Tag Archives: placer gold

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!

I’m Back!

After a long absence, I have been able to find a bit of time to hit the desert a couple times and pick up where I left off last spring.  First off, this is what I have been up to since my last post: etsy.com/shop/donburdadesign.  I have been designing and fabricating wooden jewelry (with and without stone inlay) and turning bowls and vases on the lathe.  Have a look, the wife might enjoy my work!

Enough with shameless self promotion and onto my last two outings.

My first trip was to the spot where I left my half bucket last June.  To my surprise, it was still there!  Looks like being on top of a steep hillside was deturrent enough for anyone to dig in my previous excavations.  This spot had produced a few grams in the past, so I thought I’d give it another shot.  While plunging my shovel into a gulley wall, I looked down into the dirt and saw something moving.

severed baby rattler

severed baby rattler

After moving some dirt aside, I quickly recognized what it was wiggling around…a baby rattler that was awakened from hibernation by my shovel severing its body, almost completely in half!  There was nothing I could do except to toss it into a neighboring sandy wash and hope it recovered.

The day was gorgeous, sunny, in the 70′s and after spending the holidays in Chicago, a welcome change of pace!  I moved just

fine gold

typical return

short of a yard of dirt that day that yeilded a quantity of fines so small, that I didn’t even bother to weigh it.  After loading up the Samurai, I decided that it was finally time to move on from this gold-producing spot and look for another, so I hiked up the gulley one more time and after nearly 6 months, removed my half bucket from its hole and chucked it in the back of the Samurai.  Time to move on!  Yes, this spot had produced about 3-4 grams of gold, but an average outing was maybe 1 to 2 tenths of a gram, in exchange for moving close to a yard of dirt and about 4 hours of time, each time.  Based on curent spot for gold, that’s about $3 to $4 per tenth for all that effort, which amounts to what…$1.00 per hour for the punishing hard labor on my 53 year old body!

Second outing of 2014 took me to new spot near my best gold bearing location of all time, The Big Hill.  I drove the Samurai around back of the foot of the Big HIll,

Samurai in new spot for gold prospecting

Samurai in new spot

past a spot wahere I found my very first gold.  I set up the dry washer on the only semi-flat bit of ground near the gulley, which meant I was going to have to bucket brigade my dirt to it!  Not my favorite set of circumstances, but I needed the excercise!   After a 6 month hiatus, it was comforting to see the old home made drywasher and leaf blower working flawlessly!  I guess maintaining the blower every couple outings has paid off!  After a 5 bucket sampling, it was time to run the dirt through the dry washer, then pan out the cons.

gold in the pan

color in the pan

I was please to find some color, and was encouraged to continue on in this new spot.  Through the course of this outing, I moved about 30 buckets of dirt, a bit shy of an entire yard and recovered a measly 1 to 1.5 tenths of a gram.  Yeah, same old, same old!  But…once again, it was a beautiful day, sunny, in the 70′s in January and…I needed the excercise!  After a couple washouts that yielded onlu a small amount of color, albeit, a couple small pickers in the process, I felt compelled to venture out to adjacent gulleys, just to have a look around.  So I carried my pick, shovel and a couple buckets to a nearby spot that was full of black sand in a little valley of a gulley.   Sounds like a perfect spot…right?

gold from day 2, 2014

gold from day 2, 2014

Well this just goes to prove that gold is never where it is supposed to be, in fact, it’s just further proof that gold is where you find it!  This photo to the right is a shot of what I recovered from my second day of prospecting, 2014.   Once again, back-breaking labor for tiny reward.  Only someone with gold fever would go back for more!  Guess I’ll be back! ;)

Hot Prospecting

I had no work booked for the day, so I planned to wake up early and head out to my new spot and see what happened.  But first I had to replace my home made drywasher’s fan bearing, despite it being a “sealed bearing”!  I also had to service some of the hardware on the riffle box, due to all the shakin’, rattlin’ & rollin’ it has been doing this year.

Because we in Lake Havasu are now in the 100′s from now until late September, one needs to start digging around 6 am to have enough time to dig before it gets too hot.  This time of year, the early morning temps are still in the upper 70′s, so until that changes, (morning temps will eventually only get down into the 90′s), I’ll keep digging.

desert prospecting is hot and dusty

Dusty and hot!

The only issue I have in my current new spot, which is atop a series of gullies, fully exposed to gusty wind, is when the wind does start blowing from random directions, the dust from my drywasher sometimes blows right in my direction.  When I’m digging and sweating, the windblown dust sticks to any exposed skin.  In a matter of minutes, you have a caked-on layer of dirt!  So far this new spot has yielded over 2 grams of placer gold and even a few nice pickers, which have been pretty scarce this season.  So the price I pay (hot, sweaty, dusty, etc) is almost worth it…almost.  Spending on average 4-5 hours digging gold and coming back with an average of 2-3 tenths of a gram really does not constitute being worthwhile, but, as any placer gold prospector can attest, you never know when you’re going to find a nugget.

Sweaty and dusty placer gold prospecting

Sweaty and dusty

Maybe today will be that day?

As the morning  progressed, I did my usual routine, which entails processing about 8 – 10 buckets of dirt from more than location in my current gully, then walking the bucket of concentrates down the hill to my little base-camp, where my ice-filled cooler of Powerade, and water await, as well as my pan and tub of water. After digging and drywashing for an hour stretch up in the gully, in the hot desert sun, I like to turn on the stereo in my Samurai and pan to the music!  The first couple washouts yielded the normal multiple bits of flour gold per pan, which isn’t a bad thing, but you always think that the next pan will have one of those elusive little pickers that we all desire!

Since I’ve visited this new spot about half a dozen times so far, I had only found one nice picker amongst the normal bunch of fines, so I realized that finding more would be rare.   These trips are really noting more than filler trips, where I intend only to add to my total of gold.  During the third washout round, there it was, voila, a nice picker poked its head out of the black sand in the pan.

Another nice picker

Another nice picker

Finally!  Finding this new picker was a good boost to my ego as well as my motivation to continue on as the morning advanced near the noon hour, in which the sun is at its peak, bringing with it 100+ degree temperatures!  I had one bottle of Powerade left and with renewed motivation, I trudged back up the hill for the 5th and final time of the morning, in search of another picker.  I convinced myself to dig up more buckets of pay dirt than usual to finish off a productive day with hopefully more pickers.  The effort did indeed payoff, rewarding me with two more pickers!  Not as large as the first one, but they made my sweaty, dust-caked face smile.  the day ended up producing 3+ tenths of a gram.  With the price of gold falling below $1400.00 per ounce, not many reasonable humans would consider that total worth the extreme effort, but to anyone bitten by the Gold Bug, such as I have been, this is a good day!

Today as I write this, our temps topped 110 degrees in Lake Havasu, AZ, and my boat lettering business, Don Burda Design has increased, so I’m not sure how many more posts I’ll be able to write until things cool off a bit.  I can guarantee that in the last few outings of the season, I find something to brag about, you’ll see it posted here!

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!

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!

What’s This?

My name is Don Burda and in 2011, I discovered there is gold to be found in my own town, Lake Havasu City, Arizona!  This blog is here to:

  1. document my gold prospecting adventures in Lake Havasu and surrounding areas
  2. share my knowledge of placer gold prospecting in the desert
  3. share my knowledge of equipment used in the process, whether it be store-bought or made in my garage
  4. share my experiences selling gold and where you’ll get the best price
  5. reveal the reality of what it is to be an individual prospector