Locating Gold Areas
Before you can find any gold you have to have a place to prospect.
Three ways of locating gold areas are discussed on this page.
Be an independent prospector and research areas yourself, join
a club that already has gold claims, and utilizing areas that have
been withdrawn from mineral entry and set aside for recreational prospecting.
The best areas to find gold are where gold has been found previously.
This is easy since there are many books on the subject, some covering
For example see the Publications section
in the references below.
However this information can cover a huge area which you have to narrow
down to reasonable sized chunks for further research.
Once you have selected an area of interest you have to determine if the
area is already covered by current claims. This will require a visit to
the nearest BLM office since the BLM overseas mining claims and the County
Recorder's office. These will have the most current records.
The best areas will probably be well covered with valid claims.
This procedure can consume a large amount of time not devoted to actually
finding gold. This is only rewarding for experienced prospectors who know the
area and how to find gold.
However for those who wish to do some research
on-line, a list of helpful online resources are listed here. Some of these
have links to additional online maps that might be of interest. The list is
slanted toward Arizona but each state probably has similar information and
some of these are national.
- Using the USGS : Mineral Resources On-Line
Spatial Data you can construct maps with layers for such things as
streams and lakes, roads, mining claim density, mineral resources, and
mineral availability to get an overview of gold areas.
- The Arizona State Cartographer's Office has
several links to Arizona internet map services. The Arizona State Land
Department Online Maps show Arizona Surface Management Responsibility. The
Yavapai County maps also show surface management as well as patented mining claims.
- TerraServer USA contains 3.3
tera-bytes of high resolution USGS aerial imagery and USGS topographic maps.
Select Aerial or Topo, map size and resolution. A great way to look over an
area of interest.
- For more in-depth research, see the following resources.
This is where clubs like the Desert Gold Diggers are invaluable. There
are local gold clubs all over the U.S., especially in gold producing areas, that
have good gold claims in the local area. For those without a nearby local club,
the G.P.A.A. is a national club with chapters and claims throughout the U.S. Many
DGD members belong to multiple clubs. For a list of clubs with claims in Arizona,
see the AZ Gold Clubs page. For additional
club listings see the US Gold Clubs page.
Arizona Prospecting Trip for one person's perspective on joining a club.
Also see "Where To Go" at nuggethunter.com
for his experiences before and after joining a club. He has field tested several
different types of metal detectors for Lost Treasure magazine.
The Desert Gold Diggers has several gold claims in the Tucson area. These have
been researched and tested for gold. Since these claims are owned by the club, you
don't have to spend time researching a place to prospect and then hoping that it is
open for claiming as this has already been done. The club's claims cover hundreds
of acres so there is plenty of area to work and since all
claims have been tested for gold, you are assured of gold being there.
Most clubs have regularly scheduled outings to gold claims. The Desert Gold Diggers
has a monthly day outing with occasional weekend outings. Each month a different claim
is selected according to the time of year and possible fire restrictions. In the desert,
higher elevations are usually selected in the summer and lower ones in the winter to
take advantage of the weather, ours being ideal for year round prospecting.
The meeting place for each outing is selected at a well known and easily found
location. Then all vehicles are led to the claim by a member who knows the area
well. This helps all new members find the claims. Even though all members are
given claim maps, these outings are definitely the easiest way to find the claims.
Club members at these outings can also answer questions about the claims.
Recreational Prospecting in Mineral Withdrawal Areas
A third method of locating gold areas in which to prospect are Mineral withdrawal
areas that have been set aside for recreational prospecting. These are areas that
cannot be claimed but are open to anyone looking for gold. Most have some restrictions
as to what equipment that can be used. These range from panning only to practically any
equipment including dredges. There are many of these areas but they aren't widely
publicized. Below is a partial list that includes those that have information on-line
or that I have checked into personally. For additional areas see the
Online Resources section in the references
below. Note that there may be old grandfathered claims within these areas that are
not open to the public.
- Alaska General.
Mining Areas in Alaska lists 5 public areas.
- Kenai Peninsula.
on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula lists gold panning areas open to the public on the
Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National Forest. These sites are all within
two hour's driving time from Anchorage via the Seward and Sterling Highways.
- Fairbanks Area.
Stream's run gold: Near Fairbanks several public land areas in the nearby
hills and river valleys provide opportunities for a fun and sometimes profitable
- Dalton Highway: Much of the
land along the pipeline was closed to "mineral entry" or claim staking, but is
open for casual mining.
- Prescott National
Forest - Recreation: Recreational Prospecting in the Lynx Creek Mineral Withdrawal
Area. A large public prospecting area in a good known gold area. Restricted
to panning and metal detecting. All other methods, including sluice boxes and
any mechanized methods, are not allowed. Please leave the area as you found it
so that this area remains open to public prospecting.
- Lake Pleasant
Park. The Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources, on their
Arizona Rockhound and
Tourist Information page, mentions in regard to Lake Pleasant Park:
"Gold panning is allowed in the park, but not metal detecting or rockhounding.
There is a nominal entrance fee. Twenty miles northwest of Phoenix on Castle Hot
Springs Road." However Maricopa County manages the 24,000-acre regional park
and the rules seem to be different. According to a call to the Lake Pleasant
Contact Station (928-501-1710) on 2/13/04, metal detecting is allowed in the park
(don't leave holes) but other types of recreational prospecting must be cleared
through the Operations Center (602-372-7460).
- The 11,400-acre
Posa Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA) lies approximately two miles south of
Interstate 10 and the town of Quartzsite off of U.S. Highway 95. This was mentioned
on another web page as a recreational prospecting site but a call to the BLM Yuma
Field Office (928-317-3200) on 2/13/04 indicated that recreational prospecting,
including metal detecting was not allowed in the LTVA.
- The Gold Prospectors of Colorado PUBLIC
ACCESS PANNING AREAS mentions POINT BAR (ABOUT 8 MILES DOWNSTREAM FROM SALIDA
ON HWY 50) as a BLM public access area. Other public areas mentioned.
- Oregon General.
HOW TO PAN
FOR GOLD from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. Four
areas have been set aside on Federal land in Oregon for recreational gold panning.
- Eugene District
BLM Sharp's Creek Campground. We permit recreational gold panning from June 1
through September 15. We permit sluicing and suction dredging within the stream
bed from July 1 through September 1, provided the mining activity does not
interfere with other recreational activities.
- Cow Creek Recreation Area
A 1,300 foot segment along the lower stem of Cow Creek is withdrawn from private
mining claims to offer recreational gold panning opportunities to the public.
Also see the Roseburg
District Office Recreation Page.
River Recreation Site This site is predominantly used for camping and
recreational gold mining (dredging, sluicing and panning) from late spring to
early fall. Recreational dredging is administered by the State of Oregon and has
been authorized since 1970. Currently dredging is authorized only during the
"In-stream Work Period": July 15 through September 30. Panning and sluicing is
allowed year-round. Commercial mining is prohibited.
- Umpqua National Forest.
Creek Campground The area is withdrawn from mineral location although
recreational gold panning is allowed.
- Hobo Camp
The Hobo Camp area is withdrawn from mineral location although recreational
gold panning is allowed.
- Lund Park
Campground The park area is withdrawn from mineral location although
recreational gold panning is permitted.
- Rogue River National Forest.
- Wallowa - Whitman National Forest
- Baker Ranger District
Recreational gold panning and dredging are allowed in several locations in
Hills National Forest - Recreational Activities: Recreational gold panning
is allowed in some locations. Contact the closest Forest Service office for more
information on locations and rules. Metal detectors are allowed, as long as you
don't dig holes. (No specifics given)
- American Fork Management Area.
Forest Plan - Uinta National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan:
The American Fork Management Area is immediately adjacent to rapidly growing urban
areas in Utah Valley, and is just south of the Salt Lake Valley. Recreational
activities include developed and dispersed camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking,
rock climbing, mountain biking, bike touring, hunting, horseback riding,
recreational gold panning, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, scenic driving, and
photography. The American Fork Mining District, established in 1870, is within
the management area. Developed recreation sites, and the South Fork Administrative
Site have been withdrawn from mineral entry.
- Mike Higbee's Prospectors
Cache Gold Location Information lists many gold locations by state.
Some of these are recreational prospecting sites that have been withdrawn from
mineral entry. A very extensive list covering many states. Great resource.
(formerly Tom Ashworth's site)
- Minin' Gold The Recreational
Gold Prospecting and Mining Page by Bill Westcott is another great resource.
His Where to find it page offers some good information.
- How to Mine and Prospect
for Placer Gold by J.M. West. This Bureau of Mines publication, Information
Circular 8517, was released in 1971 and contains information on all aspects of
- USGS Publications
- GOLD Discusses the nature of gold,
its origins, and the geologic environments in which it is commonly found.
Provides information about the uses of gold and a brief historical account of
production in the United States.
- PROSPECTING FOR
GOLD IN THE UNITED STATES Describes various kinds of gold deposits and
their locations. Offers a brief review of the problems faced by present-day
prospectors and lists available maps and services.
- Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona, Geological Survey Bulletin 1355, by
Maureen G. Johnson (reprinted by Gem Guides) has an extensive list of Arizona gold
placers. These are listed by county and then by gold district. Some areas are
of unknown location, some are general, some are large and some are even specific.
A very good reference for Arizona gold placers.
- Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, Arizona Bureau of Mines Bulletin 168,
is another good reference and companion to the previous USGS Bulletin. It lists
locations by county and then by the placer name. Same note as to area locations.
- Placer Gold Deposits of Nevada, Geological Survey Bulletin 1356, by
Maureen G. Johnson (reprinted by Gem Guides) has an extensive list of Nevada gold
placers. Similar to Arizona guide above.
- Maureen G. Johnson also has books on the placer deposits of New Mexico and Utah.
- Gold Placers of Colorado, Quarterly of the Colorado School of Mines, Book 1
(Volume 69, Number 3) and Book 2 (Volume 69, Number 4) by Dr. Ben H. Parker, Jr.
is a a very extensive list of Colorado gold placers with very good location
- Arizona's Golden Secret by Ronald S. Wielgus discusses gold bearing areas
throughout Arizona, many of which he has personally tested. For those areas
discussed he presents more detailed information than the books mentioned above.
- Yours for the Taking and Arizona's Little-Known Gold Placers by
Ronald S. Wielgus continue with more gold areas.
Please send any comments and suggestions on these pages to the
This page was last updated on 1 August 2005.