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The 4 Steps to Recreational Gold Prospecting

Chapter 1 Where to find Gold?

What are the types of Gold Recreational Prospectors will most likely find?

Where is the Gold deposited in a creek?

Chapter 2 How to Collect the Gold Bearing Material.

How First Time Gold Prospectors collect Gold Bearing Material.

Our Recommended Method for Collecting Gold Bearing Material.

Chapter 3 Classifying your Gold Bearing Material.

Using a Bucket and Shovel Method

Using a Gold Sluice Box

Using a Gas or Electric Powered Highbanker Sluice Box

Using a Gas Powered Gold Suction Dredge

Other Fine Gold Processing Equipment

Chapter 4 It all comes down to the Gold Pan for final clean-up.

Using a Gold Pan Effectively

Other Clean-up Tools to make life a little easier.

Chapter 5 Conclusion.

Chapter 1: Where to find Gold?

What are the types of Gold Recreational Prospectors will most likely find?

Although gold deposits are popularly associated with the western US, gold has widespread occurrence across the country. In the Eastern United States the zone of lode and placer gold deposits extends from the Saint Lawrence Waterway south to Montreal Canada all the way down to Mobile Alabama. The Eastern Slope of the Appalachian Mountains seems to be the western border of the gold line. These states were the main source of US gold before the California Gold discovery. Recreational gold miners have also had success in
the northeastern US.

Small amounts of gold have been found in streams draining glacial deposits in the Midwest including parts of Northwestern Pennsylvania all the way to Illinois. Most of this gold is natural gold or gold flowing down from the Canadian Glaciers.

Gold prospecting and mining activities allowed on public lands vary with the agency and the location. Gold pans and shovels are commonly allowed, but sluice boxes and suction dredges may be prohibited in some areas. There are public mining areas in many states, and prospecting may allow one to stake a “Gold Placer Claim” or other type of mining claim in certain areas. Some public lands have been set aside for recreational gold panning. Some private land owners also give permission for small-scale gold mining.

There is a list of Public and Private Gold Prospecting Location available at www.coolgoldtools.com.

Where is the Gold deposited in a creek?

When gold prospecting a new stretch of river, it can at times be difficult to pick a place to start gold panning. There are a number of places that are good starting points for any search. But first some quick safety tips. Scout your location first, use Google Maps or Google Earth to get topographical maps of the area. Never Prospect alone, and let a family member, friend or neighbor know where you are going, even print a map from Google if you want. Since most placer gold you will be prospecting for will be in water be aware of flash floods, snakes and other potentially dangerous animals. Remember you are going into there backyard where they are king not you.

With that being said you need to know that Placer gold tends to deposit in areas of low water pressure. Placer gold was deposited when the Glaciers melted away and left behind rich mineral deposits. The rich gold bearing material continues to wash into creeks and rivers, even today. A good indicator of a Gold Bearing Material Deposit is anywhere the water slows, gold will try to find a resting place, while lighter gravels continue to wash down a river. When searching for these low pressure areas it is important to visualize the river during the high water season, that’s when the gold moves the most. If you are not able to visit the river during high water season, look for the high water mark, knocked over trees, piles of rocks or even an eroded bank will show you the “High Water Flow”.

Gold often travels down the middle, deepest trench of river. It’s always best to get a birds eye view of the area (Google Maps Again). Look for anything that might obstruct the flow of water along this path. You want to
find Trench Obstructions before you look for bends or sand banks. The richest Gold Bearing Material is often
found around large rock and boulders in the deepest part of the creek.

Since water flow is important any change in water flow will allow the gold to drop out. The low water pressure created behind a large rock or bolder, in a creek will yield the best chances for Gold.

When you get to your spot also look for exposed bedrock. If there are cracks or crevices crossing the flow of water, they can act as natural riffles in a sluice box. Surprisingly large pieces of gold can work their way into what appear to be small cracks. When a river widens, the water pressure decreases. This can allow gold to deposit.

The inside bend of a river causes water to slow enough that gold can be deposited on the bend along with other gravels that form a bar. Depending on the bar, placer gold can be concentrated on the up-river and down-river sections of the bar.

Once you’ve identified an area it’s time to go to work. Here is a great video about sampling that should help you develop a method of sampling that’s easy and will increase you gold yield.


Now I highly recommend that you try sampling rather than just picking a spot and going for it. The goal of sampling is to locate a more richer section of gravel before you start gold panning. It is well worth the time and effort to sample so that you can find the pockets or pay streaks of gold. Here is where most placer gold has
been discovered in the US.


Chapter 2 How to Collect the Gold Bearing Material.

How First Time Gold Prospectors collect Gold Bearing Material.

Since Gold can be found in many different places, extracting the Gold Bearing Material changes from location to location. We will give you tips on collecting gold from these different locations. Since gold is found in lode deposits, residual deposits, alluvial deposits, dry bench deposits, wet stream bed and bedrock deposits, ancient
rivers, and flood layers. Methods of collection will change.

Lode Deposits: A lode deposit is a crack or fissure in hard rock that’s full of gold. This is the original source of placer deposits. By breaking or crushing the hard rock away from the gold this is a very labor intensive method of gold collection. Ore Crusher or Pulverizes are available in manual, gas & electric models on E-Bay. These units pulverize the material to different “Mesh” size. Mesh size is the sifter that the finished material passed through. Mesh size can be described in inches or by the number of sifting squares per square inch. A 100 Mesh Sifter has 100 Mesh Squares per square inch of sifting surface. Find out more about classifying sifters at: http://www.coolgoldtools.com/gold_pans.html

Lode Residual Deposits: Residual deposits are pieces of ore that have eroded away from a lode. They are usually directly under the lode that they broke away from. Since the pieces are smaller, using a crusher of pulverize in a manual version is very effective in removing the gold. Again a very labor intensive activity, there is always the danger of cave-ins with you collect this material since the Lode located above you is deteriorating. Be very careful when collecting this material.

Lode Alluvial Deposits: Known as Alluvial deposits these pieces of ore have eroded away from a lode, but haven’t been deposited in a stream. The hills that they came  from may no longer exist, or may even be further downhill. Through massive floods and heavy rains these deposits are found in the most unusual places. Some Alluvial Deposits were created when flooded rivers and streams erode a hillside. The fast moving current and rising waters often removes any overburdened material that has buried the gold deposits. Once these deposits are exposed to the light of day you can follow an “Ore Streak” . You will still have to work pretty hard to collect any material. Wikipedia has some great information. Links and pictures of Lode Alluvial Deposits http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alluvium

Dry Bench Deposits: Dry Bench Deposits are found on the banks of a stream, and Streambed Deposits are found under the water. You can start your exploration in a dry streambed. If you don’t see any signs there, chances are that the entire basin is bare. Matt Mattson of www.treasuresites.com has a great video about getting gold in Dry Bench Deposits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8VpW14My9E 

Wet Streambed and Bedrock Deposits: With Wet Streambed and Bedrock Deposits you will look for cracks
or crevices in the rock at the bottom of the stream. Gold will settle into them. Any rough or irregular bedrock surface will act as a gold trap. Potholes in the bedrock will trap gold, so dig until you find the hard edges of the
hole. Smooth and polished surfaces don’t trap gold well. The best way to extract gold from these crevices is using a Hand Dredge or Gold Sucker. Cool Gold Tools.com features 2 of the most popular and effective units. In order to see how these unit work watch the instructional videos at: http://www.coolgoldtools.com/hand_dredge_gold_suckers.html

The Most Popular Recreational Gold Prospecting is Wet Streambed and Bedrock Prospecting. Since the equipment used is very inexpensive, the yield of Gold Bearing Material increases you chances of finding Gold or Precious Stones. The “Signs” that a Wet Streambed and Bedrock Prospecting area may contain Gold Bearing Material are significant. Here are a few hints that will help you to identify where to start digging up that Gold Bearing Materials.

Dikes in the bedrock will trap gold in different ways. If it angles downstream, gold will to collect on the downstream side. If it angles upstream, it will tend to collect on the upstream side. Rock outcroppings from
the stream sides work about this same way.

Any sudden drop-off into a deeper and larger volume of water is a good place to look. Boulders at the base of a waterfall will protect gold deposits from being boiled away by the falling water. Sometimes the gold will
settle out just beyond the boil out point. If the slope of the streambed lessens and smoothens out, there may be a good sized deposit there. Look on Google Earth, Google Maps or topographical maps for places where the grade levels off and check it out.

Gold tends to follow the shortest route between bends. Boulders in the stream may trap gold on the downstream side. Of course, if they are in the shortest path, they are even more likely to do so.

Ancient Rivers: During the Tertiary period, about 2 million years ago, the mountains underwent a lot
of twisting and faulting. Many streams were formed, most of which ran in a South-East direction. The benches of these ancient rivers and streams are well known for the rich deposits they contain. These deposits often have a deep blue color, and are called ‘Blue lead’, which turns a rusty reddish brown after being dug up and exposed to the air. They are often very hard and compacted.

Flood Gold: Flood gold can be found at the bottom of flood layers where heavy storms with enough force to move large amounts of gold will produce concentrations. Watch for layers of differing color, hardness and consistency. Some hard layers may masquerade as bedrock, so don’t give up if the going gets a little hard. The shortest route idea applies here, also. Sharp bends may show good return in the inside edges quite far from the normal water line.

Our Recommended Method for Collecting Gold Bearing Material.

Here are our choices for the most Recommended Methods for Collecting Gold Bearing Material.

When collecting Gold Bearing Material you want to keep in mind two priorities, Portability and Quality of Material Collected. This is very important to any successful prospecting adventure.

Portability: Let’s say you have studied a creek in your area and want to “Sample” (as explained at the end of Chapter 1 with a very instructive Youtube Video) to see if you can find gold. Some areas of the creeks are more accessible than others. Carrying a lot of tools, buckets and other equipment may really slow you down. If you want to really cover a lot of ground you need to take only the basics. Once you find Gold then you can always scale up your Collection Efforts.

Quality of Material Collected: Please don’t confuse Quality of Material with Volume of Material. Volume only matters when you hit the gold. You are hedging your efforts by collecting only Quality.

Since it is almost impossible to “Shovel” gold bearing material from under a layer of water we have found that a Hand Dredge or Gold Sucker works best. The Two unit we recommend are The Yabby Gold Sucker and The Gold ‘n Sand Hand Dredge.

Both Units are very effective but as with anything they have differences that can be the difference between success and failure.



The Yabby Gold Sucker
is made for moving Larger Volumes of Material per stroke. The Yabby Gold Sucker also has several attachment that enhance how the unit works. You can add a Collection Bin that hangs on the side of the unit for total portability when sampling. If you find yourself in an area with hard packed gravel, that you need to get through, The Yabby Gold Sucker is designed to slip inside of The Bull Digger.

The Bull Digger is a Steel Digging Tool with 4 Steel Digging Tines designed to break up hard packed material, loosening it so The Yabby Gold Sucker can suck the loosened material right up. The tines have a 1200 pound rate of bending force, The Bull Digger can pry up and move almost any size rock.

The Yabby Gold Sucker does not come with a collection bid. The 1 ? Inch discharge hose has a threaded connector
and nut at the end. Drill a 1 ? inch hole in any 5 Gallon Plastic Bucket or plastic binand off you go.

The designers of The Yabby Gold Sucker do not offer any different nozzles, leaving that up to the users own design and imagination. There are instructional videos on making your own custom nozzles, online.

Informational Video: http://www.youtube.com/v/T5XlAI6p69c

The Gold n’ Sand Hand Dredge is a self-contained prospecting tool. The Gold n’ Sand Hand Dredge comes with a 2 Gallon Collection Bucket with easy removable lid. There are several “Tips” included with the Gold n’ Sand come standard. Both Portable and Easy to Use. Replacement Parts are available.

Informational Video:

Ordering Page: http://www.coolgoldtools.com/hand_dredge_gold_suckers.html


Chapter 3: Classifying your Gold Bearing Material.

Using a Bucket and Shovel Method

The Least Expensive Way to collect Gold Bearing Material is The Bucket and Shovel Method. You will only need a few things to get started. The only point that I can stress to you is to use a “Classifier” on top of your bucket to limit the amount of material you will have to further classify and pan through to find the gold.

Watch the DIY Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpLIJjikguE

Using a Gold Sluice Box

The use of a Gold Sluice Box will certainly increase the amount of material you move. There are several kinds of sluice boxes on the market today. Here is my take on Gold Sluice Boxes. I have found that the “Hungarian Riffles” in a metal sluice box needs a porous material called “Miners Moss”, to capture the gold that is collected behind the riffles. There is also a layer of V Rubber Matting needed to secure the gold that has made its way through the Miners Moss.

A few manufacturers have developed ABS Plastic Sluice Boxes with “Drop Riffles” built into the box itself creating a “Nugget Trap”. There is no need for Miners Moss or V Matting in most cases. The cost of long term operation of an ABS Gold Sluice Box drops over time.

There is one factor the impacts the success use of a Gold Sluice Box, and that is Water Flow. Without proper water flow neither sluice will allow the lighter material to flow out properly. There is however a new sluice box on the market that is made in both metal and ABS Plastic and its proper use and success really doesn’t rely on water flow as much as the old school sluice boxes have.

This new sluice box is called an “Under Current” or “Nugget Trap” Sluice Box. It consists of two beds, one on top of the other. The lower bed channels through water to the “Nugget Chamber”. At the end of the Top Sluice Section there is a series of rails that diverts larger stones and rocks away from the “Nugget Trap”. The water flowing into the “Nugget Trap” creates a “Fluid Bed” in the lower section of the sluice box. When the gold bearing material goes
down the top section the entire smaller items drop into the “Nugget Trap”.

A fluidized bed consists of fluid-solid mixture that exhibits fluid-like properties. As such, the upper surface of the bed is relatively flat. The bed can be considered to be an in homogeneous mixture of fluid and solid that can be represented by a single bulk density simulating water.

Furthermore, an object with a higher density such as gold, will sink, whereas an object with a lower density sand and smaller rocks, will float up and out of the Nugget Trap.

Here you can see a head to head video of a Fluid Trap sluice box vs. a Standard Metal Hungarian Riffle Sluice Box. Before you watch the video keep in mind that it was more time consuming pre-classifying the Gold Bearing Material.

Here is that link to that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ1xk4Td_bc

Just when you thought the controversy over here comes Cool Gold Tools.com with a new type of ABS Plastic Drop Riffle Gold Sluice Box. The idea behind Cool Gold Tools.com ABS Drop Riffle Sluice Box is simple, “Why not make a sluice box with multiple nugget fluid traps?”, and that’s just what we did.

If you watch the video on the previous page Nugget said that in testing of the Bazooka Gold Trap he had to use a lot of water. Our design requires much less water and has a higher recovery rate than any other sluice we test against in the market today. Here is a video of both our Full Sized Sluice Box and our Mini Drop Riffle Gold Sluice Box:

Full Size: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciViqp50Lec

Mini : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFJz2IrCq1A

Using a Gas or Electric Powered Highbanker Sluice Box

When you are ready to move up to the next level, you may want to purchase a Highbanker Sluice Box.

There is a lot of benefit in having a Highbanker. Keep in mind that some states do not allow you to operate a “Gas” Powered Motor anywhere near a creak or river. Be sure to check with your local authorities or Gold Prospecting Club for Rules. Since most vehicles come equipped with 110 Outlet plugging in your Electric Circulating Pump may be a more environmentally sound solution. Visit our website form more info on Highbankers: http://www.coolgoldtools.com/highbankers.html 

Using a Gas Powered Gold Suction Dredge

Banned almost all over the country a Gold Suction Dredge is the most effective way to process and move material. Because of the shear destructive power, a Suction Dredge used by a greedy, money hungry pig; Suction Dredging has been banned in almost every state. Because of the actions of a few slobs, we the recreational gold prospectors have to suffer. Before you purchase a Gold Suction Dredge make sure it is legal to use in your Gold Prospecting Area. Keep in mind as well that even of Public Waterways cross Private Property you can still get fined if your state has laws against Suction Dredging even on Private Land.

Other Fine Gold Processing Equipment

There are all kinds of other gold prospecting tools and tricks that are easy to use. I suggest that if you are new to Gold Prospecting take it one step at a time.

First find the gold using a Pan, Classifier and Shovel. Once you find it use a Gold Sucker or Hand Dredge to collect the material. Next you’ll want to get a Gold Sluice Box to increase your yield. The bigger your gold returns the bigger the Gold Tools. Once you start to find more and more gold you’ll want bigger equipment to increase you yield. At that time it will be too late and you have Gold Fever.

To find more products visit: www.coolgoldtools.com



Chapter 4: It all comes down to the Gold Pan for
final clean-up.

Using a Gold Pan Effectively

Panning gold is something anyone can learn to do. First you need some gold bearing material for this step. Either you find it in the field or you buy some from a gold panning supplier or your local Gold Prospecting Club. Once you have your hopefully gold bearing material, fill your gold pan 2/4 to 3/4 to the top with the sand. A good idea is to pick out rocks or classify the material before you start panning, just make sure the stones you are throwing away aren’t gold nuggets! The Garrett Classifier is a good beginner choice.

You can start panning in the safety of your home or out on the creek. If you are going to do it outside you should find a spot along the stream where the water flows just enough to carry the silt away from your gold pan. Try  finding a place where you can sit, like a rock or a log. Squatting will get tiresome if you plan on panning for a longer while.

Submerge your pan under water and work the content with your hands, breaking it up and removing any roots or moss. Gold can hide in moss, so wash the moss above your gold pan before you throw it away. Don’t worry about losing any gold in this step; remember that gold is heavy so it will sink to the bottom while the other stuff floats away.

With the gold pan just under the surface of the water, shake it left and right. This will break up the content even further and “liquefy” the sand, dirt and water mix. By shaking you also the process of moving the gold towards the bottom and the lighter materials to the top.

Tilt the forward edge of your pan downward. If your pan has riffles, as most modern gold pans have, the riffles should be pointed forward. Now, with the forward edge tilted, repeat and shake the pan left and right. This will again make the gold move towards the bottom.

Now it’s time to get rid of the crap that we don’t want in our pan, which means everything that’s not gold. With the gold pan just below the surface of the water, use a back and forth or up and down movement that lets the water sweep away the lighter materials on top. The water should do all of the work in removing the non-gold stuff.

Another way to get rid of the lighter materials is dipping your pan and lifting it up, while allowing the water to transport the lighter material out of the pan. Think of a wave crashing against the beach and how the water takes with it the top layer of sand, it’s the same principle we’re using here.

You should re-shake your pan once in a while as you did in step 5, to ensure that the gold stays at the bottom. Now you basically just repeat the previous steps until only the heaviest materials are left in your pan, which often are black sand and gold.

The most common type of black sand is magnetic, which makes for easy removal if you use a plastic gold pan. When you are down to black sand and hopefully some gold, take a magnet and carefully remove the black sand.
Also make sure none of the gold gets trapped in the magnetic black sand when you remove it. One way to make sure no gold is thrown away is to drop the black sand into another plastic gold pan, swirl the stuff around and once again use  the magnet to remove the black sand. You don’t necessarily need to use a magnet, you could pan all your way down to the gold. But a magnet will make the process easier for you.

At this point you mostly have gold in your pan if you’re lucky, along with any remaining black sand. Now you can either use a snuffer bottle or a tweezers to pick up the pieces of gold from your pan. If you don’t have a snuffer bottle or a tweezers, wet your finger with saliva and finger the gold. This will make the gold stick to your finger until it touches the water in your container. This method works, but it’s slower than using a snuffer bottle or tweezers.

Most experienced prospectors don’t spend time picking out every small gold flake in their pan before moving on to new material, they know that it’s the amount of material you can process in a day that counts. They follow the same steps as above, but at last step they usually pan down to as little black sand as they can, remove any larger nuggets and gold flakes and then collect the remaining black sand and gold in a small bucket until they have a sizable amount that they can process further.

This method is better because you’ll get more panning done and spend less time picking out tiny specks of gold with your tweezers/snuffer bottle.

You can practice gold panning in your own backyard, without even having any gold bearing material. What you need, except from a gold pan of course, is something to simulate stream bed material, like dirt mixed with sand, gravel and rocks. To simulate gold you can take some pieces of lead, for example buckshot or lead fishing weights and cut them up to represent everything from small nuggets to tiny gold flakes (Use a hammer to pound the flakes!). This simulated “gold” will act like real gold surprisingly well.

By keeping track of the pieces of lead you put in your gold pan and how many you end up finding, you can keep track of your progress. If you want to practice panning real gold, you can actually buy bags of gold bearing dirt online. These bags contain the same type of materials you would encounter in the field and are guaranteed to contain gold. There’s no better way to practice panning than with the real thing.

Other Clean-up Tools to make life a little easier.

There are many other ways to clean your gold. If you only are planning on getting your pickers then saving the black ands and fine gold for further cleanup then visit our website for some ideas.

Visit Cool Gold Tools.com at: http://www.coolgoldtools.com/fine_gold_recovery.html


Chapter 5: The Conclusion

So where do I Start?

First, do not go out and buy a piece of heavy machinery, when all you need is a gold pan. Learn the basics first and always start with the basics. The basics can include, pick, shovel, a gold pan, a sluice box and some type of little sniffer bottle that is used to suck gold up from the cracks. It would also be a great idea to team of with someone who has some experience under their belt as this can save you many hours of frustration.

Many gold prospector’s will agree that they started out small and once their experience and knowledge increased then and only then did they purchase more expensive equipment that went along with advanced mining methods. There would be nothing worse than purchasing a piece of gold prospecting equipment only to find that you cannot use it where your prospecting or you lack the appropriate skill in handling it.

My advice would be to work at building your gold prospector knowledge over a course of a year or two before you ever decide to buy the bigger prospecting toys. Learn the basics first and really learn them to the point that you could teach them to a class if needed. Once you get to this level of prospecting then it would be safe to determine if you want to enlarge your gold prospecting methods and make the decision to buy the more expensive mining equipment that is out there.

Ok so let’s go back over some important things:

Start small; learn the basics of gold prospecting before jumping off the bridge into deeper water.

Enjoy yourself while you are out there gold prospecting, learn from your mistakes, take time and do your due diligence before heading out into the field.

Allow for discouragement but do not dwell on it.

Know that the work in finding the gold will be hard at times, by this I mean being patient with the time it may take to find your first gold piece.

Do not get in over your head financially; you can have success with just the basic gold prospecting equipment available.

There is gold left to be found and I hope you find it, stay  positive and keep learning all you can in the gold prospecting arena. Get involved in some gold prospectingassociations or clubs. Talk to others who have been doing this for a while and get some tips and tricks that could save you some time and put you on the gold faster.

Best of Luck

Christopher Sciullo
Owner Cool Gold Tools.com