Way back in the day (the year was 1848) a guy named John Marshall found gold while he was building John Sutter’s saw-mill in California. This discovery began what we know as the “California Gold Rush”. From then on prospectors have come to the desert areas in hopes of finding their own share of the gold. These miners left behind abandoned mines, old rusting pans and shovels, unfortunate burial sites, and ghost towns filled with legends/stories of their adventures.
While some of these original gold prospectors found gold, many of them did not. Leaving families and hoping for the best; many met this new adventure with frustration and in some cases they never made back home again. Desert areas are not exactly the kindest areas to try to operate and survive in. However just like today the lure of the gold was a magnet to their souls. Some did find gold and they were able to cross this accomplishment off of their bucket list of things to achieve.
Of the past prospectors who found gold; “Pegleg Smith” is one worth mentioning. Pegleg once found some small black gravel pieces in the California desert, he initially believed these to be copper. He made his way to Los Angeles, where he found out that these copper findings were actually gold. Some believe that the area where Pegleg found these pieces of gold is the current day Octotillo Wells Recreation Area in California. Here is a nice video that gives more information on Pegleg Smith.
How Did The Gold Get To The Desert?
Here is a quick unofficial explanation of how gold ended up where it is. Gold along with a variety of other elements that occupy this earth since the beginning were located well below the surface. As time passed, gold met heated ground water from molten rock. Now if the pressure was high enough and other geo-chemistry factors were right, the gold along with other sorts of mineral were then dissolved into that water.
The extremely heated water along with its now dissolved elements made its upward surge toward the surface of the earth. The resting place of this dissolved gold, were folds and fractures of fault lines, rock formations that were porous and other nooks near the surface. When the pressure and heat lessened, the water then gave back to earth its contents of gold and other minerals. This process is what formed veins and/or lodes.
There are many gold-quartz veins located in the earths many natural fault areas. It is when the water flowed rapidly and where the pressure and temperatures dropped rapidly that caused the solution of gold to form into fine grains. On the other hand when the pressure and temperature fell less rapidly the gold solution then formed as larger nuggets of gold.
It was over time that the gold that was freed by the wearing away of the rock of which it was a guest to, was then carried downstream as flakes or nuggets. The found gold particles that are often times located in streams are usually very significant on near the bedrock. The weight of the gold during this moving process of going downstream will often settle in pockets of sand and/or gravel as the current of the stream lessened. The build-up of this gold in these areas is what we call placers.
Many of the early prospector’s did not have at their disposal the science and facts of how gold got here or there. Even with no scientific roadmap the early 49er’s found gold in the faults, bed rock areas and the gravel and sand bar streams that ran across the desert areas/mountain ranges of the great Southwest.
So if you are wanting to be one who can say “I found gold”, you can follow the footsteps of the early gold prospectors. The most rewarding locations will most likely be the placer deposits located in the gravel and or sand bars that have been washed downstream. To get this sort of gold you will only need the basics and that is a shovel and a pan. Of course you will also need some research and most importantly “luck”.
The search for gold is somewhat of an infection and by that I mean it is something that keeps your mind returning to the possibilities of what is still available to be found. There is gold left to be located and it is the desire of the prospector just as it was in the early days that are the one ingredient that finishes the recipe. Gold flakes can make gold cakes, not sure what can rhyme with gold nuggets but I am sure you can.
Good luck and be safe.