We are getting ready to do some hunting for gold. After all we live in southern Arizona and we know that there are areas very close to us where gold has been found. What we didn’t know is that going metal detecting for gold takes some preparation. So, before we hit the road with our detector, we had to do some research and some planning.

Arizona Landscape Cacti Desert Saguaro Cactus

After doing some research about finding gold in our area, I realized that we couldn’t just visit the Canyon del Oro (oro means gold in Spanish) wash and expect to find gold. We needed a map. It was easy enough to buy one online that shows where all the active and abandoned gold claims are in Arizona. As I understand it, we can search in the areas where there are abandoned claims, and around the active claims, but not inside those areas.

As it turns out, there are far more gold areas to the southeast of where we live than in the CDO wash area where I expected them to be. We decided on a few areas within an hour’s drive where we plan to search in the coming weeks.

Next, we did some testing with our gold metal detector, the Nokta AU Gold Finder. We haven’t found any gold items in any of our previous hunts, so we didn’t know how to identify the alert, or what settings to use for gold. We set up our own little test site in our yard by burying some gold jewelry a couple of inches under the ground (we put the jewelry in plastic baggies first). We did the same with some coins and miscellaneous pieces of metal, so that when we search, we would learn the difference in the signals from our detector.

After playing a while, I think we got a fairly good feel for identifying the difference in the signals. Of course, our detector makes it pretty easy because it does have a light on it that tells if the target is gold, so we should be good to go.

My next plan of attack was to read up on where exactly the good spots are to look when we’re in an area that is known to have gold. I needed to know where we will be most likely to find it. Here’s what I found:

  • First and foremost, stay away from abandoned mines; they can be very dangerous. I looked on my map and there are a lot in the area we plan to hunt, so we will be aware.
  • Look for washes where gold may have been pulled down from deposits and dropped in the dips of the bed and where the bed meets the sides of the wash.
  • Check flowing streams (not a lot of those in southern Arizona) along the banks where you can get down to bedrock.
  • Tailing piles (leftovers from mining) can be a source of small gold nuggets that have been overlooked because of their size or because they were inside rocks.
  • Most gold nuggets that are found by metal detecting are about the same size as a grain of rice.

I’m confident that we are ready to head to the southeast and give gold digging a try. I’ll let you know how it goes in my next post.