So, you’ve found a wash that had a few nuggets in it. You pounded it to death with all your coils and machines. You’ve even hit the hillsides and perhaps you even found a nice patch in the vicinity of where the current or previous source of the gold was. Now what?
Well, if you’ve done the job correctly it should be time to move on and find a new spot. Have you done the job correctly?
One time I was taken to a “patch” one time that was purported to have yeilded in excess of 40 troy ounces of nugget gold. When I got there, it was obvious that very little if any gold had come from the spot. For one thing, when I started detecting in what was said to be the center of the nugget patch I began to find all these little rusted tin targets. Well, I don’t know about you but if I found a place that yeilded that much placer gold, I’d dig every single target. The other obvious indicator was that under the trees and cactus, there was remaining all manner of dead brush and detritus and no stones had been moved. If there was 40 ounces of gold found there (which there wasn’t), I’d say that most of the gold was left behind under rocks and brush.
Giving the benefit of the doubt for a moment, the guy that found this patch didn’t know the secret of successful patch cleaning. The secret lies in one word: Placer.
As in the verb.
“Me and Christopher found a bunch a gold nuggets and we are going back to placer the wash,” said Robert.
“Oh, you mean your going to drywash for fines?”, asked Earl
Robert said, “Heck no! What I MEANT was that we are going to process all the rich material in the wash by removing all the overburden so we can get into all the nuggets in the bedrock cracks covered by a foot or more of material. There are a lot of small nuggets under that overburden and trapped deep in the cracks of the bedrock and our GPX4500’s won’t reach down that far on those really small but copious nuggets that are literally EVERYWHERE in the wash but because no one ever digs down to them, they are still there, even though the wash is right next to the fricken road!”
“Oh.” groused Earl.
The point here is this: If you find gold nuggets in a location and you remove all the targets and use all the coils and machines in your arsenal but fail to move dead branches, large rocks, scrape areas and dig down bedrock in all feasable spots in a wash, you are leaving gold behind. Period.
Just to give an idea of how this works in real life I’ll tell a little story. Rod, Laszlo and I were combing an area which seemeda good bet for a virgin placer gold patch. After splitting up for awhile, we reconvened at a small wash where Laszlo had scored a couple of nice gold nuggets out of the wash. Needless to say we were all totally stoked. This spot was remote as hell and there was no sign of any detectors. The wash had been hit in the very distant past as indicated by the small handstacks and drywash header piles but how exciting! A new spot in a remote area untouched by modern detectors. That’s the brass ring boys.
We set to work and I think Laszlo got one more using his GP Extreme and Nuggetfinder 20″ SL. Rod and I got nothing for our efforts at pounding with our 14″ mono’s. The next trip also yeilded nothing for me and only one teensie little match head for Rod. I think a third trip yeilded nothing. Well, two significant events happened after that. Rod found a hillside piece and Laszlo’s detector broke in the field and he had no option but to dig. The hillside yeilded a lot of gold but some of the best gold came out of that wash after the digging began. Once that overburden was removed, the nuggets just kept coming and coming. Eventually, with expansion, the patch yeilded over 60 nuggets and a lot of those came from placering the wash by removing the overburden. I can assure you we expanded the handstacks and did a lot more work than the oldtimers did. No harm, no foul, the holes were covered and except for the extra rocks on the stacks, the place looks much like it did when we first arrived there. Placering was not the only key to finding gold in this spot but without it we would have left many nuggets behind. The hillside took dilligence and the digging was hard work but it turned a 4 nugget patch into a 60 nugget patch really quick.
Keep in mind I’m not suggesting you dig every square inch of every wash this way. You have to think. I’ve heard stories of guys detecting in major washes that have several feet of overburden and that is not what I’m talking about. You have to choose your battles and that is work best left to the trommels and backhoes. As metal detectorists we are looking for a reasonable compromise of exposed bedrock and areas where a foot or two of overburden can be dug to access the bedrock. Don’t waste your time in areas where it’s not reasonable to use a detector.
Another good example of a well worked patch is the famous Prescott nugget patch which to the best of my knowledge is under current lode claim. The oldtimers sunk a couple of adits here and, as I heard the tale, on one occasion they blasted and hit a really rich pocket of gold. When the blast went off, it sent a ton of matrix into the air which scattered down the hill and left it littered with nice specimens. The pocket was so rich that nobody bothered to go grab the species that now laid scattered. In the olden days folk used to go up and grab a few by eye if they wanted to go to the movie house or fetch some grub. Time passed and most of the easy stuff was picked up until someone researched the matter at the Sharlot hall, found out about the wayward blast of matrix and went up there with a Minelabs. This was several years ago and the results of their efforts, which apparently yeilded about 10 troy pounds of specimen gold, are still evident. There are no loose rocks in the area of the patch except those scraped into piles up under trees . There was a lot of scraping that occured there and it is a truely difficult area to score a nugget in. Another placer patch nearby shows similar efforts with a 25×25 area scraped clean with piles of rocks and totally devoid of targets. Now that’s patch cleaning.
Have you left gold behind somewhere? Better go back and get it!