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Real Gold Prospecting Adventures

Updated on July 8, 2013

Gold Fever in Alaska, Arizona, Alabama

What is it about gold in States that begin with "A?" Gold is found everywhere, but it is concentrated more in certain states, especially where it hasn't been pulverized by glaciers. Some places have enough gold to offer regular opportunities for prospecting vacations.

During bad economic times, people try unusual options for creating and finding wealth. Since the Great Depression, the numbers of people willing to try the arduous task of gold prospecting has rises with the unemployment rate. Gold means food on the table for those willing to work hard for it.

Three reasons this shiny yellow metal remains valuable are that it keeps its beauty without corroding, it is needed in electronics, and its softness makes it extremely malleable. I have found gold rings that were lost in mud for over 100 years and popped out looking new! It has high electrical conductivity, making it irreplaceable in electronic devices such as your computer. And, it doesn't take much: One ounce can be hammered so thin that it can cover the ceiling of a cathedral.

With the price of gold rising and the popularity of gold prospecting skyrocketing because of Discovery Channel's "Gold Rush Alaska" broadcasts and webcasts, more people are becoming intrigued by the chance of finding gold on their own.

Gold expeditions offer a way for people to try their luck. During cold winter months, southern states such Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and California have plenty of warm places to seek gold. This is only one example.

In summer months, the Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost in Chicken, Alaska, offers many types of gold panning and sluicing in an area that has yielded 100,000 ounces of gold tin the past 100 years. Some outfits, such as Clark-Wilz Mining of Ganes Creek Alaska, are completely booked well before the season begins, so make your reservation as soon as possible.

Another famous outfit is Gold Fever Prospecting, a company that owns several miles of claims near Chicken, Alaska. It's owners, Dean and Marie Race, offer various packages depending on whether you want to work on a 3", 4", 6", 8", or 10" dredge, a high banker, or simply bring your own equipment and work their 20 miles of claims just past the historically productive Franklin Bar. Plenty of tasty home cooking is provided along with a place to sleep, training on how to use the equipment, and transportation to camp.

My friend's experiences

Two of our metal detecting club members went to Chicken in 2009 and 2010. They both brought back gold and plenty of memories and stories, but it was harder work than they first anticipated. One thing they learned is that you're going to be either spraying or sucking up a lot of water with hoses. You're either sucking up gravel, gold and stones for a dredge, or hosing pressurized water onto a bank for several hours a day. A thick wet suit with warm water pumped into it kept them warm when working on the dredge, and a nearby fire was handy when working the high banker hose.

Additional advice: It's typical to wear out three pairs of neoprene gloves. Bring "Croc" shoes that fit outside of regular dive boots to protect them or the boots will be shredded. Plan on using very large screwdrivers and similar tools to pry stream bed rocks because placer gold (mainly flakes) falls into cracks and stays there unless the rock is broken up so they can be sucked up by the dredge.

Make a sleep schedule and stick to it, because the sun doesn't go down much. If you bring a partner, bring a hardworking one. This is not the type of trip to bring a gold-bricker with because it takes physical hard work to keep the equipment going, such as sorting and tossing larger chunks of rock out of the sluice. Also, bring people who will enjoy the adventure of being outdoors. It's wilderness! There can be unrelenting clouds of mosquitoes, random bears, moose, floods, fires, and outdoor privvy monsters. It's Alaska, after all, so remember the Boy Scout Motto and "Be Prepared!"

Practice using your pans and other equipment before you go. Just visit your local GPAA (Gold Prospectors of America) chapter and they will be glad to get you hooked, too. Good luck, and bring back some shiny gold flakes and nuggets to show your friends!


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