Gold has played a significant part in the development of Arizona since it became a state in 1912. Since the early 20th century, much of the gold produced in the state has been a by-product of huge metal ore mining operations. The state remains in the top ten gold producing states, and rockhounds continue to uncover both lode and placer gold in areas mined for the valuable mineral centuries ago.
There are so many possible sources of gold around the Grand Canyon State that it’s almost easier to break the information down into counties. In this short article, I will point out specifically known gold sources in several different counties, along with lists of additional sites in each area.
There’s still gold in them there hills for those with the perseverance to patiently dig or pan for it. Most of today’s prospectors will tell you it’s not really possible to make a living from it, but the effort can certainly pay for itself and the thrill of the hunt can be addictive.
Below are a few places you should check out if you’re looking where to find gold in Arizona.
- Rockhounding In Arizona: Ultimate Guide
- How To Pan For Gold (Easier Than You Think!)
- The Ultimate Guide To Rockhounding Tools and Supplies
Where To Find Gold in Arizona
1. Lynx Creek
Yavapai County in central Arizona is the top gold producing county in the state. And the Lynx River area is one of the richest in that county. One of the most popular prospecting areas is located in Prescott National Forest, where day panning is allowed with no fee.
Maps are available to help you find the best panning sites. There are some toilet facilities available, but no other accommodations, not even trash cans, so make sure you pack out what you pack in. Camping is allowed for up to 14 days in the forest area campgrounds.
There are some limits to how much equipment may be used to prospect for gold here. Only pans and metal detectors are allowed, no larger pieces such as sluice boxes are permitted.
Other areas to check out in Yavapai County include:
- Weaver/Rich Hill District, including Weaver Creek and Antelope Creek
- Black Canyon City area, containing both placer and lode sources
- The headwaters of the Aqua Fria River, with runoff from area copper mines
2. Gold Basin
The Gold Basin District is located in Mohave County, about 50 miles north of Kingman. This area’s gold is found mostly in lode form in and around abandoned gold mines and claims. The terrain is hilly and dry, and there is generally little foot traffic to compete with.
Come prepared for the terrain and current weather conditions. Patience will bring you a fruitful day of prospecting, as there are many scattered nuggets to uncover in the area.
Other popular gold prospecting sites in Mohave County include:
- Oatman, where lots of gold is still being found, but there are also privately-owned mines, so research the area ahead of time.
- The Colorado River south of both Lake Mead in the north and Lake Havasu in the south
- Maynard Mining District in the Hualapai Mountains, has distinctive wire-shaped specimens
The Bisbee District is the largest gold producer in Cochise County. Placer gold in the area is mostly a byproduct of mining for such minerals as copper and lead. The main target area is about 4 miles southeast of Bisbee, just north of the Mexico border.
Gulches in the area offer plenty of placer specimens, and the Queen Mine offers tours for visitors who would like to get a glimpse of underground lodes.
Always watch for and avoid privately-owned properties, especially in areas close to towns. A few other Cochise County sources to check out:
- The Dos Cabezas District, southeast of Willcox, contains both lode and placer sources along small streams and fault zones.
- The Huachuca District is located at the southern end of the mountains by that name. Some large nuggets have been found there.
- The Tombstone Mining District, about 25 miles northwest of Bisbee, contains several types of deposits amidst the tailings and boulders of the area.
4. Gila Mountains
Yuma County contains hundreds of mining operations, so rockhounds will need to familiarize themselves with the boundaries of privately-owned land. At the northern end of the Gila Mountains are areas where gold has been extracted for over 150 years. This would be a good winter hunting ground due to summer’s extreme heat in the desert areas.
Some places have been fairly played out, while others continue to yield consistent finds. There are many desert dry washes here, and a metal detector would be a good idea to help uncover buried nuggets.
Also in Yuma County:
- The Castle Dome District, located northeast of Dome. Most sources in the area have been lodestones found in local mines.
- The Plomosa District near Quartzite continues to be a source of placer gold.
- The Laguna District is located at the southern end of the Laguna Mountains, and gold is found in large quartz deposits there.
5. Arizona’s River Sources for Gold
There are several rivers besides the Colorado that have been popular for panning ventures. Outside of the running water itself, placer deposits are also found in the dry gravel gulches stemming from these rivers. A metal detector can help locate placer covered by gravel and sand deposits along the dry runoff areas.
Some possible rivers to explore include:
- Gila River–placers have been found from the San Francisco River junction southwest to Bonita and Spring Creeks.
- San Francisco River–along the curves south of Clifton
- Santa Maria River–tailings from two mines flowed into the river, and placers have been found northwest of both Bagdad and Hillside
- Santa Cruz River–placers have been washed down through Guebabi Canyon from the Patagonia Mountains.