Up and Coming Events
Thanks for coming to Hyrum. We had a great time and enjoyed meeting all of you. We have no events currently planned, but hope to see you in Hyrum again next year at the Cowboy Poetry Rendezvous.
Keep watching–I am planning a trip to Portugal, and hope to do some prospecting in the old Roman goldfields. If I do, I will try to get it on film.
I have just heard that the Public Panning Area in on Crescent Creek has been closed. Apparently, the previous owners sold the claims and the new owners have closed the area to the public. This is unfortunate as it has been a great area to visit, but the new owner may do as he pleases with his claims. Please stay off the area that has traditionally been a public area. Please respect private claims.
Claims for Sale
We have just opened a new page, check it out Here:
Or list your claim with us, just send us a write up and desired photos, as well as a signed statement saying that you own the claim and it is as listed.
A second new page, Related Stories/Links (Click HERE) has been added. This page is composed of interesting or important stories currently on the web. It is updated often, check it out.
The Prospectors Page . . .
Articles on Prospecting, Mining, Rock Hounding and more.
We will pay $75 for true, unpublished articles and stories relating to Mining or Prospecting (or related ventures). The stories may be serious or humorous. Photos related to the story are encouraged.
By Alan Chenworth©
Originally printed in the GPAA Gold Prospector Magazine, spring 2014
There are typically three natural events that have a hand in moving gold—and they are all catastrophic to the environment. Earthquakes are the first. They are capable of causing widespread destruction such as landslides as well as change the course of both streams and groundwater, which can move the gold down to stream channels where it can be naturally concentrated. The good shaking that earthquakes give will also help to “settle” gold, helping it work its way down to bedrock, or if it is already there, pushing it deep down into cracks and crevices. This article will focus less on earthquakes and more on the relationship between the other two—fire and flood.
As previously mentioned, forest fires are the second method of moving gold. Fire is a little more indirect, working in conjunction with the third way, flooding. A careless lightning strike, a pile of organic matter, or even a well timed rockslide can cause a fire. If this fire gets out hand, it can be devastating. Abundant deadfall and thick undergrowth (as well as diseased old growth forests) burn especially well, and are found in many of the poorly managed forests that abound in the western U.S. today. When these fires get going, they will devour everything, killing all the trees, shrubs and other vegetation. It is this vegetation that typically holds the soil in place and encourages the water to slowly soak into the ground. Without this vegetation to hold the soils in place, it breaks up and slides down the hill. Erosion can increase exponentially.
Then there are floods. A good snow pack will lead to the typical spring run-off, which is a yearly flood. The typical yearly flood will not move much gold—maybe some small fines or flakes that are typically referred to as flood gold. However, abnormally high snow packs or warm temperatures may lead to excessive run-off and 100 or 500 year floods. These floods can last for weeks and are able to move a lot of gold. Abundant rainfall can also create flash floods, as water comes down faster than the ground can soak it up. While typically short lived (usually a few hours), these floods can also be in the size range of 100 or 500 year flood events. These 100 and 500 year floods are the floods that can scour the river channel to bedrock, and will move the gold.
As it scours, it will pick-up the fine gold and carry it downstream to a low pressure area where it falls out of suspension and creates a pocket or pay-streak. The big gold is likely still too heavy for the water to pick it up, so it will push and tumble it along the bottom of the stream channel, where it will also stop in lower pressure area. These lower pressure areas are generally not the same ones that deposit the fines and flakes, but instead form in the same deposits that catch boulders. (This is why you don’t often find fine gold in the same places where you find nuggets). Low pressure pockets can also form behind the boulders and above the nuggets.
Very often, due to the lack of vegetation, floods will follow forest fires. This is especially true of flash floods. A good example of both the forest fire and flood was seen this summer at Little Sevier Creek in Sevier County Utah, where there is a gold deposit on a large alluvial fan. Here, there is (or was) heavy timber and undergrowth on deep soils. This soil was underlain by a thick (3-10 ft) layer of sticky clay with clasts of rock in it. Under the clay was hard-healed, silicified breccia (a breccias is a rock made up angular rock fragments that have been cemented together—with quartz in this case). Gold in the area tends to be both on top of, as well as through out, the clay layer.
In the early fall of 2010, the Tushar Mountains of south-central Utah were hit with a massive wildfire. This was a very large, hot and long-lived fire that turned a beautiful, timber covered range with peaks above the timber line into a desolate charcoal black landscape. This fire was followed by a cool, wet winter with an above average snowpack (200+% of normal). As was expected, there was very high, flood stage water during spring runoff—but the damage was not yet complete.
A friend and I went down to Little Sevier Creek in August of 2011 to check the area out. We wanted to see how much material had moved, and how much bedrock was exposed. Much to my surprise, upon arriving, we found that there had been a cloudburst, probably the day before, and that there had been a large flash flood in the canyon. Roads had been washed out, small dams had blown out, and underground mines had been filled with sediment. Many of the areas lower in the canyon had been filled with sediment; in other places, stream channels had been scoured to bedrock. The floods had done a lot of work in the district.
Prospectors and miners can benefit by this flooding in several ways. First, anywhere the creek has scoured to bedrock, it has opened up new bedrock to work. Gold will generally migrate over time to bedrock, but if there is too much overburden, working the bedrock is not a possibility. This is especially true with the small miner. If you need to move more than two or three feet of overburden by hand, you will not be able to effectively mine the bedrock. A good flood can open up new prospecting areas by clearing (or nearly clearing) large sections of creek.
Second, the stream is concentrating the gold for you. Gold is about 9 times heavier that the surrounding sediment, so it will tend to remain behind (or at least not move as far) while the rest of the sediments is washed away. A low grade deposit, one with only a little gold spread through a lot of overburden often cannot be worked. But give it a good flood, and all that gold can be concentrated in a few tens of yards of newly enriched material; you now have a mineable deposit or pocket.
Third, new pay-streaks are created. As the flood continues to push material down the stream channel and gold is moved with it, it allows for gold to fall out in low pressure areas making new pockets and pay streaks. These are often found behind logs or bounders, around the inside bend of a river or creek, or anywhere the river widens out (and consequently slows down). Small creeks (such as Little Sevier Creek) are less likely to form these low pressure deposits due to a steeper gradient and less consistent stream flow. I say “less” likely because while big rivers tend to form more and better (larger and richer) low pressure deposits, they are still present on the smaller creeks.
My friend and I were amazed at the amount of damage done on Little Sevier Creek by (first) the forest fire, then (second) the several floods that followed. We were also impressed by the new prospecting areas that opened up and the new possibilities for us to find gold. We were only able to stay a few hours— but then it only took a few hours to find several grams of nice chunky gold from the newly exposed bedrock of the area. Forest fires and floods can be a big bonus to prospectors.
Alan Chenworth is an author and avid prospector based in Utah, where he works as a geologist in the mining industry. His website is www.goldpanningutah.com. His book, “A Guide to Gold Panning in Utah”, is available online.
Sluicing Small Creeks
I spent July 4th in Silver City Idaho, where I sluiced on the very small creek in Silver Cord Gulch. The video is on YouTube, but can also bee seen here.