Seeking out and finding old mines is a great way to get out there, get some exercise, and discover some history and nature with your own eyes, ears, nose, and skin. For those with the wanderlust, there is no substitute.
Arizona is one of the more rich states in the country when it comes to Gold and other precious metallic mineral commodities. Unlike my former home of New Mexico, with abundant fluorite and all other things carbonate-hosted like rich silver-galena ores, Arizona instead features lots of wulfenite and vanadinite, and blue-stained hints of copper everywhere. Both states have quality deposits of Turquoise.
Mineral hunting generally takes you in one direction, and metal hunting in another. The “big three” of metal hunting are Gold, Silver, and Copper. While the last one, Copper, forms an especially-large number of specimen-worthy minerals, I find greater personal challenge in the mostly Quixotic quest to try and find the pure metallics, especially Gold. Those who study geology and cosmology know that Gold and other heavy elements can only form at the energy levels present in a dying star – thus all Earthly Gold must have come from some older, more cataclysmic source than our own terrestrial sphere.
Where does one go to find gold? The old adage is that “gold is where you find it”. A more realistic one is “gold is where it has been found in the past”. Thus, the practical prospector uses the accumulated wisdom of many, many lifetimes’ worth of prospecting to at least form their starting point.
Here on lostadamsgold.com, we have a set of Google mine maps for Arizona (and other states) that show where all of the USGS-recorded mines for Gold, Silver, and Copper are! This is an easy way to browse your way into new and promising places to explore. Just scroll and click. When you click, it will open up a link to the USGS record, which will often contain excellent keywords and references that you can Google to find old, detailed descriptions of the original mines and districts. If you like ghost towns, this is an excellent resource learn more about the history of old places, many of which are not nearly as well documented anywhere else.
Is there more out there to be found? Absolutely. One of my first experiences with the state is characteristic. New to the area, I went where I thought there had been a lot of mining activity down by Cerro Colorado. In fact the area had been mined since the late 1500’s (!) up until only about a century ago, so I was in good company. Tuning my metal detector and trying to figure out this new terrain, I ranged here and there, digging up the occasional modern trash item that got past my iron junk filter. Without much time (we were in the area for Overland Expo), and not wanting to bore my non-rockhound compatriot, I reluctantly worked my way back to the vehicle after a while. A bit dejected, I did not feel that bad since I was entirely new to Arizona – first day ever.
Ultimately, within 200 feet of the vehicle, and not more than 20′ off the road that must have been there for about forever, I spied a hint of green sandwiched in quartz. My Eye finding the anomaly first, I next swung the detector. Sure enough, +15 on the VDI scale: Silver or Gold. A few more swings, and I bent down to recover the prize: a fresh, thick vein of almost-pure silver mineral called acanthite set in toothy quartz, mere feet from where people had trod in desperate search for the mineral for literally centuries, and only feet from a well-established road. I very much enjoyed cleaning the brilliant specimens recovered from the vein back in camp that night!
In subsequent years, I have been back to the area, and have recovered not only more natural silver mineral vein chunks and masses, but also a piece of pure, smelted silver as well. That the Black Princess, Colorado Clark, and other legendary mines could be in the same area is of no doubt to me. I know of Gold nuggets recovered in modern times not too far away, and also Spanish coins. For the dilligent seeker, willing to put in the research and field time, there are doubtless more discoveries still to be made.
Make sure and check out the Mine Maps pages here to give yourself at least a little edge in getting there first!