Tag Archives: gold prospecting

4 for a Tenth!

Although the Lake Havasu weather has continued to be unseasonably warm (70′s – 80′s), the gold has been hiding!  As the title suggests, the last four outings to the local Bison area, has yielded a measly 1/10 of a gram!  During those 4 outings I must have moved over 3 yards of dirt for what comes out to be about $4.00 for my efforts!  After all is said and done, I got out of the house and did some serious exercising, which I really needed!  Because of the gorgeous sunny days, I’m starting to get a bit of tan on my face too!

Today began with some metal detecting in an area significantly outside the gold-bearing 1 mile radius in the Bison wash area.  On previous tips, I had noticed an old claim marker and the telltale cobblestones, exposed bedrock and scattered quartz on the hillside, all prompting this prospecting effort.  After just minutes, 12 guage buckshot shells were blasting off on the other side of a ridge, so I knew I was safe, but definitely shortened my detecting efforts!  After digging up several bullet fragments, it was time to head back to my most bountiful location in Bison, The Big Hill.

gold prospecting in lake havasu

Samurai parked on Big Hill

Since I had the metal detector with me, I figured I’d go over my previous tailings from the last couple trips at the base of Big Hill, to see if I missed anything.  After all, my buddy Chad found his biggest picker to date by doing this.  By the way, he found a 3 gram nugget in his tailings by swiping my Goldbug2 over his tailings.  I did not have very good luck, as all I found was more ammunition!  I put the Samurai in 4WD and headed up the steep, jagged trail to my most fruitful digging spot from the past.  I unloaded, setup my drywasher on one of my old giant tailings piles and began digging and digging and digging.  All-in-all, I dug 4 different locations, totalling 30 5 gallon buckets, and found flour gold in 2 of them.  Today’s efforts netted me only half a tenth, combined with that same amount, still in the vial, from my last 3 subpar outings, to account for today’s monumental cleanup 1/10 of a gram!   Once again, it was a beautiful, sunny, upper 70′s day and I got some great excersise!  Beats the hell out of the day my Chicago area friends witnessed today!

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…

First Gold

I think my initial introduction to placer gold prospecting came from viewing the first episodes of Gold Rush Alaska.  In September of 2011 I happened to make a decision that would affect my life from that point forward.  I called an acquaintance of mine, Bob, who was a partner in a local rock mine.  I was informed by his sister that they initially acquired the lease in the 1980′s because of the gold potential, but had no details beyond that.  After having a chat with Bob, he confirmed that the impetus for acquiring the lease and all the equipment necessary for their operation, was to mine for gold.   They did this successfully until the building boom began here in the 1990′s, where they decided to go with more of a sure thing and use their equipment to make landscaping gravel for the growing local housing market.  Bob gave me the number of his partner, Rick, who ran the mine, and after a short chat, agreed to share his knowledge of gold prospecting with me. 


Before my meeting with Rick, I had made an uninformed, impulse buy of a Gold Bug 2 metal detector, thinking that would be the way to find gold in our desert.  Rick’s first comment to me was along the lines of: “you have a nice metal detector there, but you won’t find much use for it here”.  He explained that  this part of the desert was popular for those who like to shoot their guns, resulting in lots of buckshot, bullet fragments, shell casings, beer bottle tops, etc, all of which will set off a metal detector, even those that use discrimination.  Yeah, I was disappointed, but knew this Gold Bug 2 could come in handy somewhere down the line.  And trust me, it did!


The foundation of placer gold prospecting in Lake Havasu, was understanding how it got here and the affect time and nature had on it.  Once I had a general understanding of this, I decided to make my next purchase, a small puffer-style drywasher.  This is the best way to be introduced to processing  the tons of desert dirt I will shovel in the coming months.  This little hand-powered drywasher was the first step in the right direction for me and now…it was game on!


My first several outings into the desert, armed with pick, shovel, 5 gallons of water, pan and hand-operated drywasher, resulted in nothing more than a sore back and literally no gold!    I bugged Rick for more information and guidance about placer gold prospecting in the desert and one day in November, 2011, it all started to make sense.  Armed with some of his knowledge, combined with an endless supply of information on the internet,  I began to look for exposed bedrock along the trail of past riverbeds or washes and their tributaries, especially where they made turns.   These turns or  “elbows” in the terrain create eddys or vortexes that effectively suck down anything in it’s path, including gold, which is the 3rd heaviest element on the planet.  I began to dig into one of these and started to fill the drywasher.  After collecting a bucket of concentrates (material that collects in the riffles of the drywasher), I filled up my little plastic bin with water from my 5 gallon bucket and began to pan the concentrates.  After all the trial and error of the first month and a half, I finally found my first gold!

placer gold, gold panning

First Gold!