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Old 02-08-2010, 01:39 PM
 
Location: Missoula!
36 posts, read 109,023 times
Reputation: 33

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Hi there! I'm moving to the Missoula area this summer (can't wait!) and am wondering if it's still possible to spend a day in a river with a sieve and come away with a few bits of gold. I really enjoy rock/fossil hunting, but have never tried this. Found a few sites on gold and gem "mines" around the area, but they seem to be mainly sandbox types of places where a few stones are thrown into a sack of gravel and you have your kids pick em out. not what I'm looking for.
Thanks for your help!
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Old 02-08-2010, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Woods Bay, Montana
216 posts, read 599,531 times
Reputation: 116
I don't know but it sounds cool to me. Hope you get some answers.
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Old 02-09-2010, 03:12 AM
 
305 posts, read 805,325 times
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If you haven't looked into it, you may want to consider joining a club like the GPAA (Gold Prospectors Association of America).
Gold Prospectors Association of America

I believe they have claims throughout the country where you can do some hunting for gold. There are also local chapters and clubs that get together for such activities. Many are also active in preserving public access.
Mining Agencies & Resources, Associations, Organizations & Clubs - ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:09 AM
 
Location: Where the mountains touch the sky
5,873 posts, read 6,739,277 times
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Gman has good advice.

Not every stream in Montana has gold in it, and some have active claims on them. You can pan for gold but unless you know what you are doing or someone shows you, you can waste a lot of time looking with no results.

If gold were easy to find we would all be out prospecting instead of working regular jobs.

There is gold out there, and you can find some with a pan, but remember that you cannot use a dredge without a permit even on larger rivers. Hand tools like a bucket and shovel will usually be ok, but not in all places. Most of the areas around old mining camps have been gone over pretty good, but you can still find color in the tailings. Just remember there are a lot of heavy metals associated with the old ways of mining so take precautions especially with children.
Many of our streams were prospected and some of the old miners used mercury to recover fine gold, so some of it can still be in the areas they mined. Be careful, Mercury or Quicksilver as it was called is very toxic. Don't handle it with your bare hands.

Gold is much heavier than water and sand so it will be down on the clay layer or bedrock and will get into the cracks of the bedrock and be tough to recover.

Don't damage the stream banks on public ground, and don't expect to find large nuggets. Most of Montana's gold is fine flakes. There have been nuggets found, but the vast majority of our gold is fine or dust.

There is gold out there, and you can find some with a pan, but don't expect to find a fortune. It could happen, but don't count on it. Look for places with a lot of tectonic upheavals such as earth quake falts. Ignieous rocks such as quartz will sometimes help locate a pocket of gold. Black sand is usually an indicator that gold is present, but not always. You can find black sand all over but there isn't necessarily any gold there.

You are far more likely to find sapphires or agates.

It is a fun hobby, but remember that there are regulations on what you can do in a stream bed, and where you can prospect. Check with the Forest service or BLM if you plan to work on that ground. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are also a good source.

The mining shops that sell ore bearing gravel is a good way to start by teaching you how to pan, and there is some gold in there.

A sieve is better used for finding gemstones. Fine flake gold or Gold Dust will just go right through and you won't find any that way. You can use grates to clasify your gravel to remove the larger stones, but you will still have to pan or other wise seperate your fines.

Have fun and good Luck.
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Old 02-09-2010, 10:42 AM
 
Location: Missoula!
36 posts, read 109,023 times
Reputation: 33
Wow, MTSilvertip - you really know your stuff! I'm excited to try the techniques you mentioned. I really don't have any experience and am excited to just learn about it along the way. Not expecting to find a fortune at all; just want to add another interesting outdoor hobby to my list.
Gman2007, those links look great for info. Thanks for the advice, guys!
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Old 02-09-2010, 06:32 PM
 
281 posts, read 782,884 times
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From what I understand, the deer get quite angry when people start panning for gold. So be careful and watch your back!
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:30 PM
 
Location: In The Outland
6,023 posts, read 12,594,474 times
Reputation: 3535
Near Libby Montana in the Kootenai National forest is a public gold panning area. It's free and located on the Kootenai National forest map. I don't think they will let you set up a sluice though and you will never get rich by panning. It's basically a fun way to pay for your gas money to get there, do a bit of fishing, picnicking and panning, enjoying being outdoors and freeze your hands and wear out your back bending over or squatting while panning.
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Old 02-12-2010, 07:03 PM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,820 posts, read 13,427,868 times
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Isn't there a free public garnet sieving area somewhere down Gallatin Canyon??

Somewhere around here I have a random chunk of white quartz that has several small garnets and one or two sapphires visible, tho they're all smaller than the head of a pin. Picked it up off the side of the road!

In Minnesota, the big thing is looking for agates. I never found any good ones, tho.

What I'd rather know, is how to recover all the gold from my big pile of dead computers. There's supposed to be... figures from about 2-3 years ago ... $16 worth of gold on an average motherboard, tho I suppose it's worth a good deal more now. Mighty thin coating, that's the problem, how do you get it loose? (In China they just burn 'em and recover the metal as slag, but that makes a lot of toxic smoke.)
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:53 PM
 
6,280 posts, read 10,297,406 times
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I learned how to pan for gold by a gracious oldtimer on the banks of a mountain stream near Downeyville in CA (the Motherlode Contry) many years ago, and every bit of advice from MTSilvertip sounds exactly right! Including the tip about the black sand. It reminded me how much fun it was--but it also brought back memories of freezing hands and feet, and a sore back!

Rickers, I had no idea Libby had a gold panning area. Thanks for that tip--that's only about 60 miles or so from our place! I have to try that some time. See if I've still got the knack! And it's just another great way to be outdoors. The oldtimer who taught me (heck, he was probably the age I am now ) made enough money to pay for his summer vacations in the mountains panning for gold, that's all, but for him it was worth it.

I think I remember seeing gold pans (not sieves) for sale at several outfitters in the NW MT area, so it shouldn't be hard to buy one and get started! Have some fun!
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Old 02-13-2010, 06:02 AM
 
Location: NW Montana
6,258 posts, read 13,471,801 times
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I find lots of gold in the wheat fields every summer here!
Really, I too am a rockhound and like a little kid, my pockets are full all the time. I have a relative over in Oregon who works some out of a stream on his place, my kids were always entertained for hours.
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