What to look for when looking for Gold
One thing that people need to be aware about when looking for gold is that gold cannot be found on its own, it comes mixed with rocks. The rocks get pushed upwards as mountains because of the heat and pressure inside of the earth and they are then worn down due to the action of the wind and the rain. While this wearing away occurs, often times the gold separates from the rocks, and the result is deposits of gold that you are probably aspiring to find.
As soon as the rain shows up, the gold is then washed down through the creeks and the rivers, and gets stuck along the banks and behind the boulders of the streams. The same thing used to happen in rivers that flowed in regions where changes in the geology have turned the once upon a time productive forests into deserts thousands or millions of years ago. The deposits that can be found in deserts come from this as well and there are also the pockets of gold in the sides of the hills.
This type of mining is what is known as “placer mining” and the deposits that form are called “placers”. There is also what is known as “hard rock mining” and it is when the gold shows up in thin veins fixed in the solid rock, which is usually quartz. Commercial miners search out for these veins and then break or crush up the rocks in big sized mills and refine the left over dirt when chemicals.
There are not a ton of mines that are in operation now due to the fact that a lot of them are difficult to work in and the cost of extracting gold can make this job unprofitable if it is not done in the right place. Obviously this is not something that the amateur placer miner is concerned about since his or her mining is done mainly when there are vacations or the weekend and these people usually just wait for nature to take its own course and separate the gold for them.
The types of mountains that are more likely to have gold in them are the very old mountains or the new mountains. Mountains that are in between these two do not seem to produce very much. Within the United States this would mean that the mountains in the Tertiary or Quaternary age are good options to go after. In the case of a geologist this definitely means something, however it is not easy for an everyday prospector to tell a Tertiary by just looking at a hole in the ground.
If you were to ask the people around the area if their mountains are Tertiary they would most likely not know what the hell you are talking about. However just as a reference, some of the best places to find placers are on the eastern and southern slopes of the Ortiz Mountains; the gold comes about in both creek and mesa gravels. The best gravels can be found on the eastern slope of the mountains in the surrounding area of Dolores and Cunningham Gulch. In these places the gold is in mesa gravels that are the higher part of an old debris fan shaped at the orifice of Cunningham Gulch. Considerable quantities of gold have also been obtained from creek gravels in Dolores Gulch and Arroyo Viejo.
If you have the right type of mountain range, the formation of a particular mountain is what is most important. In the case of younger mountains, they are more prone to earthquakes and earthquakes cause them to have “faults” which are the observable confirmation of an earthquake.
Faults are areas where the tension of the young mountain gets to be so much that part of the ground has been pulled away or has slipped over the rest and it creates a long line that looks like a scar on the mountain. One of the greatest fault lines, such as the San Andreas Fault was first identified in Northern California by a UC Berkeley geology professor named Andrew Lawson in 1895 and it was named by him after a small lake which is in a linear valley shaped by the fault right on the south of San Francisco, the Laguna de San Andreas. After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Lawson was the one who also discovered that the San Andreas Fault stretched out well southward into Southern California. These types of faults are easy to discover if you are aware of what they look like.