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Localizing Desert Hillside Detectable Gold

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I’m seeking some wisdom in taking the next step in my prospecting journey. Up to this point, most of the gold I’ve found has been in riverbeds or washes. I’m not quite sure how to move from them into the hillsides. Here’s a current scenario, perhaps as a template to discuss. 

Recently, I’ve found a little desert wash with a fair amount of small, detectable gold. It’s within a broader area generally known for old-time dry washing. I can find no signs of old workings in this relatively short wash. Nevertheless, there are a few, very recent spots where someone has vacuumed and drywashed small portions of the bedrock. 

When I come across something like this, I typically test things out to see if someone else has been both onto and missing anything. Indeed, things were both found and missed. Over the course of several trips, I detected 55 small nuggets concentrated along the shallow bedrock.  Pictured here are the results from my last trip. Twenty seven pieces detected in one half-day. I found that even an inch or two of overburden was masking many of the signals. So, out came the rake and up came the signals. 


As I mentioned, this particular wash is small and shallow. Perhaps, it is 1-3 feet wide with a lot of of exposed bedrock. The overburden is anywhere from none to 1 foot deep. In only a few places, at the turns, do the banks accumulate up to 2 feet deep.

I have yet to find detectable gold in any of the surrounding washes. This leads me to wonder if there is a hillside source for these little nuglets. I’ve tracked them to the point at which they peter out moving upstream.  I’ve been thinking this may or may not be the starting point since eons of erosion could have taken them in either direction before the current topography set in place with such a shallow grade. 

My overarching question is how do you approach moving from washes into the hillsides in search of a possible source?

Do you loam the hillsides before electronic surveillance? Or, vice versa?

Do you set off detecting the area in a systematic fashion? 

Do you only detect at reefs or contact zones?

How deep do you typically find desert hillside gold?

Any tips, or advice, or preferences are points of valuable reference for me and would be sincerely appreciated. 

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Sometimes it is quicker to do some test pans to see if the gold goes up the hillside. Some of the nuggets in your shot are water worn and some rough so it could be that they are from small scattered stringers that are both eroding from the hillsides (rough) and collecting on bedrock (tumbled).

Just this year I started seeing a pattern in one of my spots where I had better luck on area of the hillside that is just before it flattened out, quite a ways out of the wash. I found it by walking contour lines parallel to the water flow.

Here is an amazing piece of art that demonstrates my theory. The gold was pocket gold that got exposed by water slowly eroding the hillside. May not be the same for you but if it helps then my hours creating this was worth it.


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There is so many ways to go about it, but every spot/patch is different. You are going about it the right way by thinking about your options. The main thing to do is to try the shallow ground first and decide how deep you can get that type gold as you go.

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This is one of my favorite type terrains to detect small nuggets, I have found that anywhere drywashers or even a single drywasher has been setup and did well, tiny nuggets still exist in these areas. The areas I have found like this are generally on hillsides. And the nuggets will be in lines or at least are on my patches like this.

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7 hours ago, Mxt Sniper said:

And the nuggets will be in lines or at least are on my patches like this.

How narrow and/or shallow have you found the lines to be?

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Pretty darn narrow maybe 20 yards wide or less, but could be 50-200 yards long just depends how long its been shedding I guess. Most these areas are very small overall, obscure,  so its easy to see how a person might not find gold in a given area, yet someone else who knows exact locations (perimiters) will be more successful. I found a few of my patches by working off others dig holes, then checking for lines after finding a few nuggets. Gradually you will see how and where a patch runs. I learned this from reading AuTrinity's postings yrs ago.

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Pick up a pack of orange survyer flags and cut half of the wire off of each one to help save on weight. Detect in a circular radius moving outward, increasing the size of the radius. Overlap your swing and pay attention to all signals. When you hit on a piece of gold put a flag marker in the ground. From there detect in a circular direction again or perhaps on surveillance just a 3/4 circular radius is needed until you hit on the next nugget. Put the next flag in the ground. Repeat this process and you will start to see a line and the direction you should be detecting in. Remember, that regolith, including gold has a tendency to move down a slope or Hill in a fan shape, spreading out towards the lower sections.This will apply whether it is coming from a lode or or an old placer gold pocket eroding out of a hillside that was once part of a former drainage.

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14 hours ago, Mxt Sniper said:

I learned this from reading AuTrinity's postings yrs ago.

I looked for his info on the topic, but Google comes up dry searching for that user handle.  I see another thread here talking about him and detecting burn scars.  Perhaps, he's changed his online name?  Maybe I'll have to search up his past article in ICMJ.

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