Gold Mining on the Hassayampa River

Wickenburg, AZ is a pretty good little town.  It has a Safeway with nearly everything except sprouts and pate, an old classic diner, and a good Arizona-Mex café.  Unless you’re a golfer (Kat doesn’t play often enough to be good: it’s expensive, even when you’re willing to look an hour for a lost ball) there isn’t much else to do here.  Oh, the Del Webb Centre for the Performing Arts offers all kinds of pricey entertainment (“Starting at $55!), but we’ve done pricey and we’ve done otherwise.  You know which I prefer.  But one of the RV blogs turned Kat onto an easy hike into a box canyon with a water feature that sounded fun and easy.


It turned out the drive was a long way from fun.  Try seven miles of corduroy dirt road, so rutted you struggle to average 12 mph.  Even then I wondered if the truck, which heretofore had no rattles, would acquire some courtesy of this hammering.  It reminded me of my National Guard days riding in the back of a 2.5 ton truck:  everybody back there gets so beat up by the vibration they allow us hourly pit stops because you need ‘em.


Desert Dandelions
Desert Dandelions

But along the way we got a good look at a Gambrel’s quail rooster in mating colors, a long-eared jackrabbit, and a ground squirrel who wanted to race us.  El Trucko couldn’t keep up, even though Secretariat Squirrel ran in a straight line.  That’s how bad the road is.


Secretariat Squirrel
Secretariat Squirrel

But the hike was a lot of fun.  We saw cliff swallows – brightly colored, acrobatic little bug catchers – and watched them building their mud nests.  We witnessed serious gold mining.  It seems that technology, or modern marketing, has opened up multiple paths to gold mining riches.  $1,600 an ounce helps too, but when you’re harvesting but a few flakes a day, can you really make a living? It was a Monday.   Maybe these guys do.


She's Not Hurt:  Just Gathering Mud to Build a Nursery
She’s Not Hurt: Just Gathering Mud to Build a Nursery
Wet Sluice Box Mining:  Not Bubba.
Wet Sluice Box Mining: Not Bubba.

Miner Bubba insisted we take a bottle of his water, and he offered some tips on finding gold that I later learned The Google agrees with.  “Look for black sand.  It’s nearly as heavy as gold and almost as hard to move.  Erosion brings gold to the surface every year, and that includes wind over desert sands.  This river brings gold up, and trees close to rivers like to grab it; now and then one dies and eventually lets go of its nuggets.  If you have water and a good claim, mine there.  I like dry mining.  Set up a series of screens, shovel your ore into the top, and turn on your blower.  The light, worthless stuff blows away leaving the gold behind, if any’s there.”


Bubba with Andrew, Welcoming Strangers
Bubba with Andrew, Welcoming Strangers
Can You Tell Gold from Guffo?  Gold Is the Top Dot.
Can You Tell Gold from Guffo? Gold Is the Top Dot.

Bubba doesn’t seem to be making a killing, but he’s a third generation full-timer.  Sounds as nutty as full-time RV’ing, but both are more rational that buying 100 Lotto tickets a week as a way to save for retirement.  After all, when looking for nuggets – or lost golf balls – where there’s one, there’s often dozens.



Wildflowers on the Way Out
Wildflowers on the Way Out


2 thoughts on “Gold Mining on the Hassayampa River

  1. What a fun adventure, and with a cast of characters colorful in so many ways. 🙂

    Wonderful pictures.

    How is El Trucko? 😉

    The gold dot looks just a tad brighter than the Guffo.


    It’s so great how this total stranger in the middle of nowhere not only offers you his water, but also a tutorial on his livelihood.

    The Weather Channel recently ran a series of shows on rare gem miners. A show on gold miners is probably not far behind.

    This post had me busy on The Google, as you call it, looking up the critters, the river, the town, etc.

    See on the Wikipedia link this old legend about drinking the river water:

    “Those who drink its waters bright-
    Red man, white man, boor or knight,
    Girls or women, boys or men-
    Never tell the truth again”


    1. El Trucko is a goldarned Clydesdale. She can pull anything, anywhere. Stumps out the ground would be no problema. El Trucko, I think, is healthier than any of her occupants, and we like to think that other than being a bit long in the tooth, we are all well.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s