Pocket Gold Prospecting

Pocket Gold Prospecting

Pocket Gold Prospecting is one method of gold recovery that is performed by far less people than those who pan for gold, detect for gold even dredge and drywash for gold. In fact it’s possible that you’ve never heard of it. The vast majority of prospecting that occurred during the America Mining Booms of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was placer gold and lode gold recovery. But there were pocket gold prospectors and some of them did very well.


There is some disambiguation about the term Pocket Gold. Some define Pocket Gold as gold that eroded from its vein but has not reached the river or stream, otherwise referred to as float, remnants of a surface pocket. The other definition is pocket gold is gold in pockets within the earth not yet touched. Both are right. Pocket gold is found at its point of origin, never touched by erosion. There are more similarities with the two definitions than differences really.

The top most featured photo here is some of the pocket gold I have recovered, its coarse and does not look anything like river worn placer gold. You can click on the picture to see it up close. The hairs you see are from my dog. He likes gold too. Now if I can just get him to sniff it out for me.

Locating Theory and Methods

Locating pocket gold takes much patience, like a lot. So if you’re short on patience this kind of gold recovery is not for you. If you can prospect up a wash or hillside until you are no longer finding color you’ve basically (in theory) passed the source of the gold. Of course we know this is not the case in all locations so don’t take that last sentence as applicable everywhere. Some sources of gold eroded away long ago or the source is so buried now that finding it is unlikely. But you can locate pocket gold under the right conditions.

Pocket Gold Prospecting

Patience is Key

You will get disappointments and skunks, this is part of learning. And you may never find any pocket gold. My method (and I’m no expert at pocket gold hunting) is to get some small construction stake flags and number them, the kind on the small metal poles. You can find about 100 stakes for $10.00.

Once I have passed the source vertically on the hillside I stake it as such usually by just writing on the flag with a marker. Passing the source can be thought of as line, the line only went x feet up the hill vertically. Return to a lower point on the hill and take horizontal samples, marking each one with a flag. As you take the horizontal samples you should begin to see horizontal line ends where color stops. Its very important that as you sample, you also flag the sample spot. You can mark the flag with a number. I highly recommend that you record both the flag number in a notebook and also record the number of colors in each sample. You start to sample horizontally wide at first but by the time to reach the upper level of the hill your sample area should be very narrow and you’ll need to sample every 6 inches to a foot.

Eventually you should have something similar to the digital drawing on this page. I’m no artist but you’ll get the idea. Click on the picture to see it all, full size. That’s the short version of pocket gold hunting. Not every attempt will be a success. You might just end up scratching your head or walk away with 20 ounces. Only one way to find out. My explanation is somewhat short and sweet, cursory. If you are truly interested in learning more I suggest the following for further reading Pocket Gold – Prospecting For The Source and Mud Men: Pocket Miners of Southwest Oregon. Good luck!