Where to find gold?
Which Streams contain gold?
This factor is important because this technique is based on the spring flood churning up the minerals found in the streambed. When this is done during the spring flood, the gold and other dense materials fall to the bottom of certain areas first. This concentrates these valuable minerals which allows prospectors to find them.
2. They should be in a mineral rich area
Mineral Rich Area: A good indication as to whether you are in a mineral rich area is to look at the rocks exposed by the stream erosion and highway cuts used in road construction. Virtually any place that the rocks show a non-sedimentary layering will probably be an excellent place to look. This mineral layering is very infrequently level. Many times the rock layers appear to bend and incline. Quartz is commonly found in parts of the layering along with feldspar or other identifiable minerals. Consult field identification manuals for a more specific description of these minerals. They are common and can be easily identified with a little research.
TIP —> Another indication of a mineral rich area is the presence of black sand. Placer gold is usually found with black sand but the presence of black sand does not necessarily indicate the presence of gold.
3. They should fall through enough elevation to cause sufficient churning in the spring flood
As discussed earlier, gold is extremely dense. If the stream in which you are looking is slow moving and flat, the dense material will have settled out far upstream. As the meandering stream makes its way, it travels in a lazy, snake-like manner, twisting one way then the next. These rivers will provide you with little success. Rapids and waterfalls and white water are indications of quick elevation drops. The spring flood will churn up everything in the river’s expanded boundaries.
4. Stream path and rock formations facilitate the deposition of the dense materials (gold, lead, iron, mercury etc.)
As mentioned before, placer gold settles in specific areas of a streambed called pay streaks. These pay streaks are most often found where the water flow slows down significantly. They may also form along a path, which follows the shortest, straightest path down the streambed at high water. As the Spring flood recedes, the deposits can be left some distance above a low, common summer water level. When looking for a good place to search, imagine what the river would have looked liked during the flood (better yet, go take a look if you can get there).
Most streams do not travel in a straight line for very long either horizontally or vertically. The inside of the bends and where the stream levels out after a steeper run are good places for pay streaks to form.
Another good spot to look can be found on the downstream sides of large boulders and other obstacles. These create an area where the flowing water slows down for just a short time. The highly dense materials can be concentrated here.
Other obstacles include bedrock ridges and large fallen trees. The obstacles can be even more productive if they are in that shortest, straightest path down the streambed. Pay streaks may take several years to form so the best obstacles to investigate are those which appear to have been there for a long time. The best rock formations that help the prospector are those that trap dense materials that are flowing by during the flood. These formations can be best described as exposed bedrock with small, near vertical fissures. Smooth, well-worn bedrock is almost never productive.
Where to look for gold:
Gravel bars usually found on the inside of the river bends – especially newly formed. Although the gold here is mostly small flakes to very fine, there sometimes is a lot of it.
Where streams level out after a steeper part such as downstream of rapids or waterfalls.
Small streaks of gravel laying on the bed rock (but you will need some sort of sucker to retrieve it if it is underwater).
Downstream sides of large boulders and other obstacles which because of size or other factors appear to have been there for a long time.
Pot holes or cracks in the bedrock. —> TIP: In popular prospecting areas, the large, obvious cracks have most likely been cleaned out many times. Look for lines of moss running along the bedrock. There is almost always a small crack under the moss and these cracks can contain a surprising amount of gold.
…and speaking of moss: Moss and grass roots near the riverbank.
Highbankes. As a stream cuts deeper into a canyon, it can leave patches of gravel high on the canyon wall. These are called benches.
Look for round or rounded rocks well above the present high water level. Round or rounded rocks have lived in a river at some time in their lives. Always keep in mind that these are the most likely places to find gold.
There is an old saying: “Gold is where you find it.” What this really means is, you may find a spot that looks perfect and not find any gold at all or you may find a spot that looks like it would be barren but you find a “bonanza.” Just try to keep your mind open to all possibilities.
Old is found in lode deposits, residual deposits, alluvial deposits, bench deposits, streambed deposits, ancient rivers, and flood layers. A lode deposit is a crack or fissure in hardrock that’s full of gold. This is the original source of placer deposits.
Alluvial deposits are pieces of ore that have eroded away from a lode, but haven’t been deposited in a stream. The hill that they came from may no longer exist, or may even be further downhill.
Bench deposits are found on the banks of a stream, and streambed deposits are found under the water. You can start your exploration in the streambed. If you don’t see any signs there, chances are that the entire basin is bare.
Look for cracks or crevices in the rock at the bottom of the stream. Gold will settle into them. Any rough or irregular bedrock surface will act as a gold trap. Potholes in the bedrock will trap gold, so dig until you find the hard edges of the hole. Smooth and polished surfaces don’t trap gold well.
Dikes in the bedrock will trap gold in different ways. If it angles downstream, gold will to collect on the downstream side. If it angles upstream, it will tend to collect on the upstream side. Rock outcroppings from the stream sides work about this same way.
Any sudden drop-off into a deeper and larger volume of water is a good place to look. Boulders at the base of a waterfall will protect gold deposits from being boiled away by the falling water. Sometimes the gold will settle out just beyond the boilout point. If the slope of the streambed lessens and smoothes out, there may be a good sized deposit there. Look on topographical maps for places where the grade levels off and check it out.
Gold tends to follow the shortest route between bends.
Boulders in the stream may trap gold on the downstream side. Of course, if they are in the shortest path, they are even more likely to do so.
During the Tertiary period, about 2 million years ago, the mountains underwent a lot of twisting and faulting. Many streams were formed, most of which ran in a South-East direction. The benches of these ancient rivers and streams are well known for the rich deposits they contain. These deposits often have a deep blue color, and are called ‘Blue lead’, which turns a rusty reddish brown after being dug up and exposed to the air. They are often very hard and compacted.
Flood gold can be found at the bottom of flood layers where heavy storms with enough force to move large amounts of gold will produce concentrations. Watch for layers of differing color, hardness and consistency. Some hard layers may masquerade as bedrock, so don’t give up if the going gets a little hard. The shortest route idea applies here, also. Sharp bends may show good return in the inside edges quite far from the normal water line.
Finding Gold and Nuggets
Look for gold where it has been found before. Doing research in off-peak season times is an excellent way to increase the odds of finding gold the first time out. There is no sense in wasting time looking for gold in an area that is known for NOT having any gold.
In rivers, gold will concentrate in areas where the water pressure decreases. But, gold moves when the water pressure is high. Therefore, imagine what the water flow would look like AT FLOOD STAGE, then look for areas where the water pressure would decrease. Typical areas would be in front of large boulders, on the insides of curves, along the banks, etc.
Stand at the “upriver end of an inside curve” on the river. Look up river to the previous curve, which should be on the opposite side of the river (but sometimes on the same side). Draw an imaginary line from where your standing to the upriver curve. Look for a line of large boulders that extends from where your standing to the upriver curve. Dredge this line of boulders, checking to see when your in the paystreak.
When dredging a section of the river that has deep bedrock, work the clay layers as if they were bedrock. Generally, gold will be located within the top 6″ of a clay layer. If you punch through farther than this, you will have to go to the top of the next clay layer.
Look for areas where bedrock is shallow, and look for areas that will trap gold; cracks, rough or broken bedrock, and large boulders. Always look for places that would have decreased water pressure at flood stage.
To find areas of shallower bedrock (compared to other areas of the river) when exposed bedrock cannot be seen, look up both sides of the canyon for exposed rock jutting out from the surrounding terrain directly across from each other. Draw an imaginary line down one side and up the other, joining the two outcroppings. . Where this line crosses the river is the area of shallowest bedrock.
Due to the weight of gold, it tends to settle “down.” So, look down into natures riffles. The cracks in the flat rock which forms the creek or river bottom may be scraped out with a screwdriver, knife, tooth brush and the like.
The “down stream” side of rocks and boulders are where gold will settle out of the current and is a good spot to dig for color.
Weeds also grow out of the cracks in bed rock, so don’t forget to pull weeds and wash the dirt from their roots into your pan! Some folks like to collect dirt from such places and take it home to pan later.