Tag Archives: prospecting

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!

Black Rock Canyon

After many months of prospecting around the Bison area wash, where to date, all my gold has been found, a new hotspot, I refer to as “Black Rock Canyon”, is discovered.  Once entering this canyon, it’s apparent I’m not the first one to discover this area, as evidence of previous digging is very clear to see.  To be honest, just about every good prospecting spot in Lake Havasu has been dug before…weather it be during the gold rush days or in the last few years.  I’m sure this applies to most every place prospectors look for gold.   This canyon is lined with black colored rock walls and has few telltale signs that gold would be present.  Telltale signs include: ”cobblestones” (smooth, river-washed grey-ish stones, ranging in size from common “skipping stones”, to cobblestones used to pave roads, to boulders, lining the hillsides), an abundance of red rock and of course, exposed bedrock.  Many prospectors I’ve encountered have stated: “the redder the better“.  This location is further proof that: “gold is where you find it“.  Ounces of gold have been found in this canyon!


In addition to finding a new area with gold, I encounter the first of a regular cast of characters who like to dig in the Bison wash area of Lake Havasu…Wade.  Wade can commonly be seen sporting a pistol at his side and like my buddy Chad, drives a Suzuki Samurai.  More about this later.   At first, seeing a pistol at his side was a bit offsetting, but it is the Wild West, right?  He entered the canyon as I was in full-swing, digging and running the dirt through my recently upgraded puffer drywasher.  Upgraded by means of rigging up a leaf blower, with a weighted fan blade, resulting in my own vibrating, powered drywasher.  No more hand powered puffing!  Wade seemed a bit upset that I had discovered an area that had produced a nice amount of gold for him and numerous others before him in the past.  Since this is BLM land and no claims are present in this spot, all anyone can do is hope no one finds their new find.  There is an unwritten desert courtesy law, where if someone leaves a spot they are currently digging and leaves behind a bucket in the hole, others are supposed to leave it alone until the bucket is removed.   After breaking the ice, he tells me he has been prospecting this area for over a decade.  I asked him if he knew Rick, the rock mine owner, and he said he had met him.   Seems like everyone who digs here has, at one time or another, ran into each other and have been acquainted.  It’s kind of fun swapping stories with other prospectors.  If you pay attention, you just might learn from their experiences!


placer gold, lake havasu

gold found in Black Rock Canyon

The Black Rock Canyon became my focus for a few weeks.  My pal Chad was also finding gold here.  The next bit illustrates the main factor that, in my opinion, motivates all prospectors.  While I opened up a hole adjacent to the area where we were all finding gold, Wade decided to jump in just a few feet from my current hole.  Upon returning the next day, I learned he pulled out a nice 3 gram nugget, literally a few feet from where I was digging!  My spot yeilded mainly flour gold, with a small picker or two.  Then, the following week, just over a rise from where we were all digging, an old-timer in his 80′s unearthed a one ounce nugget!  This goes to prove that you just never know what you might find and that it is still, after decades of extensive prospecting, possible to find nice nuggets!  This, to me, is what drives us all to work like sled dogs for what usually results in small gold finds.  If I come home with 2 or 3 tenths of a gram per outing, I feel I’ve accomplished something!  Perhaps, with time and experience, this number will increase?

Spread The Fever

After a few months of prospecting and now, actually finding gold, my buddy Chad started asking quesions.  At this juncture, I had not found much gold to brag about…maybe 1 gram.

placer gold

1 gram of gold

He asked to come along on my next outing and I agreed.  At that time, I was in an area that was producing gold, but very little.  It was enough to justify digging again, so I decided this is where I’d introduce Chad to gold prospecting 101.  After a few hours of digging holes along a little valley between to outcroppings of bedrock, we managed to find only a few specs of gold. I could sense he was somewhat discouraged when he told me to keep the specs for myself, without having to share with him.  I continued on with this spot until it had run dry, then ventured off to a new area, which I referred to as “The Big Hill”.  This was a small mountain peak, with a steep, rocky 1/4 mile trail leading to a landing, where it made sense to setup camp and begin prospecting.  Keep in mind, the only vehicle I had for these excursions was a two wheel drive, 1975 GMC 3/4 ton van…not exactly what one would call an off road vehicle!  Knowing the extreme nature of the trail leading up to the landing, I had no choice but to lug all my gear up the 1/4 mile trail by hand.  This included drywasher, 5 gallons of water, shovel, pick and plastic panning bin.  Eventually I decided to bring along a hand truck, which eliminated the need to make two trips!  


All this effort paid off, because I began to find gold in most every pan…and nice gold!  In fact, I found my first “picker” here!  After a couple more fruitful outings at the Big Hill, I showed Chad my increasing amount of gold and asked if he’d like to come along one more time.  Now that I was 

gold panning

nice gold

actually finding a nice amount of gold, he was more eager to come along.  After all the hard work involved with finding a nice deposit of gold, I had mixed feelings about sharing my find with someone, but ultimately had a partner for the next Big Hill trip.  That next trip produced the best day to date, just under 1/2 a gram!  It turned out to be twice the amount I had found on my own, so it seemed like a good plan.  Soon after, Chad was bitten by the Gold Bug, bought his own drywasher and began prospecting on his own.

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