already addressed this in another post - I'm reading through your archives, but it takes time). Cheers!

  4. I don't think Forrest Fenn put any natural gold in that box but can't say for sure. There is gold (bullion) in it though. He's said more than one person has come within 200 feet of his treasure without finding it. Just goes to show ya!

  5. I shall keep it in mind..thank you


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