Did You Know that Mother Lode Was Spelled This Way?

Yeah, me neither. I assumed it was “load”–you, too? I always knew it was a big haul, but didn’t know that it was specific to mining gold and silver.

There’s an actual place in the U.S. called the Mother Lode: it’s the California gold veins of the Sierra Nevada, discovered in the Gold Rush.

I gleaned this nugget of information reading the newsletter from the Gold and Treasure Hunting Show in St. Joseph MO. What a find! I learned a lot–about the crap that’s buried by nature and by humans; and about how much money people will spend on hobbies (and pipe dreams).

There’s Gold in Them There Hills

We’ve only collected 10% of the gold in the world. Source: some dude at the show. Reliability: TBD.

Where is gold? Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Africa, South America, Australia.

Does gold collection have the same violence and concerns as blood diamonds in Africa? The folks at the show couldn’t answer the question.

Mining vs Panning for Gold

Are you a pro or a hobbyist? If a pro, then you’re mining–you’re digging for veins of glacier gold. If you’re a hobbyist, you’re looking for placer gold, which has broken free from the vein. It’s often in rivers and streams near known mines. Why water? Gold weighs 19x more, so you can pan, and it will sink while the water will float away.

Just like you look for rocks to find gathered fish, you’ll also find gathered silt and gold nuggets within rock beds and banks.

Panning for gold

The grooves keep the gold nuggets and dust in the pan

Some folks only look for the dust, others for nuggets, and still others for bigger hauls.

Chunks of gold

Nice Work if You Can Get It

Semi-pros or folks who host trips will buy a massive piece of equipment that separates gold from other matter. The machine costs $6,300, but a recent group trip to Arizona yielded an ounce-per-day, which goes for $1,700.

Machine to separate gold

Folks who try to make a living by prospecting can earn roughly equal to minimum wage working 40 hours a week. They have to pay taxes if they sell the gold, which is of course, the only way to earn an income. They, and others, are bothered by the Federal Government’s recent increase in fees on “claims.”

Claims are fees paid to prospect for minerals on public lands. It used to be $140 per 40 acres, but now it’s per 20 acres, which cuts into profit.

What’s Buried Under There?

Not in a golden place but still got a hankering for treasure? Break out your metal detector. It can find meteorites, which are magnetic, relics, and other treats up to 10 inches underground. This is more than just for the beach: parks, rivers, school yards, old houses.

Metal Detector

Metal Detector Booty

One person’s metal detector booty collected within three miles of home

Hobbies are wonderful. Spend all you want as long as you can afford it. What distressed me about some of the gold and treasure hunters who I met was how much more they invested than they yielded, and how much they were certain their Gold Rush was just around the corner. Is it ironic for me to doubt their dream when I quit my job, am traveling, and am hoping to transition to professional writer?


What do you think of the government’s increased fees to prospect on public land?

10 Responses


Your Comments
Yes, I did know the spelling of “Lode”, but not the other details. Here’s another spelling lesson … The actual phrase is “There’s gold in them THAR
hills”… have fun, Margie

Margie – i wondered about the THAR. thanks for clarifying. That’s certainly something to get correct! And more fun!


Can a metal detector detect gold?

Jefe – yes, a metal detector can detect gold. Depends on the settings. New hobby?


Proud to report that I did know it’s spelled lode, along with lede, which is a journalism term for what we would say is the lead of the story. (Hey, I can spell but can’t do arithmetic for squat.)

Your post is provocative. Prospecting for gold must be like gambling. You might win. Or you might not.

If you get to Leadville, Colorado, go through the lead museum. Yes, this lead is spelled correctly, as in — what’s heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead.

Jeannine – check you out with all the play on letters! Lead museum is now on my list!

A metal detector should be able to detect gold. The detector of a metal detector is an inductor (according to wikipedia a pair of receiving antennas and an AM transmitting antenna) not an electromagnet, so anything conductive *should* trigger the detector. It does depend on how you have it tuned, though.

Aw, phooey, read the article wrong. Standard hand-held metal detectors are inductor type, not AM transmitter type. Either way, they should be able to detect gold.

Josh – thanks for the research!


Mother LODE of all posts as I learned so much. Thank you, Obi-Wan.

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