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Prospecting Questions of the Week

Gold Prospecting Questions

Drop us an EMAIL and we'll post your thoughts. Help us make this site a truly helpful resource for gold prospectors - new and old.

Latest question:

Question: How to Start: Hi, I recently got a 90 acre claim in Idaho. Back in the 40's and 50's Using the big ass dredges they pulled millions of gold just down stream from me. It's the xxxxxxxxx xxxxx river Actually you can look it up on Idaho historical web page. Anyway. I own approx. 3/4 miles of river. Using Google earth, in 8 years or so, the river has changed. My question is , were the hell do I start? I was thinking of first using metal detector to start with checking sand bars. the place is so over whelming it's crazy. How should I start? I was going to get a dredge, but too much money.


A metal detector will help you locate larger gold nuggets (you may want to check any tailing piles from those old bucket line dredges, as they often did not recover nuggets larger than their screen size for waste rock). But a detector will not be able to pick up what is likely going to be the most typical placer gold size you will be recovering. The bulk of what you will find in most gold bearing rivers is window screen size flake and smaller.

Before investing in heavy equipment - just using the basics like a stream sluice and pan would be wise. Sample various areas, record how much "color" you find in each spot, and then try to narrow your focus to a particularly promising area. Once you have a proven paystreak located you can justify the cost of moving up to a highbanker or floating suction dredge or a highbanker/dredge combo unit. The first place to always look is on the inside bend of a river. This is where the current slows and allows gold to drop out of its waterway.

You will also want to research where the river channel used to run - especially if it has re-channeled recently from man made diversion or natural floods. Gold will have deposited over many hundreds or thousands of years, so where the water is running now may not be where the vast majority of the gold has been actually deposited. That is where hi-bankers come in handy, as you can work away from the current water course.

Last, do your homework and read geology books and study maps to learn and anticipate where gold will tend to deposit. We have hundreds of other free tips and tricks posted on our site along with books and videos to order as well.

best of luck, Harrigan

Do you know what is going on with the dredging ban in California?

Positive Update received from Dave McCracken on 10/17/2014 is below.

Please note these are a third party's opinions only and do not construe legal advice. While the news is certainly positive for dredgers, we recommend proceeding cautiously until more is known. You can be sure the environmentalist lobby and Indian tribes are not finished yet in their attempts to control our rights.

Mining industry wins big in California!

I sent out a notice to everyone as soon as we found out that the Third Appellate in California issued a landmark Decision in support of small-scale mining. Then, after you guys directed an avalanche of letters to the Court, they further decided to formally publish their Decision. The Decision is full of legal reasoning which supports our arguments that the State does not have the authority to materially interfere with the commercial viability of mining on the public lands.

Our industry has been held down by unreasonable over-regulation for so long, it is going to take some time to absorb how far-reaching the implications are by this published Decision. As promised, I have explained some of my own reasoning in our October newsletter why the published Decision has completely turned our situation around. I have also dropped the "500-pound bomb," suggesting that the Third Appellate has inferred that dredgers do not need a permit from the State to operate a suction dredge if the State is refusing to issue them!

You can find it all right here:


Hello, I am new to this and have been doing a little prospecting and have accumulated about a cup concentrated material. The material in my concentrate is black sands and fine placer gold. In it is quite a bit of the gold laced in the black sands. Do I need to further process the material to sell it? I have heard that there is gold in some of the black sand also. Is there an acid treatment to expose this gold? I would like to see how much gold is actually in this concentrate to see if it is worth my time. Is there a refinery that can extract the gold? John M.

Answer: You will want to exhaust all mechanical separation methods first. If you do not want to pan the material out you can try some moderately priced equipment to help like the blue bowl - the blue bowl should be able to remove most if not all of the fine visible gold.

Most refiners will not process raw black sand affordably. There are chemical methods but we do not provide advice on these methods given the high risk involved. Usually it is not profitable to pursue this avenue either unless the material is exceedingly rich and mechanical separation cannot remove all of the visible gold. This is almost never the case.

Any non visible gold is usually not worth pursuing in terms of time vs. $$$ in most cases it is time better spent processing more quality raw material.

best, Harrigan

How do you join the GPAA national prospecting club ----

JOIN THE GPAA (gold prospectors of america) HERE

How do I sell the placer gold I find?

For top dollar you would want to try selling it on eBay yourself in small lots or via consignment through us or a similar store. If you don't want to deal with the hassle of selling tiny lots yourself, you can also sell it to a wholesale gold nugget dealer like us or again a similar store but the price would have to be a bit lower of course for resale to the trade. The advantage of going to a store like ours is that we will typically buy much more and make it hassle free. As apposed to having to parcel out small lots at various prices and ship to idividuals who may or may not actually pay - like on eBay. I would estimate fair price to be in the 10-20% over spot range at full retail for nuggets over 1/4 oz. And about 90% of spot to spot even for wholesale sales. Usually more for larger nuggets. For fine gold to small pickers around spot to spot + 5% is what you can expect to get on average at retail. Reputable wholesalers will need to buy smaller gold at 10-20% under spot usually. Our quotes above are assuming typical smooth placer gold only. Crystalline gold or gold of exceptional character can fetch much more due to rarity - sometimes 2-3 times or more than spot. You can always find current spot prices for gold at kitco.com.

Let us know if we can be of any assistance.

Thank you again, Harrigan

www.GoldFeverProspecting.com 1-888-985-6463

Would like to buy a small nugget to test my gmt whites gold detector--can you advise---Thank you ----Don

Hi, its best if you pick a size of the same sort as what you expect to find in your location. Most detectors will find pretty small nuggets but not very deep. If you want to tune it to gold easily maybe a one gram nugget (our large 4-6 mesh would do) about $60-64. (prices subject to change). You can glue it to a clay or plastic poker chip so you can keep it with you and not worry about losing it. Make sure you don't use a poker chip with a metal insert (fake clay ones) which will throw off the detector.




Thank you very much for your E-mail. The camp ground I was going to go to is called follows camp above azusa. Thank you very much for your time. If I buy the pay dirt, how would I pan at home to teach my boys? I was thinking of buying that to show them how to pan before we went. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much. ---- David L.

Answer: Hi David, its always best to pan into another pan so you dont lose any gold. So if you dont have an extra pan I would grab another one iwth your pay dirt order. You will want to pan our material several times to make sure you got it all - there can be fine gold in there too. Also you might want to try two types of gold pans to see which works best for your boys. I would recommend the black plastic one first and then the green Keene super pan as the next step up. Both are lightweight, affordable, and easy to master.

Remember when you go panning to not waste your time working the surface material on top. You have to dig deep as gold is heavy and will sink. The closer you can get to bedrock the better. We have lots of free tips on our site for tips on panning and prospecting, reading a river for gold browse around.

For a panning tub go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy one of those black plastic mortar mixing trays. They are very lightweight only cost $5 or so and make excellent panning tubs. You can also use them to dump out your concentrates from a sluice box or dredge too. Dont use the kitchen sink its tempting to do but a mess to clean up and gold has a nasty tendency to sink into the cracks around the drain. Though come to think of it that would be a great teaching tool as the gold in the rivers will find all the nooks and crannies to hide in too.

Great idea to practice at home first that way you can get some gold fever stirred up in the kids and teach them a bit before they do the real thing. If your kids really get holed on panning (most do) the next step would be to move up to a sluice box so you can move more material per hour giving you a much better chance at finding some good gold. We also have a lightweight sluice kit available with a video and book that is perfect for beginners.

Best of luck out there and tons of gold to you!



Hi, my name is Jim and I am interested in prospecting for gold. Could you help me with the important questions? I would appreciate it very much. Of course, the most important questions for this hobby are:

How much is the exchange rate for raw gold or nuggets? Gold is selling at around $1160 per ounce, but that is for certified bullion right?

Hypothetically, If I were to find a 1 oz. gold nugget. How much could I get for it? $1160?

I hear (see) talk of gold nuggets weighing .5 grains, 1 grain, 30 grain, etc. How big is a grain? how many grains equals an ounce? X grains = 1 oz.

Finally, so I don't take up all your time, Do you know of a respectable prospecting supplier and nugget buyer in or around Ontario California?

I am just trying to figure out if I can quit work and just find gold on the creek banks all day, hehehe. Yeah right, right? If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

Thank You for your time.

J. Cassidy

Answer (prices have gone up a lot since this answer)

Hi Jim, thanks very much for your email. Gold Nuggets of an ounce or more are exceedingly rare and can fetch a large premium over spot price. Even more if it is of specimen grade quality. Typical smooth placer gold will fetch the least amount around $1200 to 1500 (or within 10% of current spot price). Weve seen single ounce nuggets fetch anywhere from $1300 - $2000+ (10 to 100% over spot price).

A grain is quite small there are approx. 15.43 grains to a single gram and 31.1 grams make up a troy ounce.

Beware unscrupulous sellers: Read our How to buy gold nuggets article to learn more.

We buy gold also. Let us know what you find if its something we need well make you a fair offer. We also work on consignment for larger gold sales as well. (NOTE: prices have gone up a lot since this answer)

Best of luck to you!


Gold Fever Prospecting

To: INFO@GOLDFEVERPROSPECTING.COM Subject: building a rocker box

could you send me some plans to build a med to small rocker box. I have built some in the past but they have been lost or destroyed in the moves. thank you steve l

Answer: Here you go. Visit: https://www.goldprospectors.org/Forum/aft/14 This is a link to the GPAA free plan on building a rocker box

PS... if anyone here has other plans for affordable prospecting equipment please email them to us - we'll post them here for all to see.

From: Dan Lander
Hey my family and I live near a fast running creek that is over a gold vein. could it have gold in it? If it did how would we find it?

ps. we are beginner prospectors so we are limeted to gold pans --- Thanks,gold gobbler 2005

ANSWER: HI, sounds like you are in a good spot to try your luck. How do you know you are over a gold vein? Has gold been found there in the past?

If so, it should be easy to get some color. Be sure you dig down pretty deep - all the way to bedrock if possible - as gold is heavy and will sink as far as it can over time. Ignore the top stuff - this is overburden and probably does not contain much gold. Look for cracks and crevices in bedrock gold gets wedged in there so scrape that material out and pan well.

Dont fret about just having a gold pan - it all begins and ends there. Even the most sophisticated prosecting operations use gold pans to sample areas and for finish panning.

If you find some decent gold you might want to move up to a simple sluice box. Not a large investment but it will let you run a lot more material. Let us know how you fare and send pics of your finds.

Best of luck,


Gold Fever Prospecting

Amanda R. writes in from Georgia:

I'm interested in looking for gold where I live. I live at the bottom between two pastures or hills and on a dirt road. In my front yard, I have a dry stream bed and if it floods the stream will run across our driveway. But we have a big pond next door in the woods. Sometime before my Grandady died, I over heard my dady and Uncle saying something about a gold mine. But I can't remember it all. There's also a little ditch or gully next to our house. Where do you think I should look and are these good places? Also, will I have a good chance since I live in Georgia? Well, that's all I wanted to ask and thank you for your time!

Sincerely, Amanda R.

Answer: HI, dry stream beds can very often contain gold depending on how old the stream is and if water used to run through there in the past at high volume. In general terms, Gold normally washes down from surrounding hills and will accumulate at the lowest possible point where water flow will deposit it over time. If there are old gold mines in the area that is a very good sign that your area will have gold present. Georgia is well known for its gold production in the past especially near Dahlonega. Try taking some samples form different areas and testing your findings with a gold pan. Try to dig deep enough to get to bedrock or just above an old hard clay layer if possible. Most of your gold will be found just above these points as it is quite heavy and will settle over time. Dont bother looking in the top most loose soil as this is most likely just overburden and freshly deposited organic matter barren of gold. You may want to try renting a metal detector as well.

Best of luck to you!!!

Thank you,


Gold Fever Prospecting

Hello, I'm outside panning and I had a quick question.There is darker material in the pan along with the gold and it looks kinda like gold? Is it pyrite (fools gold)or what?And do you know if some of the flakes flaking around in my pan is flake or just some more pyrite? Thanks J. D. Webb


HI Jamey, it is very possible that the flakes are gold. A quick way to test whether it is fools gold or real gold is to look at the material in the sunlight. Both materials will shine in direct light, however, when in the shade only natural gold will continue to shine brightly - the fools gold will darken and appear dim.

Did you know real gold can float? This is due to the surface tension of the water which will suspend very light pieces. Try using just a touch of detergent like jet dry to break the surface tension of the water and allow the gold to settle to the bottom of the pan. Good luck!!!!

Thank you,



J Beeson wrote in:
Very informative site you have - thanks. So, if one collects good quality, larger Gold Nuggets and ever wants to sell them, where does he go? E-Bay seems to be the only source for selling ?!? If so, one is quite limited in ever selling. Wouldn't Gold coins be a better investment because they are more "liquid" an investment? Thanks. Jim

Answer: HI Jim. Thanks for your email. Yes, it is true that gold bullion or gold coins are more easily sellable, however, you must consider that you will almost never get more than current spot price for your gold this way. A true quality nugget will appreciate in value as their availability is limited to what mother nature provides. And their current scarcity on the market is a factor as well, given that many collectors are just that - "collectors" and not resellers they will hang on to their gold and never sell. Nuggets will fluctuate with spot price to a degree but most specimen grade pieces will have their own intrinsic value aside from spot price.

Selling is actually rather easy on eBay. There is a wide market and very liquid. Seasonal gold shows are another good bet. Other online resellers may want to pick up your nuggets as well. We buy quality larger nuggets from time to time for resale as well as investment. Best of luck to you and thanks for visiting Goldfeverprospecting.com!

PS. Make your nuggets into jewelry and reap even bigger profits.

Thank you,



QUESTION #1: What did you wish you knew when you first started prospecting?

I wish I had thought to test the recovery of my equipment before dragging it all the way down to the river. I could have made some changes at home and then spent more time actually working the river than tinkering. J.T., CA

I wish I knew about the GPAA club so I could meet some people to prospect with in my area and learn some new tricks. Thanks for putting up this site - very helpful to newbies.
(from J.R. in WA)

You can find a link to the GPAA prospecting club in our links section. Good people!

QUESTION #2: Dredgers - what size do you use and why?

I have owened 2 dredges a 6in and 8in and worked them in Southern Ore. and Northern Calif. Both were Keene dredges and only small changes were made. I loved my 6in I could carry it in the back of pickup and could carry it to the river and assemble it by myself. But the 8in is a whole differnt story. But on the klamath an 8in is the only way to go. When your under water and see all that material going up the nozzle its a rush. Anyway lets hear from you expert miners out there about what you use and like to use. Let us know what you think


Big Mike,

There is a dredge for every occation. I think you are right about the 8" and the Kalmath, big river, big dredge. I have dredged with almost all the sizes. From a 2.5" to a 10" If you are on a river such as the So Fork 40 mule up in the Chicken Ak. district its all about pumping gravel. The more yards you pump the more Au. you get, no boulders just pump gravel. Other rivers with boulders the 10 would be running at idle speed while a guy spends time moving them around. Im my opinion the best all around dredge size is the 5". Easy to pack in & out and still can move some material. About the same size as a 4" only better. Less material than a 6" but much lighter to pack. A 6" is sweet but for an old guy like me just too heavy to put it all on my back any more. I used to run a Precision 6". It seems I do alot more talking about dredging than time in the water these days. I do plan on spending some time in Aug. and some in Sept. So maybe I will find that sweet spot yet this year. Montez

I currently own a 3" and a 5" American Gold Dredge with Honda 5.5 an 8 hp respectively and a 4" Bazooka. The 3" is a great little dredge for cleaning cracks and places where there isn't a lot of material. The American 5" is a great dredge for fine gold recovery, but the stock floatation isn't enough for fast water dredging. I just got done modifying it to use the pontoons off my Skeeter in addition to the standard floatation. They are fully adjustable and go on in minutes. My idea is to use the Skeeter for transportation to the dredge, pop the floatation off and use it for work then off again at the end of the day.

I haven't used the Bazooka yet, bought it to play with. I like the concept of "new technology".

I used to have a Keene 8065 8" dredge with a VW engine. Used it on the Klamath. It was highly modified to catch finer gold, moved lots of material and was LOTS of work...especially when I was working by myself. Had a lot of fun dredging with Bob McTaggart on that one.

My favorite dredge wasn't mine. It was a Keene 6" with twin 11hp Hondas. Moved plenty of material, got good recovery and was a good "one man" operation. I would like to own a 6", maybe next year.

Like Montez, I have been doing more talking dredging than actually doing it lately. That is getting ready to change though.


This is starting to look like home! Welcome back BigMike. Glad to hear you're giving thought to coming back to the river. Get healthy and let those cobbles and boulders work the kinks out of your back.

I'm not a pro miner by any stretch, but I'm a big fan of large dredges. Started on the Klamath with a homebuilt 6"(never owned a factory job); came back the next year with a 10". Finally settled on an 8" by the third year. The 8" is my favorite to run, but a 6" has certain advantages at times(especially if you're a creek miner). I'm a river dredger so I stick with the larger hoses. Over the years we've built two sixes, two tens, and three eights. I think we're done building and have settled on a single dredge that has both a 6" and 8" hose feeding a single sluice. I dive with my dad and he prefers the 6" hose so it should be a perfect setup. I've also got a super-mini 8" thrown together strictly for 1-man prospecting.

Our dredge theories work a bit differently than most. We've ALWAYS used subsurface dredges. I've never had a standard surface dredge. As I'm sure people here know, the subsurface dredge isn't as efficient as the surface dredge and does not do a great job on fine gold recovery, but I believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, especially for river mining. Lack of water depth really restricts the subsurface in the creeks, but it's seldom a problem in the Klamath. The advantage is that you can dig a hole like an 8" while burning gas like a 6" and your 8" dredge is no larger than most 6's. My old 8" was easily operated by me alone. It was only 7' wide by 9' long and I could put in/take out just about anywhere. I operated that 8" with a combination of an 8HP and 13HP Honda and never lacked power. My new super-mini 8" is only 5 1/2'x 7'(18HP Onan)and is designed to be hauled and operated by one man. I expect I'll use it for punching test holes only. If we find a good spot, we'll bring in the 8/6 combo. We've completely solved the poor recovery problem of the subsurface dredges by sumping the finer material to a surface box. Recovery now seems superior to even a surface 8" since we don't have any oversize material disrupting the sluicebox action. Best of both worlds.

If you're looking at picking up a new dredge and want to stay small and light but would like an 8" nozzle, it can be done. If you're used to an 8", I find it almost impossible to settle for anything less.

Hey guys,

I would agree that a large dredge is the best way to go after spending years running Mack's 8 and 10 inch dredges. I would also agree that processing your fines through a sump and into a secondary system, be it a sluice box or a hydrostatic jig, will give you better fine gold recovery. Remember though, that it is wasted effort if the results don't add up.

We tested many different systems and the end results were that a properly set up surface recovery system doesn't loose enough gold to pay for the gas to run the secondary system. We tested many systems in a lot of different places. The results on the Klamath were almost always the same. That doesn't mean that might be true for different rivers though. If you stayed in the water and pumped more yardage through your sluice instead of tending a secondary system, you ended up with more gold. We found this last sentence to hold true for many aspects of mining. If the end result is less nozzle time, you don't get as much gold.

As far as nozzle size, Bigger is better if your goal is more gold. But it does come at a price. At about a 6" dredge, fun becomes serious work and the chances for injury increase. The risk for injuries from the nozzle go up fast the bigger the dredge is. It also takes alot more resources to set up a bigger dredging operation. There are paystreaks on the Klamath that will allow a person to make good gold regardless of the size of dredge you are using. As we all know, it is locating a paystreak that is the secret to getting gold. A bigger dredge will give you more options as to places that you can dredge on the river. 20 feet of gravel on bedrock is a challenge for any size dredge, so pick sampling areas that are within the limits of your dredge, or are within the limits of how "HARD" you want to work.

As for myself, I like a 6" dredge the best because it allows me to work in faster water alone and keep all the gold myself.......... A 5" is great for working right in rapids....or maybe for good portability into the Salmon river gorge.....

I can't wait till next summer when I can come back to Happy Camp and mine for awhile. Good luck to all,


Question 3:

I have several generic questions about gold. what is the simplest way to test a very fine powdery gold dust to know what I really have found? Is there any record of glacial activity transporting gold south from Canada? And how many other minerals and sediments such as pyrite mimic gold?

A totally uninformed novice Thanks Bryan


Hi Bryan, other than a huge difference in weight, gold is easily recognizable from mica or other similar matter using a quick test. In the sunlight examine the material and note its color and brightness. Now cast a shadow over the material natural gold will continue to be bright whereas mica will fade and darken without direct sunlight. Wed be happy to take a look at it for you if you would like to mail a sample. Otherwise if you have a large deposit of what you believe to be gold bearing material a professional assay would be your best bet.

Glacier activity has deposited gold throughout the US and is not confined only to Canada. Our expertise is in western US states but we do know that almost all states have a record of gold finds. Consider joining the GPAA - they offer a guidebook with claims listed in almost all 50 states - as well as a free assay test for your gold bearing material.


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