Monthly Archives: April 2013

Havasu Heats Up

This time of year, our temps start touching the 100′s, which means prospecting season is coming to an end…until fall.  Today I had no work booked, so I packed up my gear and headed to my local digging spot, here in Lake Havasu, AZ, all before 7 am!  I had tested out a new spot Saturday morning that had yielded 2/10 of a gram so I headed back to that spot today.  This new spot is in a series of gullies, all having plenty of “cobblestones” scattered all over the hillsides, where bedrock is randomly exposed.

gully for placer gold prospecting

gullies in the hillsides in lake havasu, arizona

All the classic signs that make the presence of gold more likely. What also made it likely were the remnants of former tailing piles.  I had previously dug down to the bottom of an elbow of a gully and vacuumed down to the bedrock to gather my 2/10 of a gram.  I still had loads of overburden further downhill, into the inside part of an “elbow”, so I figured there might still be some gold left for me today.  After running several hoppers full of dirt and panning the concentrates, I only had a couple small specks of gold.  Not very encouraging, to say the least!  I started to look around the gullies and saw many of their origins at the top of each hillside, had plenty of the “cobblestones” present.  I looked for likely places to begin prospecting and picked a spot where the path of the gully had an elbow

on top of gulley, placer gold

on top of gulley

as well as a leveled off section, where the water, as it made its way down the gully, could slow down and allow the placer gold to be caught up in the bedrock or accumulations of gravel and / or clay.  Since my dry washer was still setup at the bottom of the gully, I lugged my pick, shovel and 3 buckets up the hill and started breaking through the clusters of crusted together cobblestones.  After filling three buckets with overburden, I lugged them back down to my dry washer and started to run the new dirt.  After panning the concentrates, I was pleasantly surprised that there was a fair amount of color.  Enough to motivate me to pack up the dry washer and its wooden stand and hike it up to the most level spot on top of the gully.  At this point, it was around noon and the temps were already around 100 degrees and I had only one full bottle of Powerade remaining!

gold in the pan

gold in the pan

I was able to process three more rounds of concentrates and ended up having nice pans, all having multiple pieces each.  The photo to the left is a typical pan from today.  Unfortunately for me, no pickers were present, but I knew I had acquired a nice new amount of gold to add to my 2013 total!  By now it was nearly 2 pm and the sun was at its peak hot-ness.  Despite wearing my new swap-meet straw hat, which did keep the sun off my face and neck, I was out of Powerade and water and I was pretty beat from all the digging and walking up and down the hillside numerous times, so I had to call it a day.  Once arriving home, I had a look at a thermometer I had hanging in my back porch, which is in the shade.  It was 103 in the shade, meaning it was obviously hotter in the direct sun, where I was digging!  I left a bucket in a hole where I was finding the gold and since it’s in a pretty difficult place to get in to, I feel confident no one will happen to discover it and exploit my progress.

After drying out the gold, it weighed in at 3/10 of a gram, which for me, based on past outings, equates to a good day.

3/10 of a gram of gold

3/10 of a gram of gold

Since the weather pattern is evolving into steady 100 degree days, I will need to wake up early to dig from this point forward and finish in the early afternoon.  Digging days are definitely numbered, so I feel kind of lucky to have found what appears to be a new, fruitful spot, near the end of the season!

Back to Gold Basin

The gold gods have not been smiling on my recent Lake Havasu prospecting trips. My favorite spots have not been producing much gold and I was even skunked on one trip! Since I have a GSSN membership (Gold Searchers of Southern Neveda), I figured I might as well try my luck out there again. After all, my best prospecting trip ever came out there, this past December. I was completely aware that hooking the tow bar to my Samurai and pulling it over 100 miles one way with my 1975 GMC van would cost me about $100.00 in gas and food, but based on the last trip’s results, 2+ grams, I thought I’d give it another shot.

GMC van and Samurai caravan

GMC van and Samurai caravan

Plus, the last spot I dug in Gold Basin produced nearly half a gram in only a couple hours, so I felt confident that the same spot, amongst a 160 acre claim, would remain untouched 4 months later…right? The night before my journey, I thought I’d have a look at the weather forecast for this part of Arizona. I was leaving on a Sunday morning, where the forecast for the Dolan Springs, AZ area was sunny and in the upper 80′s, but…wind would be picking up that evening and possible strong winds would be prevalent the following day, Monday. The gold bug was really biting me, so I took the gamble and headed to the mountains for a scheduled 2 day, one night adventure.

Upon arrival to the usual campsite, I ran into one of the Dolan Springs guys I met last December, Tony. He pulled out his vial that contained gold from the last couple days of his prospecting. He had a nice little nugget and what appeared to be at least a gram of fines. This was encouraging, so I quickly excused myself, unhooked my Samurai from the tow bar, loaded up my prospecting gear and headed back toward my last prosperous spot from December.

Once I arrived, it was clear others had been digging there! What did I expect? By this time, it was already noon, so I decided that rather than waste more time looking for a new spot to dig, I’d take my chances where I was. I loaded up the dry washer many times, until I had a half bucket’s worth of concentrates to pan out. I began to pan and instantly saw many tiny bits of flour gold. This was not the best news, because these extremely small bits of gold required a much longer amount of time to collect from the abundant black sand. The more-than-average amount of black sand also contributed to a much longer time to recover the flour gold! Despite finding gold, this was not shaping up to be a great day! I could see that this was going to be challenging, to say the least! As the day continued and the sun beat down, I went through 3 bottles of Powerade and a small bottle of water. By this time, I had determined that I would not waste time panning out the gold, rather, keep on collecting concentrates from the dry washer, then pan it out in the evening. By this time, I was not pleased with how things were going at this location and was out of hydration, so I headed back up to the campsite, to replenish my stock of Powerade.

Once there, Tony was hanging around, chatting with a guy who appeared to be living in his pickup truck with a camper shell. I had previously spoken with him and he eluded to the fact that he did not have any prospecting gear. I found this curious, but had no time to ponder this anomaly, because of my desire to find some gold. I mentioned where I was digging to Tom and how I spotted the little tributary washes that emptied into the main wash near where I had been digging and he stated he had done pretty well there. So I drove back to the general part of the valley where I had been digging to setup in one of these tributary washes. By this time, it was nearing 6 pm and there was only about an hour or so of daylight left, so I put it in second gear and started processing dirt as fast as I could.

After packing up my gear and arriving back at the campsite, I noticed the winds had picked up substantially, really substantially! The sun had set, but there was plenty of light left to properly setup camp. This included getting out my generator, whose main purpose was to power a flood light, so I could see what I was panning, getting my firewood together, and making a fire pit. I was now ready to have a seat and start panning some 25 pounds of concentrates. As I panned, it was more of the same, tons of black sand with little bits of flour gold dispersed in it. After an hour or so, I was only about a 1/4 of the way through the concentrates, it was now dark and the winds were howling…so was my stomach, because amidst the focus of finding gold, I had not eaten anything all day, except for a little Nutri-Grain fruit bar! My hunger won, so I gathered up some tinder, kindling and stacked some of the firewood I brought from home. With the wind steady, with occasional strong gusts, it was nearly impossible to start the fire. But I prevailed! A can of baked beans to go with a couple turkey hot dogs, washed down with a bottle of a Starbuick’s coffee drink, really hit the spot.

By now, it was around 8 pm and back to panning out all the tiny flour gold from my concentrates. After about 3 hours time, I finally panned out the last of the concentrates with little more than 2/10′s of a gram of gold to show for my efforts! Now the wind was steadily blowing and the gusts had increased in intensity. I opened up my laptop, inserted my favorite “Jeff Beck from Ronnie Scott’s” concert DVD and closed the side door to my van. By now the van was rockin’ and rollin’ with the nasty wind gusts. The van was literally shaking back and forth, being in a direct path to the now gale-force winds. After an hour or so, I decided to call it a night and tried to get some sleep. With a steady shaking wind, accompanied by the on and off bursts that made it feel like the van was going to be pushed into the gully below me, I found it very difficult to get any sleep!

During the sleepless night, where I could hear things being blown around, some banging off my van, I could only assume that some of the gear I had left out had been blown away.
The morning arrived, and none to soon! Stepping out to have look around confirmed my suspicion. Much of my gear had indeed blown down the hillside. Fortunately, I was able to recover all of it, and nothing was damaged! After another Starbuck’s coffee drink and Nutri-Grain fruit bar, I was off to dig in a new spot, one that was very nearby a spot that Tony had claimed produced about 15 grams, over the course of several months.

dry washing flour gold

dry washing flour gold

As I arrived, off in the horizon, I noticed ominous grey clouds being blown in. Yes, the winds were still pretty stiff, but at least the gusts had subsided. After about an hour of test digging / panning, I started smelling that distinct scent of rain! Well, this sucks! My van’s windshield wipers did
not work and repairing them was not a priority, because it rarely rains in the desert. I panned out less than a tenth of a gram, packed up quickly and headed back to camp. I saw Tony’s jeep in the distance and it appeared as if he had the same notion. He had one of those “diesel-pusher” campers, that is basically a big bus and he too had to hook a tow bar to his jeep. The rain began to come down with regularity and we both decided that this was enough. I started down the 20-some miles of dirt trails that lead to the first paved road, being blown by wind gusts every now and then, on some occasions, strong enough to push my little caravan of my van towing my Samurai, off the road! Combine that with dust caking up
on the rain-pelted windshield, with no windshield wipers and you officially have an adventure!

Once on interstate 40, not only was I being blown by gusting winds, but semis windshear affect was adding to the drama. Rain ceased once I reached Kingman, leaving only about an hour’s drive to make it back to Havasu! After all was said and done, the gold bug had bitten me hard and all I had to show for it was about $15.00 of gold toward my $100.00 weekend investment. Mother nature kicked my butt! Next time, I should pay closer attention to the weather forecasts!

Is Planet Ranch Golden?

A few years back a longtime acquaintance of mine, Mike, informed me he owned a big chunk of property on what once was the Planet Ranch, along the Bill Williams River, that ends here in Lake Havasu. In the late 1800′s, long before the source of the river, Alamo Lake, was dammed, several cities were formed that served as a supply line for miners and settlers of the era. Among them was called Planet. Around the turn of the century, copper was discovered and mined in Planet and somewhere down the line, a cattle ranch was created into what is now referred to as Planet Ranch. Since Alamo Dam was created in the 1960′s, Planet Ranch has fallen into the hands of many…mainly for water rights. Here in the desert, water is always a popular and controversial subject. Sometime in the 1980′s, the city of Scottsdale, AZ bought Planet Ranch with the plan of using the water resource to aid the continuing growth of its city via the existing Central Arizona Project’s aqueducts that run from Lake Havasu to Phoenix. Unfortunately for Scottsdale, federal agencies denied this plan which forced Scottsdale to find an alternative to cover the loss of their investment in this property. They decided to create vast alfalfa fields, using the river to irrigate the crops.

alfalfa, bill williams river, planet ranch

former alfalfa fields in Planet Ranch

This did not cover the loss, and a few years back, decided to sell this dead-end investment to a mining company called Freeport McMoRan. This mining company intends to pipe water from the river to its mining operartions in Bagdad, AZ. They will do so under close scrutiny by the Fed’s Bureau of Reclamation, so as not to disrupt the natural habitat of the area. This should preserve the habitat for the foreseeable future. Another fun-fact about Planet Ranch is that “low level” nuclear testing was done there!

Moving on to gold and will it be found at Planet Ranch? Mike had given me GPS coordinates of his property and I entered them into Google Earth to have a look. All the signs one looks for were present: many “cobblestone” covered ravines, dumping into a main wash, some areas of exposed bedrock and most importantly, a vivid history of copper mining in the area, with known traces of gold. Mike was nice enough to tow my Samurai for the 70 mile journey and allow me to camp in his “cabin”.

mike's cabin at planet ranch, az

Mike’s “cabin”

We arrived at the entrance to the old Planet Ranch, guarded by a stout gate, to which Mike had the lock’s combination. Nearby was a modern-looking house, where current caretakers of the ranch, John and Patty lived. Much of the heavy equipment used in the harvest and planting of the former alfalfa fields were still here, dying a slow death in the desert sun. They are stilll living a cowboy’s life, in that they have horses, and livestock, in addition to their caretaker’s duties. We stopped by to say hello, the it was off to Mike’s property, just a mile or so down the trail. What he described as a cabin, was no more than a cut into a hillside, using old irrigation pipes, stacked one on top of the other, to form two walls. Dirt floors, with some ceramic tiles placed on top and of course no utilities. As soon as I unhooked my Samurai from the tow bar, I was off to dig my first test hole. I decided to dig my first hole where the wash surface met the hillside. Before I knew it, I was 3 feet deep in sand and no end in sight! finally at about 4 feet, I started finding gravel, then a bit deeper, potato-sized rocks. I processed the dirt along the way, and found absolutely nothing! At this point, I’m about chest-deep, when one of Mike’s neighbors, Bruce drove up. Apparently Bruce heard I was coming out to test Mike’s property for gold and asked if I wanted to have a look around his property. Mike has about 160 acres and Bruce had much much more. Since I had just moved more than a yard of dirt with no results, I agreed to follow Bruce to some spots he thought might be good.

After what was about a 7 mile journey to Bruce’s land, I chose my first spot to dig a test hole or two. The first was very encouraging, because one hillside was literally covered with gravel-sized quartz. I setup in a little valley, where a crease formed a little tributary to the main wash and started digging.

prospecting at planet ranch, arizona

no gold here

Despite the tons of quartz present, once again, absolutely no trace of gold to be found! Just because there is tons of quartz, does not mean it once housed gold! It was an unusually hot late March afternoon, where temperatures were in the upper 90′s, and I was almost done for the day. But…there were many other areas that had exposed deep red rock, where historically can bode well for gold. You know, “the redder, the better”, right? so I dug and dug some more, processing along the way, to find not a single flash in the pan! time to head back to Mike’s and if I could muster enough energy, maybe dig another hole there. As I passed through the Planet Ranch gate, I noticed everyone had gathered at John and Patty’s. Bruce was eager to see if had had found anything. I told him the bad news and he had told me that through the years, he had done extensive prospecting with the same results, so I didn’t feel too bad…just exhausted.

After a a few minutes had passed, one of John and Patty’s dogs began to bark uncontrollably. I got up and walked over to his caged area to discover the source of the dog’s agitation…a “coon-tailed” rattlesnake!

coontail rattlesnake

coontail rattlesnake

After informing everyone of what I had discovered, Bruce walked up and pulled a little .22 pistol from hi holster. I stated: ” you must be a great shot”. He smiled and shot the rattler. He then revealed his .22 shells were filled with birdshot. Me, not being a firearms expert, was not aware .22′s existed with birdshot in them. This seemed to do the trick, but after a minute or two of gawking, the snake started to move again. At this point, caretaker John grabbed it by the tail, moved it from harm’s way and promptly removed the serpant’s head with a shovel. Later on, I drove back to Mike’s property and despite being physically drained, scoped out a few areas for the next day.

After a sleepless night, due mainly to Mike’s snoring and talking in his sleep, me not being used to sleeping on the floor and burros braying through the night, I moved onto a couple other areas that appeared to be promising. Well, another set of chest-deep holes dug in the middle 90 degree temps, in the mainly sandy overburden, which lead to absolutely not a single speck of gold, I had had enough. I was again drenched with sweat saturated clothes, covered with a layer of caked-on dirt and physically fatigued. I drove up up to the “cabin” where he and his son, who had arrived while I was propsecting, to ride his dirtbike and gave him the bad news. At this time he offered to bring out his backhoe and dig a hole for me! every prospector dreams of a scenario in which they could dig a hole without having to sweat, but I was so tired and out of gas, I just had zero interest. Who knows, another couple of feet down beyond the 4 feet holes I dug, could have been gold? I really don’t think I’ll ever find out. Sometimes one’s physical linitations are more powerful than gold fever…