Written By Bill Hagan

Greetings fellow prospectors, I am Bill from South Douglas County in South West Oregon. I have been prospecting for the last 40+ years and have used just about every piece of prospecting equipment you can imagine.  Now that I am getting up in my years the days of the old pick and shovel are pretty much behind me.  Now I haven’t given up prospecting I just had to find a way to do the heavy work without all the manual labor.

Back in late 2007 or early 2008, I was reading an article about an Arizona prospector how used a gas powered vacuum to suck up material from cracks and off bed rock. It sounded interesting so I went looking for one.  They were out there but with a price tag of $400.00+ I needed to find a cheaper way to get my hands on one.  Then the thought struck me, I already had a generator, why not use an electric, industrial sized, wet/dry,  shop vac at a quarter the cost.

Here I am using my vac cleaning off some bed rock. The water in the hole is a bit of a nuisance but it does loosen the gold trapped in the mud atop the rock and in the cracks.

The location I do most of my prospecting now-a-days is loaded with shallow and exposed bed rock.  I tried using a regular wet/dry vacuum but the small diameter hose clogged far too quickly and I found myself moving a lot of smaller cobble. I graduated to an industrial sized vac with a 2 ½ inch hose and found that I could move three to four times as much material with far less clogging. A major problem, when working in wet material, is the wet material will begin to build up on the inside of the hose. This will soon reduce the suck power of the unit and eventually clog the hose. To remedy the problem one should occasionally suck some water through the hose to wash the restricting material through. The vac does work best in dry material.

The bed rock you see in this picture is under water when the river reaches flood stage. Note all the moss on the rock, the vac works very well on this also.

The material I collect with my vacuum is classified to ¼ inch and then run through my recirculating high banker or my Mountain Goat Trommel.  The vac is fun and easy to use plus it is quite effective, (see photo below).

The larger bottle contains smaller flakes, as seen in the pan, while the little bottle contains pickers.

Special Thanks to Bill Hagan for submitting this article to oregongold.net