Gold Prospecting in Prescott

March 1, 2019
March 1, 2019

Gold Prospecting in Prescott

Did you know Arizona is one of the best states in the U.S. for gold prospecting? It might seem like that time is long past its prime, but many recreational gold panners say prospecting provides a reason to enjoy a wilderness outing and yes, they’ve found a few gold flakes and nuggets around the Prescott area. There are even local clubs, an excellent way to gain access to private claims where you can freely look for gold and the members provide you with tips on locations and equipment.

So, grab your gold pan or metal detector and head for the rivers! But remember, all land is owned by someone, so get permission before entering anyone’s property, especially if you are going to prospect it.

Here’s what we know:

  • Gravity causes gold to concentrate in rivers, so they’re one of the best places to look for gold. Some riverbeds are dry for parts of the year, but the gold is still there if you use the proper prospecting techniques.
  • Gold is very heavy, so you need to dig down until you get to a place where the gold can’t go any further. This can be hard-packed dirt, large rocks, roots, and clay. Don’t bother with sandy, loose soil.
  • The best areas to find gold are where gold has been found previously, specifically the Prescott area. This is easy since there are many books on the subject and you can do prior research.
  • Arizona is one of the best states for gold prospecting, because of the history of the area and there is also good access to public lands that are open to prospecting.

Locations (we found many suggestions on

Lynx Creek: A great place to prospect for gold in Central Arizona is the Lynx Creek drainage in the Prescott National Forest. The creek and its tributaries account for some of the highest placer gold production in the state, with records showing over 100,000 ounces being taken out of this area since the initial discovery of gold in 1863. Several documented discoveries of gold nuggets weighing several ounces exist, and there is likely to still be a few left to find even today. Gold can vary from good sized nuggets on down to fine gold in the creek itself.

Details and map: and

The Weaver/Rich Hill District, near Congress, about 50 miles south of Prescott. This has been one of the major producers in Arizona. Placers can be found at Weaver and Antelope Creeks. This area is very popular among metal detectorists, as it has a history of producing large nuggets.

Details and map:

Jerome (Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town): About 35 miles north of Prescott, they mined gold here from 1890 to 1914. The mine shaft goes down 1,270 ft. You can view it but you cannot go down in it and the museum offers gold or gem panning at $5 per person.

Details and map:

Big Bug District lies on the slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains, with several mines producing copper, silver, lead, zinc, and gold. The majority of gold from this district has come from lode deposits. About 20 miles south of Prescott.
Details and map:
Wickenburg: Wickenburg gets its name from Henry Wickenburg, a miner who discovered the Vulture Mine. The mine eventually produced $30 million in gold. Today, the town, located 68 miles south of Prescott, is a good place to explore the area’s gold-panning potential. Adventures of a Lifetime ATV ( provides gold-panning tours in the area. All-terrain vehicles take you through the desert past the communities of Stanton, Rich Hill and Yarnell before you reach the gold-panning area. The company provides gold detectors and gold pans for you to use while looking for gold in their secret location.

From USA today:

Equipment: For recreational use, gold pans and metal detectors are the simplest way to go. You can pan in the river or take a bucket home and do it at your leisure.

As for other equipment, the Forest Service does have certain rules in place, including restrictions on mechanical mining equipment such as suction dredges, highbanker, drywashers, and even sluice boxes. The Forest Service considers “recreational use” to be limited to gold panning and metal detecting. Using standard equipment such as picks and shovels are allowed, but they must be used below the high-water mark. Any holes that are dug must be filled in before leaving the area.

Purchase: or Amazon has gold pans at

View our Owning Acreage Guide to Learn More →

More information:

Video: (minute 14:45 pretty big gold piece)

Prescott Gold Panning and Metal Detecting

Arizona Association of Gold Prospectors: (membership starts at $200). The club provides access to a commercial placer mining operation in the Wickenburg and Hieroglyphic mountains near the town of Wickenburg. You keep any gold you find. The club also provides lessons to help you improve the odds of finding a big gold nugget, discounts on gold-prospecting equipment and the opportunity to join other members on gold digs.

American Gold Prospecting Adventures

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