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Uncommon Places I Have Found Gold

John has prospected for gold in Arizona 10 years. His experience taught him to deal with the terrain, heat, and gold fever. He makes tools.

Notice the dark material in the culvert. Many times the material consists of "black sand", hematite, magnetite, lead and other heavier metals that collect along with gold.

Notice the dark material in the culvert. Many times the material consists of "black sand", hematite, magnetite, lead and other heavier metals that collect along with gold.

Need Help Finding Gold?

This article provides you with a series of unusual (and intriguing) places you might continue your search for gold. The following unexpected spots are all places I've had luck gold hunting:

  1. Culverts
  2. Crevices
  3. Waterway Banks
  4. Old Ore Piles
  5. Rock Riffles

1. Culverts

One of my favorite places to find gold is a culvert. In case you are not familiar, a culvert is a metal tube running under the road or used to divert water. I try to select culverts that may contain placer gold by considering their location.

A good spot would be a place near the mountains, especially rocky mineralized mountains containing iron oxide and quartz. Iron oxide is just rust, and it shows up in rock as reddish.

Why this combination? Iron and quartz have a similar melting point. Ironic that when looking for gold, you may also be looking for something usually considered less than worthless.

Culverts typically have ripples inside, which help to slow down water. These ripples are similar to riffles on a sluice. The valleys are where heavier materials like gold will settle.

I outfit myself with a brush (in my case, a car-wash brush), a bucket, and a narrow trowel. Don't forget to bring water. And while I'm at it, be careful. Critters have been known to take up residence in these culverts.

Inspect them before you leap. Centipedes and scorpions enjoy living in them, too. In my situation in Arizona, I have crawled into culverts and begun to clean, only to find a spider crawling on the back of my neck. There were quite a few web's suspended at the very top on inspection. So look above you.

Rodents have also been known to take up residence. For this reason, it is recommended that you wear a mask. In some situations, rodent waste can be stirred up, aerosolized, and inhaled, resulting in a very nasty infection, possibly even death.

In the Four Corners area of Arizona, the presence of hantavirus is publicly advertised when in "season." This virus is not as common in other Arizona areas.

Praying for Gold?

Another tip that can make your prospecting enjoyable is bringing a kneeling pad or board to rest your knees. Those steel ripples are rough on your body, especially your knees.

The riffles are narrow, so your body weight exerting force down on that small raised metal edge can get old in a hurry. Without a pad, you probably aren't going to want to clean out more than one short culvert. Knee guards work too.

2. Crevices

My all-time favorite place to find gold is in crevices. I love to go to a club claim where bedrock is in a stream bed and start to crack open those fissures. A 3-foot post hole digging bar is satisfactory for opening most cracks.

Some people prefer a 6-foot bar, but that is a lot of iron to wield all day. I had a big one and cut it in half. Now I have two diggers. Perhaps I will break one and then have a replacement. But those diggers are tough to break.

At the time of publication, you could get a post-hole digging bar with a tamper at Harbor Freight for around $30, which is half the price of most stores. If I find wide cracks in the bedrock, I usually work those first. Since they are wider, they have a better chance to collect more gold during seasonal storms.

Once you have cracked the crack, take a trowel and dig out as much material as possible. Sometimes using a thin steel rod with a bend at the end for a bit of a hook can make flipping the material out a bit easier. I make them out of television antenna elements, but you can buy them online.

All of this material should be placed in a miner's pan and set aside. Your goal is to fill the pan with material. You can also use a bucket to store your dirty treasure, but usually, I am too eager to see what is in it. I wash and pan the material when the pan is pretty full. It would help if you did this in the beginning to make sure there is gold in the crevice.

If you've been working the crack for quite a while and you don't see any gold, it might be time to move to a new crack. If you find gold, you can fill a bucket with material. I know people who fill buckets of material and go home to pan it.

Like I've said, I get a little impatient. Remember as a kid waiting for Christmas and the presents to be opened? Well, meet Mr. Antsypants. Upon discovering the color, I have even been known to shout, "Eureka." Actually, I usually shout something else, but it isn't appropriate for the present company.

My experience has actually led me to abandon digging holes in dirt and sand to try and find gold. That doesn't mean you can't find it there, but I have had so much success lately finding placer gold in the crevices that I would rather spend my time doing that.

Apache leap near Superior, Arizona. Revel in the outdoors. Never forget to bring a camera!

Apache leap near Superior, Arizona. Revel in the outdoors. Never forget to bring a camera!

3. Waterway Banks

Here is another tip for finding gold that I have had some success with. Bank work can be profitable when prospecting for placer gold. Most folks know that grass grows on the banks of waterways. When in an area known to contain gold, look for grass. Bring a bucket, dig up the grass and wash it.

Grass roots can make a fine barrier for trapping gold, especially small flood gold. I was once at an outing of gold club prospectors, and some members complained that the claim had been worked over and there was no more gold. I went up on the bank where there was grass, started digging and washing, and was all the while gently chided for wasting my time.

Guess who found a little gold when there was enough material to pan? Let's be realistic. If you are in this because you think you will get rich, you're in the wrong business. Enjoy the activity. Enjoy the outdoors. Enjoy the travel. Food always tastes better outside! Enjoy the camaraderie. Finding color is the cherry on the float.

Checking Out Old Mines Can Be Enticing...

One of the most exciting times I ever had was investigating an old mine near where I live. I do not advocate going into the mines. In the 30s, there were many mom-and-pop operations where one or two men (maybe mom) worked a small vein of gold a couple of hundred feet into a rock formation and played out.

The Great Depression saw many men travel west to try to find gold for their families. Arizona is pock-marked by such small operations. Most of the time, there is little shoring or none! At times there is old dynamite that has been left behind. It is enticing but don't mess with it. Some will call me chicken (cheep cheep), but nobody will find you if you wind up in a collapse.

It is estimated that there are somewhere near 100,000 mines in Arizona that have not been sealed off. I am sure other states have mines in similar condition. When owning gold was outlawed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, many of these smaller mines were abandoned.

4. Old Ore Piles

So where am I heading with this? Outside the mine you will often find an ore pile. For me it came in the form of a highly mineralized red, black, and quartz colored ore piled up. Pick up the quartz-containing ore and bring it home. Crush it up and pan it.

Insight With a Magnifier

Here is another tip. Bring a magnifying glass with you. Inspect any rock walls you are near for speckles of glistening gold. Even if there isn't any gold, looking at the surface of possible gold ore is an adventure in itself.

The amplified surface of many rocks is absolutely beautiful. How such intricate material surfaces could be created is a humbling thing to ponder.

An old ore pile outside an old gold mine. On the left is the material at the top that I search. Notice the reddish tint.

An old ore pile outside an old gold mine. On the left is the material at the top that I search. Notice the reddish tint.

Oat Gold or "Sugar"

Don't forget that many older gold mines are 80 or more years old. Those ore piles have been sitting there through wind, rain, and dirty sand storms, which degrade the ore. If a vein was missed, some small bits of gold could've washed out and down to the bottom of the pile.

I sometimes dig dirt at the very bottom just to see if I can find oat gold. That is, gold that is in its smallest natural form. It frequently looks white and can even float in a pan in this form. Some old-timers I have listened to refer to it as "sugar."

When you have enough, it starts to look yellow. I take a small LED high-intensity light and shine it on the suspect—oat gold shows up golden under a flashlight.

Remnants of a 12 foot by 12 foot ore pile

Remnants of a 12 foot by 12 foot ore pile

I understand that someone knowledgeable about gold ore would sit on a stool and look through the ore. Ore with gold would be tossed into one pile; tailings went into another. If that is true, they picked through it well. You can find gold in the tailings (I have), but it's limited. Even so, when you crush some quartz and yellow pops out, it is exciting.

When I first encountered my favorite ore pile, it was about 12 feet high and probably the same in diameter. An old 30s-era rusted-out pickup truck was in a ravine where it had fallen. There was also a big braided steel cable leading from the mine down a hill, no doubt for running stuff.

A year later, when I returned, the ore pile had been taken away except for bits at the bottom. The truck had been hauled out of the ravine, and the cable was gone. Between the junk truck, steel recycle, and any gold found, whoever they were, they made some money.

5. Rock Riffles

When you are roaming the hills, if you find an area with rock cutouts in a descending waterway, those cutouts can act as riffles. The material on the downside of the steps is a prime contender for harboring gold. As the water slows and creates an eddy after falling over the step, gold can settle out.

Succeeding cutouts stepping down a wash

Succeeding cutouts stepping down a wash

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: There’s a place near me which has numerous waterfalls, not especially big waterfalls, but there are fairly large pools at the bottom of some. Would these pools (some descend in 2 or 3 steps so to speak) be good places to explore for gold?

Answer: When water falls, it tends to dig out the rock near the back of the step where the water directly strikes. These are called boil holes. Any material there would be good to investigate. Sniping the pools is popular among some prospectors looking for nuggets. Knowing whether gold has previously been found there can be helpful too. Good luck, and be careful.

Question: Have you ever found placer around Portal, AZ or Gleason?

Answer: I have read stories about ex-servicemen finding gold around Sierra Vista, Arizona. The closest place to Portal or Gleason where I have found any was Greaterville, AZ. That was just a small amount of placer.

© 2015 John R Wilsdon


John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on August 14, 2019:

Hello amyz123

I saw an expose on folks who dust the cracks and expansion joints outside of jewelry stores and then pan the material for precious metal and jewels. That is quite interesting and unusual. It is just another type of urban mining. Thanks for the comment.

amyz123 on August 14, 2019:

The title states "Uncommon Places I Have Found Gold" then you list all common places people around my area find gold in. Finding about how people clean out sidewalk cracks in New York city and pan them that is uncommon.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona USA on December 18, 2018:

I would bring another pan and shovel just in case. Let someone know exactly where you are. Oh, and have fun! Thanks for the comment.

Robert wray on December 17, 2018:

Hello everyone , I have been panning paydirt and lots of it, I can pan just as good as the next Prospector , I now have Gold fever and need to fly out or bus to Nova Scotia John , I am brining one pan and one shovel . do it all old fashion way. so any suggestions

Adam Fanning on September 18, 2018:

Thank you John

They’re are a few very old digs upstream from where I’m speaking about (just outside of Fundy National Park New Brunswick). I don’t believe anyone has mined there in more than a century, but I’m headed there today. Hopefully I have some luck :)

Thx again

Readmikenow on September 17, 2018:

John, another great article. I enjoyed reading it. Another type of adventure for those who seek adventure.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona USA on September 17, 2018:

Adam Fanning

If you have gold veins upstream, what you have described is a great place to search. Some people dive and look for gold at the bottom of such pools. It's called sniping. Yes, definitely check it out. Good luck.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on September 16, 2018:

Adam Fanning

If you have gold veins upstream, what you have described is a great place to search. Some people dive and look for gold at the bottom of such pools. It's called sniping. Yes, definitely check it out. Good luck.

Adam Fanning on September 16, 2018:

There are some waterfalls near me. Some of them have 2 & 3 tiers to them or steps so to speak with smaller pools with the largest pool at the very bottom

Are these pools a good location to search for gold typically?