In recent years, there have been no fewer than half a dozen documentary-style shows on television devoted to gold mining. Prospectors have indeed come a long way from the “river and pan” methods of days gone by, today instead utilizing high-tech equipment, heavy-duty machinery, and modern conveniences on-site. Of course, most of these crews are backed by multi-million dollar investment firms or individuals who want to take a bite out of the billions (yes, billions) in undiscovered gold still present under the North American soil. That same spirit of unearthing the “American Dream” drove the California Gold Rush of 1849, as it is driving gold mining today.
But you don’t have those multi-million dollar backers. Let’s say that it’s just you, maybe your family, or a few close friends. Is it possible, or practical, for you to venture into gold mining? Well, not only could it be practical, but it is definitely possible, and most of all, exhilarating!
- Learn the terminology – You are looking to become a prospector. While “gold mining” may be what you are looking to do, that term can also infer a much larger undertaking, one that most likely will require those big money backers, lots of heavy machines, and a hefty investment of time and money.
- Get a feel for gold mining – You will most likely benefit from looking into joining a gold club, such as the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA). A gold club provides an excellent resource for those who are just starting out. They offer a place to learn about prospecting, help you find workable claims, find people to prospect with, and find claims for sale. Right now, there are roughly 105 local gold clubs spread out in 33 cities all over the U.S.
- Gather your tools – In the early days of gold mining, prospectors basically had a pan and a river. Then, as mines started to spring up, large, ponderous contraptions were designed to wash larger amounts of soil. Now, gold mining operations have designed enormous machines, utilize heavy excavators and loaders, and employ state-of-the-art washing facilities. But since we’ve already established that you won’t have millions of dollars to throw around, keep it simple. You can get a nice head start on prospecting just by gathering the basics: pans, picks, shovels, magnifiers, magnets, screens, and scales. You should also invest in a hand sluice box (which uses a consistent stream of water to help separate the gold particles from the regular earth rocks, soil, and other materials present in the water. You can find lots of helpful sites online that further explain how they work and how best to use them).
- Have fun! – You goal, first and foremost, should be to have fun prospecting. If everything goes well, and you want to take it a few steps further, then you can consider actually trying to make a living at it. But for now, learn the trade, get the right tools, gather your family and friends, and head out into the great outdoors!