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Arizona Treasure Hunts

Ge​ocaching

Keen observation is required for a successful cache hunt.

Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunting game! Participants play hide and seek with trinkets of all shapes and sizes. These lodes are called geocaches, found using global positioning system information. Using your trusty GPS device, you locate the geocaches and share experiences online.

Geocaching combines outdoor exploration with high-tech devices. This activity is enjoyed by people all over the earth, over 5 million worldwide. They may be young or old, big or small, but they have one thing in common—they are adventurous.

On any given day, an estimated 250,000 geocaches are waiting to be found. Cache seekers should always consider their impact to the environment and should practice the “lift, look, replace” technique to minimize signs of passage and to protect the integrity of the cache location.

Getting Started

The official geocaching resource of Arizona offers a mailing list for anyone interested in learning how to geocache. Get tips for responsible geocaching from Tread Lightly. Anyone interested in creating or placing a cache can find comprehensive guidelines at Geocaching.com.

Prospecting

The Tucson Desert Golddiggers share tips and discoveries.

Arizona’s mineral wealth makes it a prime location for actual treasure hunts! Gold prospecting is a popular pastime that is growing as the price of the precious metal climbs. Though the state is the nation’s largest copper producer, significant gold strikes in the 1800s created boom towns near the Hassayampa River and even made Prescott the capital of Arizona.

Is all that gold mined out? Not a chance, say the prospecting clubs that explore claims with metal detectors, shop vacs, and gold pans. With the right equipment and the right techniques, there’s a good chance that you too can experience the thrill of discovery—a thrill that beckoned many of Arizona’s American settlers to the west coast and into Arizona’s wild mountain ranges more than a century ago.

According to the experts, the chances for finding gold are very high. But the chances for getting rich off your finds are close to nonexistent. Members of prospecting clubs don’t just rove the mountains to find gold—exploring nature, meeting wildlife, and bonding with friends and family are often the real rewards.

Technique​s and Locations

The Mineral History Timeline unearths the story of how gold helped settle Arizona.

Placer mining of gold nuggets free in soil is the most popular form of gold prospecting. Gold panning, drywashing, dredging, metal detecting, gold vacuums, rocker boxes, and sluices are all effective methods for recovering placer gold. Arizona has a few professional lode gold operations but virtually all individual prospecting retrieves placer gold. In general, gold panning is allowed on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Land where there are no existing claims. Determining ownership of surface and mineral rights of a particular location can be a complex process.

Popular Arizona locations for placer gold are Morristown, Wickenburg, Rich Hill, Quartzsite and Hayden. Rivers and creeks in the transition zone are also known for gold. Dredging the Copper Basin, Black Canyon, or Hassayampa can be fruitful. The Vulture Mine, still an operating gold mine, is a popular prospecting area but is open to claim mining only.

The key that separates veteran gold prospectors from newbies is research and experience. When searching for treasure, “knowing where to look” is irreplaceable. Prospecting clubs often share claims and help new and old prospectors perfect their skills. The jovial crew at the Tucson Desert Golddiggers prospecting club values friendship as much as the gold they seek. This warm group of 500 members invites newbies to come out and try their hand at an old Arizona profession.

Cattail Cove State Park hosts an annual geocaching event every spring.