Prospecting Your Claims Part 1
Once you are out at your claims the first thing that should be done is a verification of boundaries. Take some surveyor ribbon along to mark areas of interest along with where the boundaries lie. By walking over the claims like this to find corners and boundaries it allows you to also get a good look at the lay of the land. Most people first head off to the creek and try to find a place to start panning. I like to walk the claims first to find where my property lies and this time also allows me to be on the look out for out croppings, misplaced rocks, old trenches, signs of old diggings, old cabins etc. All these items can tell you a lot of things. Look at the terrain imagining what it looked like 1 million years ago. Find old river beds. Most benches are old river beds and in a lot of cases the benches have more gold in them than the creek bottom today.
Ribboning off a corner boundary.
Once I have verified my boundaries I try to find a areas that where there is benches along with flats, or areas that contain a lot of large boulders. Areas that are already exposed like edges of cliffs along creeks is a great place to start. This will give you an idea of not only what the area at creek level is but also it allows you to test the benches. By first digging down a foot or so I will then take a panful of material and run a sample. These samples will give you an idea of black sands, golds or what is know in the field as "colors" and even garnets which are mineral indicators.
In the photo below you can see the boulder layer and the hard pan layer right below that. That area of hard pan is sometimes called "false bedrock" and it is comprised of compressed materials that alluvial golds can not quite penetrate. Find areas like that and you have yourself a good place to start you prospecting.
Doing a quick wash-up of test materials.
After we have run quick sample tests we then calculate what we got from these samples and located them on a quick map that will show us where each sample was taken. Once an are has been established as what we call "good digging" we will bring in some bigger equipment and start digging testing trenches and pits. These are know as "bulk samples" being as they can contain anywhere from 10 yards of material to 100 yards of material. Each of these trenches or pits will be tested at various depths also to give us an idea of where the "pay zone" is located.
Test trench in an upper bench area.
Testing of trenches and pits requires larger equipment. It would be a very tough jobs trying to test 10 yards little own 100 yards of material by hand. Mind you it can be done. We use small excavators when we test these types area. They are small enough to get into tight areas, very nimble at getting around and are surprisingly extremely powerful when it comes to digging strength.
Kubota KX91-3. About a 7000 pound machine
The materials to be washed can be done over almost any kind of sluice or small test trommel. Some people just use old sluice runs like long toms while others use smaller screening plants or test trommel. If the soil conditions on your claims are sandy or quite porous with little to NO clays, then screening plants are the better way to go. Small screening plants can process a lot of material in short order. With just a small sluice run to catch washed materials you can process dozens of yards of material a day. One quick clean up and you can do your counts quick and easy and your off to the next test area. If your claims have a lot of clays then you will need something along the line of a trommel that will "break" those clays up and give the material a good wash.
Starting to test an upper bench area.
After each area is tested it is recommended to reclaim the area back to way it was the best way you can. That means filling in the trenches or pits, covering up and backfilling settling pounds etc. We like to allow the settling ponds to dry up first then return to fill them in with the same materials we took to make the ponds. After that we level the entire area off.
Area of bench and ponds all reclaimed.
Continue Onto Prospecting & Mining For Placer Gold