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Gold Prospecting
“… a shallow placer in a broad valley where the gold
showed like yellow butter across the bottom of the washing-pan.”
- Jack London, Call of the Wild

In that one sentence, Jack London captured every prospectors dream. While the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) can’t promise you gold splashed like yellow butter across the bottom of your pan, we may be able to provide some insight into gold prospecting in Arizona. 

Over the past century, AZGS geologists documented gold lode and placer mining throughout the State. That information first appeared in print as early as 1910 with updates and revisions continuing through the late 1980s.  Once easy to get, those bulletins are now out-of-print and out-of-mind, but the information is just as valid today as when it was first published.

We’ve compiled some of the most significant publications, scanned them, produced PDF files, deployed an optical character recognition filter to facilitate word searches, and then uploaded them here for both public and professional consumption. 

The cornerstones of this collection are the gold placer and lode gold manuscripts.  They represent decades of work by several different authors.  The first gold placer paper, Bulletin 10, was originally published in 1915.  The version presented here was last revised in 1961 by E.D. Wilson -- who at the time had more than 40 years geologic experience in Arizona – and reprinted in 1988.

While the publications provided here focus largely on gold prospecting, we added additional texts on radioactive minerals, mineral identification in the field, developing small mines, copper and gold in the Payson area, and the geology and ore deposits of the Tombstone area. 

NOTE:  Please respect public and private lands and confine your prospecting to those lands so designated.  Treat the land gently – you are neither the first nor will you be the last person to enjoy the Arizona outdoors.  Walk carefully; let others know where you are going and when you shall return.

Publications for Download

Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, reprinted 1981, E.D. Wilson. (Bull 168)

Arizona Lode Gold Mines and Gold Mining, revised 1967, E.D. Wilson, J.B. Cunningham and G.M. Butler (Bull 137)

Gold: Properties, Use, & Market Conditions, 1969, R.T. Moore (Bull 180)

Exploration and Development of Small Mines, 1954, H.E. Krumlauf (Bull 164); Outdated but historical treatment of small mine development.

One Hundred Arizona Minerals, 1955, R.T. Moore (Bull 165)

Gold and Copper Deposits near Payson, Arizona, 1925, C. Lausen, E.D. Wilson, (Bull 120)

The Copperstone Mine: Arizona’s New Gold Producer, 1988, J.E. Spencer and J.T. Duncan (AZGS Fieldnotes, v. 18, #2)

USGS Finds Gold in the Silver Bell Mountains, 1988, J.E. Spencer and D.A. Sawyer (AZGS Fieldnotes, v. 18, #4)

Minerals and Metals of Increasing Interest: Rare and Radioactive Minerals, 1953, R.T . Moore (Bull 163)

Pegmatite deposits of the White Picacho District, Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, Arizona, 1952, R.H. Jahns (Bull 162)

Geology and Ore Deposits of the Oatman and Katherine Districts Arizona

Geologic Map of the Oatman District, Mohave County, Arizona

Related Links

Have you seen our Mineral Resources Map? Click Here
A brief county-by-county, district-by-district breakdown of gold deposits in Arizona
A short piece on the history of mining in Arizona. – an online mining and minerals library (pay for publications)


Drawings above by Peter F. Corrao.