Gold Rush Prospecting Tips

Find out where to look for gold.

Searching for gold can be an exciting and interesting hobby. It can take you all over the United States, as gold is found throughout the nation. Knowing which states have the highest concentration of gold, where to look specifically and understanding the difference between real and fool’s gold will make prospecting a much easier and more enjoyable experience.

Where to Find Gold

Gold can be found in all 50 states in many forms such as lode gold, or gold that is embedded in rock, as well as in plant tissues, seawater and in minute amounts in beach sand. According to, states where major amounts of gold has been found are Alabama, Alaska, California, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Utah, Washington, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Gold has been found in much smaller amounts in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oklahoma, Maine, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri and New Hampshire. Geological maps and reports from government records can tell you where to look for gold in these states specifically.

Where to Look For Gold

Because gold is so heavy — about 19 times heavier than water — it will always sink to the lowest possible level. Look for where the water slows in a stream bed during a flood as this is a good place to look for gold, according to Sampling where a stream bed widens or bends, or where natural obstacles such as rocks and boulders occur, is also helpful.

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Find gravel bars, including newly formed ones, in river beds, as large amounts of gold flakes can be found on them. Check where a stream levels out from a waterfall or downstream rapids for gold as well.

Look in pot holes in bed rock for gold as well as cracks in bed rocks. If you come across large cracks in bed rock in common prospecting areas it is likely the cracks have been cleaned out multiple times. High benches are where a stream cuts deeper into a canyon, leaving patches of gravel high on the wall of the canyon. These and moss and grass roots near a river are also places to look for gold.

Real Gold Versus Fool’s Gold

Being able to identify real gold from fool’s gold takes practice. The most common form of fool’s gold is pyrite, which resembles gold in color and is heavier than most other minerals. It is brittle and can break easily in a smooth fracture. Scratch it with a knife and it will break off into small chips, and the fracture surface is gleaming.

Mica is another mineral commonly mistaken for gold as it has a shiny gold-like surface when viewed under water. It is lighter than many rocks and will not sink through sand and gravel. A flaky substance, mica can break into flat plates that float in water above gravel.

Real gold is a malleable metal that can be easily scratched with a sharp instrument or hammered flat. Unlike mica and pyrite, it will not flake, chip, crack or break. Gold found in natural concentrations in gravel bars or sand — called “placers” — is dull yellow in color and often pitted or roughened from stream abrasion. As previously mentioned, gold’s heaviness means it will sink below gravel.

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