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Hello All,

   Over the years I have been fortunately to help a friend work and maintain a small placer mine here in Arizona.  Like all mines, placer or lode, I have been able to see all the ups and down, highs and lows.  This includes good gold, poor gold, tons of equipment breakdowns/failures and even personality conflicts.  That all being said, I would do it again in heartbeat, as I truly have a passion for electronic prospecting and gold mining. 

Over the years, we have been able to open up a lot of ground that contained "Coyote Holes" or Placer Drifts.  These are normally in areas where there is rich, ancient alluvial gravels.  I have found these in many States from Nevada, California and Arizona, but I'm sure all rich gold areas could have them.  They are basically tunnels dug into the rich gravels normally right on top of bedrock and can vary in weight, height and length.   I have seen some that are just small holes punched in the side of a bank, others that are extensive tunnels running for hundreds of yards with many side shoots.  

In many areas if the ground is hard, meaning caliche and ancient gravels, no timbering was needed.  They would use hard tools, dynamite /blasting caps and a lot of back breaking work to muck out and work the tunnels. It's just simply amazing when you find these and see what type of work was needed to dig, maintain and work them.  

What does this mean to prospectors and electronic prospectors?  Well first, it's an indicator that gold was found.  No one does this type of work for no gold, so it could be an indicator that good gold was found at some point.  The old-timers were pretty good, they knew that the gold and nuggets would be at or near bedrock in these areas, so like anyone they did the best job they could with what they had to work with.  We can all quarterback why they might have left a nugget here or there, but keep in mind, like anything, some productivity in their minds had to happen.  They had to move as much ground as they could effectively to make a living, so it wasn't possible to break every crack open or find every overlooked gravel pocket on bedrock.  This allows modern day prospectors to find missed gold whether thats with a metal detector or re-working some of the old workings using more modern tools. 

What's normally found?  Well, keep in mind, depending where you're located in the World, the weather could be different.  Some places freezing cold, while other places blazing hot.  This means in a lot of cases, they used them also as shelter from the weather and wild animals.  Over the years we have found hundreds of hand-tools, mostly destroyed, broken or half rotten away.  This would include shovels, hand-tools like pocket knives, crevice tools and such.  You will also find old cans, mostly rotten away, which is a real pain for metal detectorists.  You could find anything from old relics, potentially coins, trinkets and gold (fines, flakes or nuggets).  I did find some really nice candle holders, which they would hammer into the walls and use candles for light. 

What I can personally tell you, is they always leave something behind, maybe nice as they couldn't physically see or hear it (metal detector), but on the same note they were good.  It always makes you think what they found, as most old documents are not going to have this type of detail in them.  I always thought it would be nice for just a day to go back in time and see the guys/gals that are working these areas, interact with them and also see what they were really finding.  I'm sure you would see many smiles, along with many frowns ...

Safety and Dangers?  Below you will see a short Youtube video from about 10+ years ago I filmed.  It will give you a general idea of these tunnels and you can get an idea of how deadly they could be.  There will be always someone that is curious, but keep in mind, curiosity KILLED the CAT.  These tunnels can be extremely dangerous from cave ins, poor oxygen, unknown stuff on the floor, animals, reptiles and insects.  If you ever attempt to mess around these, always be prepared and have at least one other person with you for safety.  I personally don't recommend try to enter them, regardless of how safe you think it might be, it only takes a second for something to go bad.  When your focus is digging a target from the wall, or scratching around on the ground, things happen.  

Youtube Video on Coyote Hole - Placer Drift

Many years ago, I was invited to a famous placer mine in California (Ruby Gold Mine) noted for some of the largest gold nuggets recorded.  We spent the entire day walking, exploring and even did a bit of metal detecting.  These were some of the most extensive placer tunnels I ever experienced.  In some places were were hundreds of feet underground, water dripping from the ceiling, but the experience was mind blowing.  Were were able to see some of the gold being found, some of the huge gold nuggets still in their collections from years prior and to imagine all the potential that is still there.  

I figured this would be a new subject not talked about much.  Figure we could open it up to discussion and hear about everyone else's experiences with Placer Tunnels and what they found.  I will post more pictures and add to this as we go.  

Gold Bless & Be Safe,


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Good topic Rob , some of the best coyote holes I have had the chance to detect were in last chance canyon outside of Ridgecrest California about 25 years ago , like you said some were just pockets dug into the hillsides and other were more extensively worked but all were an interesting learning experience for me at the time . And like you said there was always someone outside just in case something  went wrong while the other was inside the hole.

Edited by beatup
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Great topic Rob let me share a recent experience 

There are still folks out there willing to tunnel in. 

I ran into a prospector two or so years back who was making a coyote hole tunneling in a very rich placer area. I won't say exactly where but he had found a very hard-packed top cap near a gold-producing drainage that was about 8' thick and tunneled in just like the old-timers where the hard pack met the bedrock. He had the luxury of a battery-operated headlamp and a small hand-held vacuum. He had tunneled in about 30' in one direction before the bedrock started dropping down and 20' in another. When I saw him he was just coming out of the ground to take a five-gallon bucket of dirt to his truck. We talked for a few minutes just normal stuff then I asked him aren't you afraid of a cave-in? Still wearing his headlamp and standing near his truck he said no not at all and walked over to the top cap near his entry hole and hit it with a hammer. See until this gets wet it is solid. I asked him "Man it has to be a bit spooky in a hole you go in head first and have to back out of," He said not really stating he had widened out inside chasing the bedrock. That is when our conversation went to the returns he was getting. I asked him about the 5-gallon bucket he had just put in his truck. He said that is the good stuff right on the bedrock and maybe 2" above the bedrock. I was very interested as a metal detector knowing this was ground I could never get to but was very curious about his take. When I asked he kind of wanted to not fully disclose but gave me this. “I was getting about 10 grams to the bucket" I didn't want to press him more at that point. I thanked him and we went on our way.

For me, I do not like the underground so I have total respect for this man for assessing the risks and figuring out where and how to get it. I just don’t

For me, I do not like the underground so total respect for this man for assessing the risks and figuring out where and how to get it. 

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