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Return to “Big Hill”.

After abandoning the “Swimming Pool”, rather than begin prospecting for a new spot, I decided to go back to an area that had produced a decent amount of gold, the “Big Hill”.  This is the spot that required me to carry all my gear on a hand truck, up a steep, 1/4 mile rocky trail, to a landing, that always left me gasping for air!  Why all this work?  Because I might find that elusive nugget!


During my second washout of the drywasher’s concentrates, I found a nice picker!

gold nugget

Big Hill picker

You can see there was also a few little specks of “flour gold” present in this pan.  Believe it or not, this is reward enough for all the digging I did, all in a little wash, on a 60 degree incline.  As if all this digging was not enough, I encountered this gnarly desert-dwelling spider.  Being from the Chicago area, even after 13+ years living in Arizona, I am still fascinated with indigenous critters.  So much so, that I still have to pull out the camera and snap off a few pics each time I encounter something new.  You never know what you’ll see in the desert, or…in your own backyard, for that matter.  You will notice that the spider is on a shop vac hose that was used to vacuum up cracks and crevices in the exposed bedrock along the walls of the Big Hill. 

desert spider

Cool desert spider

These results warranted another few visits to the Big Hill.  Visits that all produced gold.  There were many many more unexplored areas at Bison and it was time to roll the dice and have a look around.  Note:  on average, during the season (months where the temps are not in the 100′s, which is essentially, Sept. – May), I get to the desert a couple times per week.  In the beginning, there might be more than one trip where I found absolutely nothing.  As time moved forward, I was able to inventory numerous spots that had produced gold and as a result, became “fallback” areas.  These are valuable, because even though you had left because of lack of production, there is a real chance gold could be found just a few feet from where you were digging.  On to a new spot!

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!