Gold Detecting Tips
There are few other hobbies where you can have fun outdoors and potentially make money at the same time. The interest in gold prospecting is as strong now as it has ever been, but it’s definitely getting harder to find the yellow stuff these days. With the right knowledge and skills there is no doubt that plenty is left for you to find.
Look in Places Where Gold has been found before
The best way to start your search for gold is to look in the same areas that the “old timers” once looked. Yes, it’s possible that you might be able to find gold any random place that you look, but you will find that gold is much more abundant in places where it has already been found and there is historical documentation that it occurs there.
Beginners often just go to the nearest river or creek to their home, do a bit of panning, don’t find any gold, and then assume that there is no gold left to be found. The truth is, there are still TONS of gold out there waiting to be found by prospectors, but you have to know how to find it.
Geology and Contact Zones
You need to learn the geology of your particular mining area. There are some natural gold indicators that can be found in most major gold producing areas, but each area can be different. You should learn to spot the types of rock that are associated with gold in your area.
Gold is difficult to find, but learning about the types of rock that it is generally associated with (as well as the types that it is not associated with) will help you find the best areas to focus your efforts.
Contact zones (also called a dykes or intrusion) are places where two major rock types come together. This is a natural geological process that happened millions of years ago. These events would result in rapid heating and cooling, and this often created the conditions needed for gold to form.
Learning to identify the zones can be difficult, but it is something that will become more apparent as you learn to look for it. There are certain rock types that are better from a gold mining perspective.
3 important rock types worth noting are granite, schist, and gneiss. I have found these 3 types of rock to be present in most of the places where I have found gold.
When these geological masses would contact each other, pressure and high temperatures would cause fissures that would result in gold formation. Gold would be pushed to the surface, making it accessible to prospectors without needing to tunnel deep into the ground.
Identifying the general direction of the geology in your mining area is important. the mountains range in a general northwest-southeast trend. Look for contact areas where some other rock type enters at a different trend to the general geological mass. Many of the richest gold bearing areas will have a intrusions that are at a 90 degree trend to the prevailing geology.
While granite, schist, and gneiss are usually the main rock types, that isn’t always the case. It can potentially be any combination of rocks, although they usually make up at least one of them at gold-rich contact zones.
The color changes of soil are also good indicators of a contact point. Sometimes the major source of bedrock has eroded away long ago leaving behind only soil. You may spot a band of reddish soil, indicating an iron rich intrusion that once existed. The host rock has eroded away, but the red soil (and potentially gold) still remains.
The ground changes can be obvious or subtle depending on their size or the difference in color. Ground cover from grass and trees can also hide them. Sometimes the type of plants growing in the different soil types can help you find them.
Contact zones can be as short as a few feet in length, or they can run for miles and miles. In the some areas for example, you can look at a map and see major gold mines that seem to line up perfectly in a straight line over miles and miles. They have located contact zones with gold.
Learn to Identify Natural Gold Indicators
I think that finding historic gold mining areas is the most important first step toward finding gold prospecting areas, but serious gold miners learn how to identify natural gold indicators. These are things that are commonly associated with gold.
While most of the rich gold mining areas have been found, there are certainly still some places out there with good gold that were completely overlooked by others. If you are fortunate enough to find one of these places, you are likely to be rewarded with some exceptional amounts of gold.
Once again, the main takeaway here should be that you need to learn you’re the geology of your mining district. When you understand the geology of the places where gold has already been found, you are more likely to spot the places where it might occur.
Often, the old geological reports that you use to research areas to prospect will tell you about the prevailing rock types found at a particular mine. Pay attention to those details.
Just as importantly, you need to know the rock types that are unlikely to be associated with gold. Don’t waste time looking in areas with a low chance of having gold.
Learn to Identify Man Made Evidence of Mining
Evidence of mining activity is most easily seen by finding the disturbances that the early miners left behind.
Trust me when I tell you that an area is never truly “mined out.” Even places that once had thousands of men searching for gold will still produce gold today. They simply did not find it all. When the gold started to get depleted, the miners would move on. They didn’t get every last piece.
Plus, modern technology like metal detectors can recover gold that was missed by the old timers. Modern sluice boxes will capture gold that was lost by the crude methods employed by these early miners. We will discuss some of the specific indicators and how to identify them in further in this article.
One of the most important safety tips when metal detecting for gold is always to be aware of your surroundings. Always make sure someone knows where you are headed and when they can expect to hear from you. While cell phones can produce electromagnetic interference with metal detectors, it is a good idea to keep one along; just make sure it’s turned off if it begins to interfere with your detecting.
In my experience, my phone didn’t interfere with my detector, but it does happen. If you will be detecting in or near water, make sure you are wearing footwear with good traction, so you do not slip. It would be awful to ruin your beautiful new metal detector from falling in the water (if it’s not fully waterproof). So be careful out there!
Look for Quartz
Quartz is an extremely abundant material and is often found in gold bearing areas. Keep in mind that there are thousands of areas where quartz is common, but gold has never been found. So, quartz does not necessarily equal gold. But if you happen to be in an area known for gold, pay attention to the quartz! Using a good quality gold metal detector is the preferred method for identifying gold in quartz without having to mine.
Look for Color Changes
Changes in soil color can be important indicators of contact zones. Sometimes bedrock has eroded leaving only soil. You may see a band of red colored soil, indicating the presence of an old iron intrusion. The host rock has eroded but the red soil and possibly gold will remain. In many areas, ground changes can be subtle, or hidden by vegetation.
Keep an Eye Out
If you see a pile of rocks that seem completely out of place for the area, there could be something worth checking out in them! The theory is that miners transporting ore to the nearest mill had issues with their transportation and had to unload their wagons and limp on to the nearest town for repairs.
They were not always able or willing to return to the area where their materials were left. So, if you see a pile of rocks or soil seemingly out of place, give it a scan with your gold metal detector and make sure you’re not missing something great!
Look for Black Sands
Black sands are iron rich sands typically composed of magnetite and hematite. The composition of these sands is one reason you want a metal detector with good ground balancing. Typical metal detectors will go crazy when detecting in black sandy areas. Keep in mind black sand does not automatically mean there is gold. Black sands can be prevalent in areas with no gold. Pay attention to black sand in areas where gold has already been found.
Detecting in Water
Detecting in water can result in finding gold. Gold naturally accumulates in waterways and digging the gravel within them can yield gold nuggets or flakes. Look for areas where the water slows down as this is where gold will accumulate. As with land-based detecting, make sure your settings are correct for the area.
Also ensure your detector’s coil is completely waterproof if you will be hunting in the water. Remember, gold is the heaviest substance found in a creek or river and often falls to the bottom in predictable locations.
Finding Gold on Beaches
Some of the richest places for detecting gold are those in beaches as it have had gold discoveries along their beaches. Much of the gold found along beaches will be small, but if you stumble upon an area with enough small bits it sure adds up!
Black sands on beaches are a good indicator gold might be present. You will need to make sure you have a metal detector that not only detects gold well, but is good in saltwater areas, too.
Dig Every Target if You are a Beginner
Goldfields are often littered with a lot of trash items like nails, horseshoes, cans, iron fragments, bullet casings, etc. While it can seem overwhelming to dig every target knowing these areas can be littered with trash, it will really help you learn the sights and sounds of your detector and become more familiar with how it functions.
Once you learn more about the settings of your detector and the sounds each item makes, you can begin discriminating so you don’t have to dig so many holes. Remember, you may dig hundreds of trash targets before finding one gold target. But don’t give up!
Pay Attention to Gold Textures
When you detect and dig gold, be sure to look at the texture of the gold. This can help you determine where it came from. Smooth, water-worn gold has travelled a good distance. But jagged, rough textured gold has not typically travelled too far from its source.
Continue to move upstream with your detector an you may be able to pinpoint the gold’s origin. This could lead you to a rich concentration of nuggets!
Hunt with Headphones
As mentioned in the Accessories section of this list, using headphones while hunting for gold can increase your chances of hearing a target. Not only do headphones help block out any outside noise, but the faint sound emitted by gold targets will be easier to hear through headphones.
Travel Light But Smart
Gold hunting is not easy! You will likely find yourself in differing terrain: up and down hills, through brush, through water, in the hot sun, being scratched by rocks of plants, or being bothered by mosquitoes. Focusing on these uncomfortable things can cause you to lose focus or desire to keep hunting. Be prepared by using sunscreen and bug spray before you leave your camp or car. Bring only items you will absolutely need.
I like to bring a backpack with a few basic survival items like water, food, emergency blankets, first aid kit, fire starter or waterproof matches, my cell phone, a sweater or jacket, and my hunting accessories. My backpack has loops on the side to hold my pick hammer and shovel. This way, the pack isn’t terribly heavy, and I have all that I need for the day, and enough to keep me focused in case of an emergency.
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