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Metal Detecting for Eolian Placer Gold Nuggets

 by: Gus @ Natural Gold Trader

    I have spent several years intently searching for gold nuggets with a metal detector. I have found gold in numerous locations, and in several different types of gold deposits. I am not a geologist, but I have spent a lot of time in the goldfields trying to visualize and understand just how the gold ended up where it has.
   Through all the research, reading, and experience I have prospecting, clearly the Metal Detecting for Gold Nuggetsmost common way gold has been moved and concentrated is by the forces of water. However in some desert regions, like parts of Nevada where wind is abundant and water is scarce, this has not been the case. There are lots of gullies, drainages, and little tributaries in the desert that get plenty of water rushing down them – and gold has ended up in some of them – but I am talking about the vast majority of ground that consists of open flats and gently sloping hillsides. I have come to the conclusion that gold (for the most part) in this type of deposit has really only moved in one direction, and that’s straight down.
   Years and years of frequent winds and exposure to the elements has literally eroded mountains away, leaving a nice layer of the harder, more resistant rocks, and remnant quartz veins laying right on the surface of the ground. Gold being heavy has also been left in this layer. These types of areas have provided the modern day prospector the perfect scenario for metal detecting for gold nuggets, as the gold has been left very close to the surface. In fact, some nuggets can actually be left sitting right on the surface, gleaming in the sunlight. These are considered “Sunbakers” by most of us in the gold detecting community.
   Desert Pavement Eolian Placer GoldThis desert pavement or surface layer of rocks and quartz vein remnants is typically not very thick or deep. In fact, you can usually dig down through this layer and break into a completely different layer clay or dirt, which furthermore proves to me that it is a result of wind erosion. Often this surface layer of rock will be accompanied by intermediate overlying areas of top soil or light sands providing a nice place for vegetation to grow. These upraised areas of lighter sands and soil have been created through years of blowing and drifting winds. They can cover small or sometimes large areas of ground. They are also a great place to detect because they are often fairly shallow, and the same layer of desert pavement is usually lying just beneath them.
  So, when you find gold in an area similar to this and you are trying to determine Eolian Gold Nuggets Sitting on a Schist Rockwhere the gold might have come from, realize that it may have actually formed and then descended almost straight down from its originating point. This point could have been a few feet, to possibly several meters directly above the deposit. Eons of elemental forces like the sun, rain and wind have whittled down mountains, leaving a concentrated layer of the harder rocks right on the surface. The ground has simply been eroded and blown away, and the gold is continually settling down at the same rate as the surface, as the wind depletes the soil and concentrates the more dense materials. For the most part this process has left the gold very coarse, and it shows very little sign or wear or travel.
   This type of deposit is called an eolian placer deposit. It literally means, “deposited, produced, or eroded by the wind.” Chris Ralph talks about this in his book, Fists Full of Gold. This type of gold has eroded and dropped out of a vein or ore body, and can literally be sitting anywhere in the desert landscape.
   Desert Pavement Eolian Placer GoldKeep in mind that different areas will have their own unique geologic properties, but I think the results of this erosion process should be fairly similar. When searching for these types of gold deposits, the first step is to identify and stay in the presence of this concentrated layer of desert pavement. In parts of Northern Nevada it usually consists of schist and quartz vein remnants. The color of the schist does not seem to matter, as I have found gold amongst brownish, grayish, and reddish color schists. Some quartz vein remnants are important as gold is usually associated with quartz.
   In one particular area that I was successful, it appeared the gold was formed relatively close to the contact zone of quartz and schist, or possibly in the voids or cavities between them. The amount of visible quartz on the ground doesn't seem to be that important, as some of my best nugget patches have had very little visible quartz present. I have also always heard that the larger nuggets form in smaller quartz veins.
   I have had my best success in areas where some of the quartz has a reddish-brown Gold Nugget Hunting with a Metal Detector coloring or iron staining, as iron and gold are closely associated. However this does not mean that gold will be absent if only bull quartz or all-white quartz is present, and it doesn’t mean that gold will be present with all the right looking condition either. If there is anything that I have learned in prospecting, it would be that gold makes its own rules, and there are exceptions to everything.  I am just pointing out a few standard principals I have found that are commonly associated with gold. One of my favorite sayings is “Gold is where you find it” and that is so very true.
   As I mentioned before, while metal detecting for gold nuggets you want to stay in the presence of this desert pavement, as this layer is most often carrying the gold. Sometimes this layer can be covered up with too much top soil or overburden, and the gold might be too deep for your detector. These areas might be where soil has been blown in and has accumulated from another area, and unfortunately this overburden is surely hiding some very nice gold.
   Handful of Eolian Placer Gold NuggetsMy favorite places to detect for gold nuggets are on the small chains of rolling hills that rise up just out of the flats, and also just below them on the flats. This is just my own theory, but some of these small hills are quite possibly the remains of ancient mountains. Wind erosion and soil depletion have weathered them downs to small hills, leaving their golden bounty laying next to the surface.