A recent visit from Clarence Catt, a gentleman who manufactures airboats in Illinois, got me to thinking about all the opportunities awaiting detectorists because of the raging fires and floods, which have occurred throughout the United States and Canada during the last three years.
Every now and then Clarence shows up on my doorstep to tell me about his latest prospecting adventures in Alaska and the Yukon. Earlier this year, Clarence purchased a new Fisher Gold Bug Two.
However, he uses his Gold Bug One as a backup. Every summer, he travels to the Far North to test the newest designs on his airboats during which time he prospects for gold, silver and platinum along the Yukon River and its tributaries.
The Yukon and Alaska have seen their share of fires and floods as have most of the lower forty-eight. In fact, Clarence said without an airboat he would not have been able to travel into the goldfields of the Yukon River region at all this past summer due to severe flooding, adding that he will be returning to Alaska and the Yukon this summer to hunt for a rich silver deposit he found about three summers ago, which was under water this past year. While hes in the area hell use his new Gold Bug to search for nugget's.
The continued droughts in the West in 2003 have given rise to numerous wildfires in Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
In June, there were seven wildfires that were out of control in Arizona. There are numerous advantages for detectorists when floods and forest fires strike a region. New ground is opened up allowing easier access and ore outcroppings become exposed. Spots where bandits buried their loot may become obvious following a flood as small sinkholes form at these locations.
Floods, as well as forest fires throughout parts of the nation during the past couple of years were acerbated by the arrival of yet another El Nino condition giving rise to a series of torrential rains in the West, the Midwest, along the Eastern Seaboard and in the South during 2002-2003.
Add in heavy snow pack in the West, uncommon erosion and you have the making of a real opportunity for gold and treasure hunters. There were 440 wildfires in Arizona during 2002.
The largest forest fire in the history of the state, the fast-moving Rodeo Fire (located near Show Low), went from 700 acres to 50,000 acres within seven hours. Four days later, that total added up to more than 400,000 acres. Lost mine hunters take note-The net result of this fire is to open up and expose lands where the Lost Adams Diggings are supposedly located.
Land management and forestry officials predict massive erosion to occur in burned-out mountainous regions following snow melts and the rainy season throughout the West. Keep in mind that the forces of erosion are the direct cause of fresh placer gold deposits.
During the spring and early summer of 2003, the South received huge amounts of rain, causing severe flooding in many areas. You can be sure that fresh placer deposits will be exposed in states like Georgia. Forest and brush fires tend to uncover evidence of both old workings and undiscovered gold deposits, as do floods.
While the U.S. Forest Service is seeding burnt ground with rye and other grasses, the effects of severe erosion from rain and snow will be swift and devastating exposing new gold deposits, eventually sending nugget's to the bottom of fire-ravished hillsides into gullies and ravines, streams and rivers.
Where thick undergrowth in a forest may have disguised evidence of old mine workings, once a fire sweeps these away, the old workings may come to light. When you prowl around burned-out areas, you may find a lost mine.
TIPS FOR NUGGET HUNTERS WORKING IN THE MOUNTAINS:
During the 1930s, a time when long lines of men stood in soup lines waiting for handouts, there were hundreds of hearty souls not willing to wait around for a handout.
These men and women packed up what little gear they had and headed for the foothills of the Sierras to snipe for gold. Quite a few succeeded in earning from one to three dollars per day even though the gold they found sold for $35 an ounce.
The more experienced snipers were able to recover as much as 12 to 15 ounces of gold per day. How did they do it, what tools and techniques did they use and how do their methods apply to todays detectorist?
They worked and reworked ground that was mined when gold was relatively plentiful during the Gold Rush days in the creeks, streams and old diggings from the oak and Digger pine-covered foothills in the south to the fir-covered slopes found in the northern portions of the famous Mother Lode.
HOW TO FIND AND RECOVER STREAMBED GOLD
Even today, hot and dry conditions remain a serious threat to ranchers, outdoorsmen and foresters in various parts of the West, including: Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and parts of California.
In many areas, long stretches of just about every stream are close to dry. While the drop in water levels has posed real problems for dredgers, owners of gold detectors have no such problems.
TIP ONE: There are several ways of solving the problem of working ground where theres an inadequate supply of water: You can use a metal detector to recover placer gold along dry creek beds and streams. You can use an underwater detector to locate nugget's in the cracks and crevices of bedrock that remains underwater.
TIP TWO: During Californias Gold Rush days, miners would work up to the border of their neighbors claim leaving a strip of gold-bearing gravel about a foot wide untouched. Spend a little time looking for these strips between claims.
Use your gold detector to determine if nugget's are present. Start shoveling gravel from the strip into five-gallon plastic buckets once youre sure they are gold bearing. You can sort out the gravel for larger nugget's using screens, then scan the leftover materials using your gold detector.
Most of these old, untouched strips of gold-bearing gravel run to a length of about 200 feet so youll be shoveling gravel for several days.
TIP THREE: Another tactic is to search for rock walls left behind by the old-timers. Rocks were piled up, creating walls alongside streambeds to get at bedrock and the overlying gold-rich gravel. You should tear down sections of these rock walls to get at any gold-bearing gravel they may have covered up.
Most have never been touched! You may find walls with strips of gravel beneath them that were ignored or overlooked by the Forty-niners.
A paystreak usually runs the walls entire length, which can be as much as 100 yards long. During the Great Depression years, only a few of the more experienced snipers found and worked the wall gravel. Using a gold detector, its possible to earn up to $300 per foot.
RECOVERING GOLD IN THOSE DROUGHT-STRICKEN AREAS:
Dale Schutte, who owns both a Fisher Gold Bug and a Minelab SD-2100 gold detector, says he searches for nugget's only where gold was found in the past, adding that he prefers to hunt for nugget's right after heavy rains strike as thats when rapid moving water will break loose gold and deposit it into streams and washes. Dale is adamant about the need for research prior to any fieldwork.
You need to study technical mining publications like those put out by the Arizona Bureau of Mines or the U. S. Geological Survey, such as Placer Gold Deposits of Nevada, Bulletin 136, prior to any field work.
TIP: FOR LOST MINE HUNTERS
Forest and brush fires tend to uncover evidence of lost mines and buried treasures. Where thick undergrowth in a forest may have disguised a treasure cave or a lost mine, once fire sweeps through an area, evidence of old workings or a cave entrance may come to light.
Tony Hillerman, a writer best known for his portrayal fictional characters, Joe Leaohorn and Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police, used a forest fire in his latest mystery, The Wailing Wind, in which murder was linked to the finding of a lost gold mine southwest of New Mexicos Chuska Mountains located north of Gallup.
In his story, the lost mine was found as a result of evidence uncovered by a forest fire.
Clarence Catt searches for nugget's in Arizonas Tringo Mountains using a Fisher Gold Bug Two.