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Gold Hunting Tips for the

Rich Hill and Wickenburg Areas

There are just as many methods as there are miners for recovering gold.  Most people only have a limited amount of time to prospect and need to make the best of that time.


1. Find a claim that has proven gold on it.  We offer you claims that have gold on them.

2. The recovery method must function within certain parameters.  Certain laws of nature dictate the recovery process.


Drywashing works good with very dry soil that has very little clay and is more tolerant of vegetation.  Even Arizona doesn't have dry soil 2-3 feet down.  The material must be laid on a tarp and dried before processing.

Wet washing works very good with most soils except where there is heavy vegetation.  It tends to clog the foot valve of the pump and precautions  can be taken to mineralize the affect. 

Metal detecting works best in known nugget areas with the proper metal detector.  Not all detectors are created equal.


These 3 books are especially helpful in prospecting the Rich Hill / Weaver Mining District area

All are authored by Dr. Erik Melchiorre.

I'm not sure how many are still in print, but they can be found on

I think it is very beneficial to anyone prospecting this area.

There are several things to look for:


Take the time to search out the different colors of dirt and textures of dirt.  The iron rich red dirt is what I look for and often times they are mixed with quartz indicating they were from a particular time era of geological disturbances.  You'll see many different colors of dirt from tan to almost a blackish red. Fit the puzzle pieces together with the color of the dirt and the following pieces to the puzzle: trumpet plants, caliche, black sands, and quartz, and I'm sure you'll get gold.

red dirt gold prospecting placer mining arizona mining claims
trumpet plant gold prospecting arizona mining claims placer

DESERT TRUMPET PLANTS (Eriogonum inflatum)

Trumpet plants are a good indicator of rich soil mineralization. They require more mineralization than the average desert plants and shrubs.  Where you find trumpet plants, you will usually find mineral rich red dirt or a logical mineral concentrated area, like the edge of a creek or along a wash.  I put a pretty good amount of weight on trumpet plants when I prospect.  Locating the gold requires reading the clues and making your own deductions and sample, sample, sample.


Caliche is a natural "cement" that forms an artificial bedrock which acts as a base that gold and other heavy materials rest on when sluiced through rain storms and settling.  Caliche can have pockets, and cracks that can be productive.  It is best to vacuum and wire brush the caliche to get the most values out.  In this case, you need something more than a shovel.

caliche gold prospecting arizona mining claims panning


Surface black sands are a good indicator of where a pay streak might be in a stream.  It can be common to see a lot of black sands in some of the creeks, but in Arizona, it doesn't always mean that is the best spot for gold.  In other areas of the country, black sands are an excellent indicator if where to find gold.  Definitely pay attention to the black sands, but remember, they only play moderate part in Arizona as an indicator where concentrated deposits of gold may be.  Obviously, as you dig deeper, the concentration of black sands plays a bigger role in finding richer deposits.  Places you expect to find heavier concentrations of black sands would be behind boulders and inside bends of the creek.

black sands gold prospecting placer minin arizona mining claims


Not all mine shafts are gold mines.  There are other minerals that are mined out of the ground also.  If it is a gold mine, it represent a place where gold was and probably is still found.  Occasionally, a vein of quartz may be "played out", but there is still a very good chance that there is alluvial and placer gold to be found from that vein.  When you see a mine shaft or dig, as yourself where gravity and erosion would have taken the gold from that vein.  In most cases, a mine shaft was profitable and contained gold or it wouldn't be mined.  Most of the time, you can research mine production and see just how good the gold was to know if you might want a claim in that area.  Remember, there are still plenty of productive quartz veins that have yet to be worked and I come across them almost every day.  Metal detect the tailings and the washes that come down from the mines.  Sometimes, the recovery methods the old timers used was not as efficient as we have today and running the tailings can yield good gold.

mine shaft pacer lode gold prospecting arizona mining claims
quartz veins gold prospecting mining placer arizona


The quartz vein also fits in with the mine shafts.  It is rare that pretty white quartz will yield much if any gold. The composition of the vein can change as it gets deeper.  Many quartz veins have eroded out their gold while others still entomb their values.  In the Rich Hill area, the veins that angle to the northwest have produced the most gold.  A quartz vein on your claim adds an interesting mystery as to what could be further down.  A simple mortar and pestle can give you a clue if your vein is carrying gold and further sampling by sending out a sample to be assayed will give you an idea of what the vein may yield when it is worked.  In the future, I will have a variety of examples of gold bearing quartz so you get a better idea of what to look for.

Arizona Geologic Maps placer mining gold lode prospecting


These are some prospecting mistakes that I see people commonly make.

Metal Detecting

One of the most common mistakes I see people make when detecting is to raise the coil well above the ground.  Your metal detector emits a signal that functions best for finding ferrous and non-ferrous objects when it is close to the ground and waved parallel to the ground.  Most coils have a replaceable coil protector that you can replace once you've worn through it on the rocks and gravels.  Don't be afraid of scratching your new toy!  The closer to the ground your coil is, the better chances you have of finding gold!  Waving your coil a foot above the ground is a waste of time.  Learn the settings of your machine and spend a lot of time experimenting with it including the practice of using test nuggets of various sizes to help you understand how gold sounds in the ground.


We recommend Minelab detectors for electronic prospecting in the Rich Hill area.  The ability to cope with highly mineralized soil, in conjunction with better ground penetration and sensitivity makes the Minelab far superior to other brands.  Contact us for a list of trustworthy dealers in our area.

Sluicing, Power sluicing, and Dredging

The single most common mistake I see is when the sluice is set up, it is not level from side to side.  The water comes off the sluice heavy on one side and dry on the other.  The next mistake I see is too little grade to the sluice.  Most sluices are designed to have 1-2" of grade per foot.  Example: If your sluice is 3 feet long, you should have 3-6" of grade over the length of the sluice.  If you run a sluice to flat, you'll hold too many light rocks and your riffles wont work properly.  If you run too steep of an angle, you'll wash out most of your values.  Carry a small torpedo level with you and you'll get it right every time!

Suction Dredging requires permission from the Army Corps of Engineers. In Phoenix, please call (602) 640-5385. In Tucson, call (520) 670-5021. If using an intake four inches or less, it is recommended that you contact BLM. When using an intake larger than four inches, you are required to contact BLM. (Source: BLM website)


The single worst mistake I see in drywashing is running wet material.  Never dig it and run it the same day.  Spread the dirt out in a thin layer on a tarp and let it dry for a day.  If it feels dry and crumbly, run it.  If it is still wet, mix it up and run it the next day.  In the desert, I frequently see people run the tailings of other peoples drywashings and find more gold than the original person.



Check your tailings frequently to see if you're losing gold.  This is something I learned from dredging.  If you find any gold in your tailings, stop and figure out why.  Maybe your feeding the material too fast, or the grade is not right for the sluice.  Not all material is the same.  You could be running jagged rocks through the sluice and they might require a different grade to the sluice than rounded river rocks.


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