The summer field season is in full swing, and many readers have contacted me recently with last-minute questions on places they plan to visit. Back when email was the main way to communicate electronically, I could usually keep up if I typed fast and kept the comments lean. Today, so many GPAA members are technologically savvy that I’m thankful there are so many forums and online communities. In this column for the Lapidary issue, we’ll take a look at some of the activity out there for gold prospectors and rock hounds alike.
Long-time readers know I’ve been enthusiastic about Facebook for some time now. I’ve been ‘friending’ people like crazy this year, and the system keeps suggesting that I add people who share 40-50 mutual friends, so it just keeps building.
I’ve been hanging out lately with the Facebook group called “Treasure Hunting Wiki.” These aren’t just electronic friends – I’ve met several of these guys at the 2010 Jade Rendezvous in Darrington, Washington. Members Ezekiel Hughes and Kristoffer Jay are tenacious jade hunters and frequently share their finds from the creeks and rivers in Washington’s jade belt. Just seeing what they’ve slabbed lately is enough to get your juices flowing.
Figure 1. Home page for GPAA's Facebook presence.
There’s a good mix of beginners, veterans, merchants, and organizations that have formed a solid rock and gem network on Facebook. The benefit is that when Karasarlidis Minerals from Greece posts new pictures to his profile of a gorgeous, deep purple sodalite, you get to see it, comment on it, “like” it, and even share it so it shows up on your page.
Figure 2. Sample update from Karasarlidis Minerals shows how users share information and photos easily.
This is a long link that’s going to be tough for you to type in, but here goes:
Far easier would be to just type in the word “Treasure” in the Facebook search box near the top of the page. You can scan through a dozen different links within Facebook, including metal detecting clubs, rock hounds groups, and individual jewelry makers. Some forums specialize in a single quest, like jade, while others are open to any kind of loot.
Figure 3. Treasure Hunting Wiki's Facebook page.
With over 500 million active users, you can see the possibilities on Facebook are endless. No matter how small your niche, you’ll find like-minded individuals who share your passion. Use that Search box to find fossil hunters, amber collectors, meteorite men, and more.
First off, if you haven’t hooked up with the Gold Prospectors Association of America on Facebook, do that right away. Find it by typing ‘gold’ in the Search box. You can enter gold mining, gold panning, gold prospecting, gold in California, etc. Experiment and you’ll find what you want.
Figure 4. Use the Search box to locate groups you might be interested in joining.
After checking on all the updates from GPAA, you can look for local groups in your area or somewhere you hope to visit. For example, I’ve been chatting with Billy Reed, a member who is interested in exploring some of the more obscure gold districts around Mt. St. Helens in Washington, with a base camp on the GPAA claim on Copper Creek. We’ve been able to share maps easily, but you still can’t add attachments to messages, so we relied on regular email to exchange big PDFs. We think we’ve got the location of the lode mines nailed down, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for the &^%$ snow to melt.
Facebook’s “Prospecting USA” page has seen good activity lately. They have 75 members, but show good growth. It’s an open group, so anyone can join.
Northwest Rockhounds and Random Rocks of Beauty
This page was more active in the past, and may get archived if not converted to a new format. Still, the members are very knowledgeable and it’s worth getting a conversation going there if you have a question about rockhounding in that region.
Idaho Prospecting Supply
One of the many vendors using Facebook actively, this shop is building a solid online presence. In fact, this is a good example of how to do it – use lots of pictures, post actively, and start conversations. I’m planning to pick up one of Cody’s hand-cranked trommels this summer.
Idaho Gold and Gem Outfitters
Good deals, lots of activity, and friendly. Another strong vendor.
I like this page because they mention my book, “Rockhounding Idaho,” all the time. Great discussions of what to find, where, and the accompanying pictures are amazing. I should drop in more often.
Let’s leave Facebook and turn now to some other websites and links I’ve been meaning to publish.
Ghost Towns of Washington
I wish every state had the bounty of ghost towns and mining camps that we have in the west. This is one of the best resources I’ve seen lately for ghost town exploration, but it’s focused on the state of Washington. That limits the appeal for many of you, but it’s a nice site and very informative.
Hunting for Gold
Good new site that just came up earlier this year. The site boasts over 1,000 members, has witnessed 25,000 posts, and has a thriving presence.
Here’s a nice site to download a good add-on for Google Earth. Once you add this tool, you’ll see little pickaxe and gold pan icons pop up throughout the mining areas. You’ll have GPS coordinates for locales that you guessed at previously. The app is a great idea, but it could use the help of dedicated and knowledgeable prospectors who’ve been out in the field and can dress up the details with pictures, first-hand reports, etc.
Here’s what Google Earth looks like for the Index area of Washington after loading Mine Cache:
Figure 5. Mine Cache adds GPA coordinates and icons into Google Earth, such as on this area near Index, Washington.
I recently stumbled onto this site while searching for gold panning guides for Oregon, California, and Washington authored by Tom Bohmker. I met Tom at the GPAA Gold Show in Salem in March, 2011, and was impressed with his knowledge and enthusiasm. He’s written several guides that have excellent background stories and personal, onsite knowledge that makes them invaluable.
The rest of the Mining Books site contains just what the name implies, plus maps. The site is deep and wide, with all facets of mining and prospecting covered. Want to know more about the chemistry of cyanide mining? Need details on the geology of Creede, one of Colorado’s richest silver camps? It’s all here, plus more. The site is organized well and easy to use, which also helps.
Figure 6. MiningBooks.com has new publications and reprints for mining districts throughout the US.
Western Mining History
I’ve saved the best for last, so I hope you made it this far. This is a deep, elegant website with good writing, nice pictures, and lots of energy. It covers the entire western U.S., so I’d guess the vast majority of GPAA members will find something in here to help them with their research and generally raise their Prospecting IQ. The site is now linked to Facebook, and I expect they’ll start to see traffic increase quickly.
Don’t miss the Database of Mines! The database describes almost 30,000 mines, and has the coordinates and elevations. More pictures would be great, as would production information, geology, etc., but this is a nice start. The mines are divided by state and county for easy reference, or you can pick them off an interactive map.