Pan Gold Nuggets - Dig Your Own Gold For Fun And Recreation
By []Chris Ralph

Sharp increases in the price of gold over recent years have brought a new breed of prospectors out into the hills. Interested in making their own strike of gold, they are also enjoying the recreation of being outdoors and good exercise. In the deserts, on the hillsides and in the mountain streams, there is still gold to be found in many places. Every year there are still great finds being made, mostly in the western states (at least as far as locations within the USA). Even large nuggets over an ounce in size are still being recovered – they are not all that common, but they are still found. Flakes and small chunks of gold are far more common finds. Its not easy, and not every day will be a home run, especially for the beginner. Patience is required and some days just have to be chalked up to the quest to gain knowledge and experience.

Placer gold means gold that is in the form of loose individual grains which have eroded out of the host rock in mountains and hills freeing it so that it can be recovered without further crushing of the host rock. This includes things such as gold flakes and nuggets.  This is the type of gold that is of the greatest interest to individual prospectors. Placer gold has been mined from gravel deposits throughout the western US in many different types of environments, both forest and desert.

Many types of efficient placer gold recovery equipment are available for the individual. For the small operator, the choice is usually determined based on the environment he desires to prospect in, as well as his spending budget. In desert environments, dry washers and metal detectors are the chief choices.  Other water conserving devices may also be a possibility.  For those with access to water in a close to their placer deposits, options like sluice boxes and small-scale suction dredges can also be considered.  The versatile gold pan gets used in almost all environments, although in dry environments one has to bring water and the tub to hold it in order to use the pan effectively.

The cost of prospecting equipment used by individual prospectors covers quite a range.  Small plastic gold pan can be purchased for less than $10.  Top-of-the-line metal detectors designed to find gold cost over $4000.  A large suction dredge may cost up to $10,000. Other equipment covers all levels in between. It is not necessary for the new prospector to start with the most expensive items. It is both sensible and reasonable to start off small, purchase some books to learn about how to prospect and have his equipment grow with his knowledge and abilities. So my suggestion is to give it a try, start out small and see how you like it.

If you are new to prospecting for gold and just getting started, I have some suggestions for you. This is a great recreational pastime, and with some sincere effort, you will learn what you need to know and soon be out there digging some nice gold of your own.

First off, I'd suggest you join a prospecting club like GPAA (Gold Prospectors Association of America) or one of the other well-known regional/local clubs. Being part of a club that owns their own claims will give you access to places to prospect and a chance to talk about local places to look, regulations and what really works to get gold in your neck of the woods. These things are all really important to the new prospector trying to learn the ropes. It will also give you a chance to meet some folks with more experience in prospecting for gold. Attend the group outings and hang around with some of those more experienced guys. Most will willingly share information about how to find gold, and how they have found gold in the past. The friendships you will gain are worth far more than the cost of the membership dues. Even many experienced prospectors are members of more than one club, because of the friendships and prospecting opportunities they present. It's highly unlikely you will strike it rich, but if you work at it you will find some gold and have a lot of fun along the way.

Learn more about the fun of prospecting, check out my web page at:

Basic information on Prospecting for gold, including how to get started, can be found at:

Chris Ralph writes on small scale mining and prospecting for the ICMJ Mining Journal. He has a degree in Mining Engineering from the Mackay School of Mines in Reno, and has worked for precious metal mining companies conducting both surface and underground operations. After working in the mining industry, he has continued his interest in mining as an individual prospector. He can be reached at P.O. Box 3104 Reno, Nevada 89505. His information page on prospecting for gold can be viewed at:

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