Iron Oxides and Gold Pockets (Conclusion)

I'll be wrapping this series up with this post. I'll be focusing on lode gold pockets for the most part, with some added info thrown into the mix. So let's get things going.


There is a select group of small-scale miners and prospectors who make finding and recovering gold pockets their main goal out in the field. And, as always, the presence of iron oxides is what they look for in both  placer and lode searches. Unlike "regular" mining activities where it's all about the amount of material that can be moved and processed, pocket hunters look for quantity (and quality) within a very localized area or location. More often than not they come up empty handed, but when they do hit a good pocket or two the resultant gold recoveries can be dramatic as well as rewarding in a monetary sense. I've already alluded to the fact that lode gold pockets tend to be the biggest producers when it comes to precious metal pockets (but not always), so let's focus on how lode pocket hunters go about their "thing."

The Main Gold "Creator"

Many gold-bearing veins that were worked in the mines of the American West and Southwest were formed with iron oxide or sulfide chemical solutions as their main gold "creator." The giveaway here is the presence of heavily iron-stained rock, vein material, or even large areas of surface ground that have that "rusty" look to them. Since early miners and mining operations were focused on following the richest vein material downward and laterally, many smaller gold pockets that were formed down slope of the main gold-producing veins were bypassed or ignored or simply left in place due to any number of reasons...some economic and some just plain ignorance or oversight. The old timers (and the mining companies of the day) were after the main source of the gold and again, it was all about removing large amounts of vein material, crushing and processing it, and casting ingots and bars of the finished product. In their hunt for the main gold-bearing vein materials, the old timers came across some pretty spectacular lode gold pockets. Some that come to mind were the incredibly rich "vug" (similar to an oversized geode) found in a Cripple Creek, Colorado gold mine that was lined with crystalline gold and flakes as large as a man's thumbnail; the spectacular pockets of the Carson Hill area during the California Gold Rush; and the $2,000,000 (when gold was $35.00 per troy ounce) taken out of a single pocket at the 16-to-1 Mine in the Alleghany District of the California Motherlode Region in 1922. These were all incredibly rich pockets that were discovered during the course of standard mining operations, however crude those mining activities may have been at the time. But many smaller, less spectacular pockets were left to lie fallow in various locations below the main mining areas, shafts, adits, and tunnels.

That "Rusty" Look

Lode gold pockets are usually quite small (despite the extraordinary ones mentioned above) and are the bread and butter of pocket hunters. They can be semi-circular or "kidney" shaped in certain instances and the gold within them can still be locked into matrix material, partially eroded out, or fully free from vein or matrix material. Sometimes they are simply rich concentrations of gold in stringers or small veins, usually located some distance away from main gold-bearing ledges, veins, or outcrops. In iron oxide environments, they can be located some distance below existing mines and can be identified by heavy iron staining or that "rusty" look either on the surface of the ground, in veins or ledges "peeking" above the surface, and so on. Most good lode pockets contain multi-ounce gold potential and in the best-case scenarios it's "hit the big one" time! A cautionary statement is needed here however. Don't bother looking for pockets in areas where open-pit mining operations were (or are) conducted. That's simple common sense. Your best bet for finding lode pockets is where older, more basic lode mining was done by the old timers and the adjacent ground hasn't been scooped up by excavators and skip loaders larger than your house.

(That "rusty" look.)


Most lode gold pocket hunters have pretty good experience with nugget hunting or other metal detecting activities. So a good gold machine is a must as an important aid to a pocket hunter's eyes when prowling old mine sites. Additional factors to potential success as a lode gold pocket hunter are a good grasp of gold geology (especially iron oxide environments), thorough preliminary research on older mine sites, and good ol' field experience. Here are four important tips for locating lode pockets from those who know:

1) Lode pockets tend to run parallel to the major veins and ledges worked in previous mining operations. This is one reason why good research up front concerning historical records of old mine sites can help a pocket hunter tremendously.

2) Most lode pockets can be found within 200-300 yards of the main veins or ledges worked in the past. So stay closer in to the older mining operations rather than searching too far away.

3) Look for broken "lines" or irregular visible cracks in exposed vein material or surface showings indicated by iron oxide staining. These are spots where vein or host rock material shifted or was "broken" off by natural forces. Where these disjointed sections meet is often the exact spot where good pockets of gold can be found.

4) If a stray nugget or two is found during your metal detecting search for pockets, start working your way uphill using a "fan" type search pattern. In other words, the widest part of the fan is where you found that nugget or nuggets and you're standing in the center of that wide part of the fan. As you move uphill, narrow your search fan pattern incrementally to adjust for the narrowing of that fan as you move toward its apex, where you just might may find a pocket that'll make your day!

Painstaking Work

Lode gold pocket hunting is painstaking work. It requires a good gold detector, extreme patience, and perseverance. You can't be in a rush, running to and fro in helter-skelter fashion. Be calm, be slow and thorough, and do your best to ignore the huge amounts of metallic trash that can drive you crazy at any old mine site. Some of that old iron may fool you'll oxidize and stain the ground in various places throwing you off at times. But stick with it. Get good at what you do and you'll eventually find that "dream" lode pocket.

After all, nothing comes easy in this mining game...

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Very interesting! I never have heard of that geode type thing full of gold, that would sure be something to find!! Wow!


Post a Comment