Here’s What Kind of Ground You Can Find Gold In

Gold prospecting is a hobby that has been gaining traction over the years. Some undertake this exercise for fun, hoping their efforts will be rewarded. Some prospectors search for gold to earn a living because, no matter the quantity, there is always a market for gold. 

The kind of ground you can find gold includes cliffs and river banks with rocks of a lighter color. Areas along the river with inside corners, large boulders, and undercut beds are also great spots. Look for holes where other prospectors worked, and contact points for stones like granite and gneiss.

There are several hints you will see on the ground to signify the presence of gold. Sometimes, it is safer to follow the trails of prospectors who came before you, but you can also identify new ground. In this article, I’ll discuss how to spot areas where gold is likely hidden. 

How To Identify Locations With Gold

The California gold rush peaked in 1852 and saw the number of miners grow from 4,000 to 80,000 in a year. At the time, the miners didn’t know how to find locations with gold. If anything, when one group was rumored to have found gold, others flocked to the same area to try their luck.

The World Gold Council estimates there are 54,000 tons (54 million kilograms) of unmined gold globally.

Over the years, gold prospectors have devised ways to identify ground where gold is likely to be found. Even though the quantities are much lower, there are signs above ground that can lead you to locations with gold deposits. 

Here’s how to identify locations where gold is found. 

Boulders in a Stream

It’s not unusual for gold prospectors to search for gold in streams. If anything, rivers and streams are some of the locations where many have successfully found gold nuggets. One of the spots they stop to search is where large rocks and boulders are located.

Gold is a relatively dense element. One of the tests performed to confirm if the yellow stone is real gold or fool’s gold (pyrite) is the density test. Gold is about one and a half times heavier than pyrite. It is estimated to weigh 19.3 grams (0.62 troy ounces per cubic centimeter). 

The assumption is, as water flows, it over time weakens the rocks, causing them to disintegrate. If gold ores were hidden within the rocks, they would be washed downstream. Large rocks along the river slow down the water, and because gold is heavy, it most likely settles and collects behind the rock. 

This is why prospectors always stop and search behind large rocks along rivers because there is always the likelihood they will find some gold nuggets in the sediments that form behind the rock. 

Iron Stained Rocks

Gold usually occurs in a range of deposits, including iron ore. Several studies have been carried out on the presence of gold in iron ore. An example is Goa’s iron ore, which was studied extensively to find out what other minerals are found within the ore. Gold concentrations of about 7.71–0.13 ppm were found.

At the peak of the California and Alaska gold rush, pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, lured many people into these areas in search of gold. Some mine owners even used pyrite to lure investors who were looking for mining locations that will return a neat profit. 

At the time, pyrite was considered deceptive considering how many people were fooled into believing it is gold. However, the idea wasn’t far-fetched because gold and pyrite, which is iron sulfide, often form in the same area. In some instances, gold is hidden within the pyrite. 

It is, therefore, not surprising that prospectors look out for rocks with iron stains, which tend to be yellowish, purple, and red. Iron stains also indicate the presence of hard rock, which has weathered over time. 

This rock is also usually quite dense because it is loaded with metal or sulfide. When broken, this rock is likely to have gold deposits hidden inside. 

Quartz Veins

Areas with plenty of quartz rock, including quartz veins, are also potential grounds for gold hunting. Quartz veins have a crystalline appearance, and they take on various colors, including white, purple, black, and grey. 

Quartz with red lines also signifies the presence of iron. This is also an indication that gold may be in the area, or within the vein. 

Gold is sometimes hidden in quartz veins, especially in areas where there were volcanic or tectonic activities. You can find quartz veins in areas with rock outcrops and lots of rocks. 

Highly Oxidized Rocks

When walking around gold mines, especially in unexplored areas, look out for highly oxidized rocks. These rocks are usually heavily fractured. Some gold may be hidden underneath the oxidized rocks. 

Oxidized rocks are sometimes found at the base of cliffs, underneath boulders on hills, and in inner curves along rivers and streams.

Parent Rocks With Deep Fractures

The deep fractures on parent rocks may also be holding gold deposits. If the fractures haven’t yet attracted other prospectors, it is worth exploring. If the rock is downstream or near steam channels, chances are gold deposits may have settled in these fractures.

Rocks of Different Colors

Observe the rocks in the areas you are exploring. Look at the parent rocks, observe the similarities in the rocks in the area, and also pay attention to the rocks that look different. Sometimes, acidic mineral solutions breach the rocks until they take on a lighter color. 

If you notice some yellowish rocks that stand out from the rest, it probably has mineral deposits that may include gold. Additionally, if you spot reddish, black, or blue-green rocks, those are worth exploring. 

Here is a video highlighting how to identify rocks that signify the presence of gold in the area.

Rock Contact Zones

You should also look at contact zones, especially where rocks of different types meet at a 90° angle. This is usually a sign that the rocks moved along fault lines, and came to a halt where the different rock types met. Underneath these rocks, you are likely to find gold deposits. 

Rock Piles and Trenches

A good place to search for gold includes areas where you can see evidence of mining. Trenches and rock piles are signs that other miners have been in the area, and they may have been lucky. If there was no gold, there wouldn’t be multiple trenches and rock piles. So, it’s worth checking if any gold nuggets were left behind. 

Geologic Features Similar To Mining Sites

If you’re prospecting in areas close to gold mines, look out for features that are similar to those in areas where gold was found. Look for similar rock types, even if they are some distance from the mountain range. This is especially critical in areas where a volcanic eruption occurred, and rocks containing gold may have been flung further away. 

Presence of Rocks Like Granite and Gneiss

Sometimes, the type of rocks in the area is indicative of the presence of gold in the area. Coarse rock has been found in granite, as is the case in the Amargosa gold mines in California. The mineralization of granite veins has also been evident in Nevada and Mariposa County. 

Plants That Grow in Mineralized Areas

While rocks and soil are often used to identify locations with gold deposits, in rare instances, plants can also be used. Horsetail plant is often associated with areas with gold deposits. It tends to be quite tolerant of heavy metals in soil, leading some gold prospectors to believe that the presence of these plants is indicative of gold hidden in the ground. 

Areas with Black Sand

Many minerals remain hidden in black sand because they are denser, and tend to take on a darker color, just like black sand. Additionally, black sand is usually heavier than all other types of sand. So, it’s likely that it has other heavy metals, including gold, hidden within the sand.

Often, gold prospectors use black sand as a sign when searching for gold placer deposits. 

Black and Red Soil

The color of the soil in the area is also somewhat indicative of the presence of gold in the area. This is especially critical if the soil has changed color over time. Black soil has large iron content, while red soil indicates iron oxides. 

As mentioned, iron — whether on rocks or soil — is often a good sign that gold is in the area. 


Color and density are important signs to look for when looking for ground where gold is likely hidden. Rocks hold all sorts of elements, and when they are heavy and colored, they may lead you to gold. Sometimes, moving upstream or downstream, following the path of the stones, such as quartz floats, may lead you to a mineral-rich vein.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to tips on finding and collecting precious items. Inspired by reading countless adventurer reports from the oldtimers, Alex is passionate about discovering hidden treasures and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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