A lot of people in the US like to venture south for the winter. I’ve been doing that very thing for the past few winters, although I only go for about a week. Lots of people spend several months, pulling a trailer or RV’ing down warmer climates in Arizona, Southern California, and New Mexico.
There is abundant public land in this part of the country, which allows folks to “boondocks” out in the desert. If you are a gold prospector you can pretty much camp right on top of some exceptionally rich mining areas. Here are a few general areas to consider. Further research will be needed regarding exactly where you are allowed to camp and what areas are open to prospecting, but this will get you started.
1. Kingman, AZ
There are quite a few good locations near Kingman that are worth exploring. There is pretty much gold all around the town in various locations. Perhaps the most popular area nearby is Gold Basin. It is directly north of Kingman and southwest of Las Vegas. The weather is nice in the winter and there is a lot of historic mining activity in this area. Many of the old mines are located in the White Hills. This area is known for widely-dispersed gold deposits, some very large nuggets have been found here with metal detectors.
2. Old Dale, CA
There are a lot of rich, scattered gold deposits throughout San Bernardino County. One area of particular interest should be the area around New Dale and Old Dale. You can find gold throughout the many washes and gulleys in this area. Many of the washes have deep sand that will be difficult to work, so focus your attention in areas with shallow or exposed bedrock.
3. Yuma, AZ
Yuma is a good-sized town with a population that really grows in the winter. This would be a good choice for folks who want to have the luxuries of town and still be close to some areas to prospect. There are lots of good areas to explore, but the Cargo Muchacho Mountains should be at the top of your list. They are a mountain range a few miles northwest of town. Wherever you go, keep an eye out for the abundant drywasher tailing piles that will be the telltale sign of old mining activity. Scan these piles with a good metal detector. Be persistent and you will find gold.
4. Wickenburg, AZ
Wickenburg is the epicenter of one of Arizona’s richest mining areas. The Vulture Mine produced more gold than any other mine in the state, but there are also many areas all around the town that have good gold. The rich placers of the Little San Domingo Wash are some of the most famous in the state. Very large gold nuggets have been found here. This area has certainly been hit hard over the years, but there is still gold left.
5. Quartzsite, AZ
Quartzsite is another area that really grows during the winter as the snowbirds move in with their RV’s. I enjoy visiting the rock and gem show that takes place in January. The town is surrounded by lots of good mining areas. The Dome Rock Mountains and Plomosa Mountains have good gold.
6. Oatman, AZ
Arizona’s coolest old mining town has got to be Oatman. It is popular with tourists and famous for the “wild” donkeys that roam the streets of downtown. There was a lot of gold mined right in Oatman, but there is the rich mineralized ores can be found in many areas throughout the Black Mountains. Put in some time and research and you might be able to find some good areas to prospect. There is a lot of public land, and you can get away from the crowds.
7. Johnnie, NV
Johnnie is a little-known gold mining camp in Southern Nevada. A couple of mines operated here in the early 1900s. Most of the mining activity was limited to the Congress Mine on Mount Montgomery, and the Johnnie Mine on Mount Schrader. Most of the production came from gold-bearing quartz veins, but there are some placers in the surrounding drainages. This area gets less attention than the others listed, but the gold is also not as widespread. It still might be worth further investigation.
Just a Start…
There are so many good areas to explore in the Southwest, you should definitely use this article as a starting point. A person could easily find hundreds of places to go prospecting. When the weather warms up in the winter, the desert comes alive and its time to get out and explore. These areas area all worth a try. Don’t be afraid to try new areas and see what you find.
The best thing you can do when you get to a new area is try to find areas with old mining activity. Sometimes it is obvious like old abandoned structures, but small things like drywash tailing piles and hand-stacked rocks are also good indicators. Anywhere that the old-timers were digging is a good place to seek out gold that they missed.