Nugget Wranglers
Quartzsite, Arizona



Jane Alene Boyles

This is a basic discussion of the types of procedures available for retrieving the gold out of the dirt.  This is meant to be a starting point for newcomers to the recreational gold prospecting field.


There are several different types of machines that a prospector can use to dry wash for placer gold.  Dry washing is the process of removing the gold from dry material by blowing air through the dirt.  Often this dry dirt is packed hard, filled with rocks from pebble size to boulders.  Seldom is it easy to dig but most always dusty back breaking work with pick and shovel.  The dry dirt/gravel mixture is often put through a classifier (screen) to remove the larger material and then run through the dry washer which can be a simple shaker type with bellows to blow off the dirt or a motorized one which blows air through the dirt separating the fines from the lighter material.

  In the old days dirt was placed on a blanket, shaken in the air to remove the lighter dirt, leaving the gold to settle to the bottom as it is heavier.  Then a metal pan was used to air pan the fines separating the dirt and often black sand from the gold.  The final amount of dirt/gold can also be panned with a limited amount of water, a precious commodity in the desert.           


Members of a local prospecting club dry washing for placer gold using a large recreational class dry washer.

One of the larger recreational drywashers, the Keene 151 is very efficient at catching all the gold.  It blows warm air through the dirt to assist in drying if the dirt is damp. One can shovel a lot of dirt through one of these in a day.

Most retirees like the smaller versions of the drywashers available that use a gas leaf blower type motor, probably because of the portability and lightweight construction.  It is all a matter of choice. 


Jane Alene Boyles

METAL DETECTING—New modern metal detectors vary in technology and certainly price.  The purpose is to detect metal underground.  There is a large variety of metal detectors that go from a handheld small device to a vehicle carried large one mainly used for meteorite hunting in the large fields of the mid west.  The different detectors will find a multitude of objects from coins, artifacts, meteorites, and yes, even precious metals. The beginner usually starts with a lesser technological advanced machine.

Photo: This prospector is using a Gold Bug 2.  It is light weight, reliable and will find gold as deep as 6-8 inches.
Photo: This prospector is using one of the latest detectors available which uses a whole new technology. It is a Pulse Induction machine that will find gold much deeper then the older machines.  With so many people turning to recreational prospecting it is often necessary to go deeper into the ground to find a nugget.  The PI detector requires a different way of thinking for the prospector.  For instance it will pick up the metal in your shoe eyelets often making your heart skip a beat, just knowing  that you  must have found ‘the big one’.
Choosing the method of prospecting is often started by joining a local club, going to the meetings and outings and learning from the more experienced prospector.  In the Quartzsite area there are two very active clubs, each providing many opportunities to learn at monthly meetings and outings on their respective claims.  The local prospecting stores have applications and informational maps and books on this area.  These clubs have several claims, which as a member you will have access to prospecting adventures.

The local Quartzsite Metal Detectors coin shoots are a great way to see many people with many different machines in action.  It is a great way to meet people interested in the same thing as you are and most are willing to discuss the differences in machines.

Please remember that it is illegal to go on the CRIT (Colorado Reservation Indian Tribe) lands without specific written permission and the Marine Proving Grounds are off limits to all activities by civilians.  Most of the public lands have been claimed up by individuals who frown upon some stranger prospecting on their claims.  Sometimes if you know the registered owner of the claim, you might gain permission to detect.  Claimed areas are designated by the BLM and should be marked with appropriate yellow mining signs and corner stakes.  New computer technology through “GeoCommunicator” gives a wealth of claim information after you learn to navigate the system.


Jane Alene Boyles

Gold panning is a simple process which takes lots of practice.  You start with a panning tub which is nothing more then a container that will hold water and is big enough to work over with the gold pan.  Then you need a safety pan, submerged deep in the water tub to catch any escaping gold.

My husband teaches using the larger gold pan as the safety pan and the smaller 10 inch pan to pan with.  It is less tiring on the wrists.  Put a small amount of your concentrates in the pan and submerse it into the water and vigorously agitate the pan with a circular motion allowing the gold to settle to the bottom of the pan. Some panners use a side to side motion.  You have to decide which works best for you.  The specific gravity of gold is nineteen times heavier than water and allows the gold to settle to the bottom when the material is agitated to a fluid state.  With a slight tip of the pan so that water can be swirled across the top of the material, the lighter aggregate can be flushed away.  Care should be maintained to avoid pouring the light material out, but instead letting it slip over the side of the pan gradually.  This maneuver should be done repeatedly until the material is reduced to black sand and the gold. 

A small amount of water is added by dipping the pan slightly into the water and swirling to remove the black sand.  Tapping repeatedly on the concentrate side of the pan will assist in concentrating the gold.  Using the water as the carrier, the gold can be separated from the sand and using a snifter bottle you can pick up the fine gold.  The bigger pieces can be removed with fingers or tweezers if the fingers are too arthritic.  Don’t forget to rerun the material that was washed out into the safety pan.  It is too easy for a piece of gold to be dislodged over the edge in the process of panning.

  1. Concentrates being panned in circular motion.
  2. Snifter bottle is used to suck out fine gold.
  3. Final product--GOLD

Prospecting 101

Jane Alene Boyles


The arastra is an example of the ingeniousness of the old timer. It apparently was used by the Mexicans and Peruvians long before the prospectors arrived in the west.  With no heavy crushing equipment available, a round flat surface was built with rock and the rocks containing precious metal ore was placed on the flat surface.  A center post that could turn, with cross pieces at the top held cable or rope that was anchored to four large stones directly under the cross pieces.

Burros were then hitched to the cross pieces and walked round and round the perimeter of the circle of rock, crushing the ore as the huge rocks hit it.  Or if no burro present, man could attach the cable or rope to himself and walk the circle.  The remnants of this arastra are in the Dome Rock campground area, unfortunately well vandalized. 

Prospecting 101

Jane Alene Boyles

The trommel processes a large amount of dirt with limited water.  A large trommel, used many years ago in the area sets at the intersection of Kofa Road and West Main Street.  A conveyor belt carries the dirt up to a hopper which dumps it into the rotating drum with water spraying on it.  The action separates the rock and dirt from the heavier gold and finer material which then drops to a sluice, concentrating the gold.  Sand and other material goes into a settling pond or tank where the water can be recovered.  The gold then can be recovered from the finds.  It is possible to construct a home made trammel with a little ingenuity! Or purchase a one man operation.

*This trommel is in use on a Middle Camp area claim.

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