Want to ‘go for the gold’ during your Arizona vacation? You actually can, with a little planning. The same goes for precious gemstones. Within a short drive of Bluegreen’s Phoenix resort lie undiscovered riches. Who knows what you might find? Winter visitor Jim Boxberger made headlines when he found a one-and-a-half pound hunk of gold worth $20,000 or more, on the Phoenix side of Wickenberg.
Honestly, prospecting is not a get-rich-quick hobby, but it’s certainly an enjoyable way to get out in the sunshine. Arizona is the USA’s number one mining state and while much of the state’s gold is found as a by-product of mining other metals, Arizona has 125 years’ worth of heart-pounding tales about gold.
The area southwest of Kingman produced more than 2,000,000 ounces of gold, and the Jerome District - west of Sedona - is the state’s biggest producer. But closer to Phoenix, the Vulture Mine, near present-day Wickenberg, produced significant amounts of sparkling treasure.
Oddly enough, there are no organized tours to go prospecting in the state of Arizona during your vacation. It’s necessary to own a land claim in order to prospect for gold. So rather than try to obtain a claim, the easiest way to enjoy panning might well be to tag along with a club which has its own. Of all the things to do in Phoenix during a vacation, hanging out with one of these clubs might be the most intriguing . . . or the most profitable! Club interests range from gold to gemstones, and even include fossils, so follow your bliss.
Gemstones, minerals and precious metals are all abundant in Arizona. The state’s natural resources include Azurite, Calcite, Chrysocolla, Fluorite, Galena, Garnet, Gold, Gypsum, Malachite, Molybdenite, Pyrite, Quartz, Silver and Copper. The Cave Creek District, just north of Phoenix, is home to multiple mining sites. Prospectors work multiple ‘placer beds’ in this area. ‘Placer’ comes from the Spanish word placer, which means the ‘sandbank’ or stream bed where alluvial deposits of sand and gravel are found. The gemstones or metal found in placer beds have been pushed downstream by the water’s flow, away from the original source, such as a vein. They generally represent only a tiny portion of the treasure to be had. This exciting thought keeps weekend prospectors coming back for more.
Prospectors can swirl water in their pans to sift silt from treasure, or simply ‘dry pan,’ without any water. The act of gold panning is simple, pleasant and inexpensive, but it definitely requires a little planning. Gold found on someone else’s land can cause a huge dispute, plus there’s the issue of potential trespassing. This is why it’s necessary to own a land claim in order to pan for gold.
Once a person has obtained a claim or joined up with a club, then the requirements for panning are simple: all that’s needed is the shallow, flared-side, flat-bottom prospector’s pan; protective clothing; hard-toe boots; sunscreen; water; a buddy; and a stream. Purists might not admit it, but metal detectors also come in handy; that’s how Mr. Boxberger made his find in two inches of silt.
Phoenix has a world-renowned source of inspiration, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. Among the spectacular displays are an eight-foot specimen of native copper; part of a meteorite; rocks from the first moon landing; and a geode with each half weighing 240 pounds. The lapidary arts are also well represented, with beautiful gemstones in evidence.
Your vacation to Phoenix may well take an unexpected turn. But whatever you choose to do, we know you’ll make golden memories.