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Desert Dry Out


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Not really answering your question....

I’m still in my first year and got my drywasher in June of last year. Even after the big rains of the monsoon last year, it was only a few days before I was back to dry washing. Until November, I never had trouble using it. In December, I tried laying the dirt on a mat for several hours, but even the third time I ran through the dry washer, it was still wet.

This slightly humid weather below 60 really slows the ground up compared to the over 100 degree bone dry heat of the summer.

I’m perfecting my recirculating system.

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Too many variables.

How long it rains.

How hard it rains.


Ambiant temp.

Exposure to direct sunlite or not.


North or South facing.

Drainage, ground composition.

Sloping ground or flat.

So, I'd say that if the area you want to work is dusty then the time is right.

Unless you encounter moisture a few inches deep.

Just never can tell 'til ya try.

If it's too wet, come back in a week.

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One thing that surprises me about the dirt I’m digging in the Arizona Desert by Wickenburg, is how much it looks like potting soil especially when wet. I expected dry sand and dunes when I was coming here, but that’s not what I got. Except for the very top layer of sand on the washes, the dirt seems to be pretty fertile.

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You are in my area and it is mighty wet and looks like we will see quite a bit of rain this winter with more coming this weekend, my call is perhaps mid may after the heat kicks in sadly. Was a nice dry fall and I was drywashing through turkey day this year.

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Clay soil holds moisture longer than sandy soil, but fine gold often is found in the clay types as opposed to the sandy stuff. These soils dry out at different rates under the identical circumstances (i.e., under the same wind, sunlight, temperature and humidity conditions sandy soil will lose its moisture faster than clay soils). In fact, an old-timer here in SoCal (now deceased) named Art Clark would keep annual records of which patches of the desert stayed green the longest after the wet season. Those places were the ones he targeted for the recovery of fine gold. He also determined that 3% or less by weight of water could be efficiently dry washed. He did this by carefully weighing numerous samples of dirt, then roasting the sample over a fire, then weighing it again, then running it, panning out the tails and keeping a record of the results (in other words, determining the ratio of gold that was being lost by his dry washer and comparing it to the amount of moisture in the soil). If the weight dropped only 3% or less, then it was deemed by Art dry enough to dry wash (i.e., the tailings would contain minimal or no lost gold). Most folks, of course, just squeeze a handful to see if it clumps at all. If it does, it likely is too damp for effective dry washing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Where I live in New Mexico the weather and storm fronts that come through usually build up on the western skyline where a big range of mountains is, about 30 miles from town. It will look like a huge storm is about to hit but 90% of the time the clouds/moisture hit the mountains and dump their rain there and never rain a drop in town. It used to bum me out because its so hot here and the rain is a welcome relief. Ever since I got into prospecting and dry washing though I'm glad the rain misses us!

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