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Forum Home > Gold Prospecting > So you want to find gold? You need to read the stream.

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Gold being heavier than water and other materials will be moving reluctantly in the watercourse of the stream. In doing so, it will generally move in a straight line following the path of least resistance and taking the shortest distance between two points in the stream course.


One way to approach the study of the topographical map is to look for areas where the stream or river will be making a sharp turn. Gold, moving from its original point of deposit into the stream, will generally move during periods of heavy flooding, high water, spring thaws, or during mountain storms. During this period of heavy water flow there will be several factors that will effect the velocity or speed of the water: namely the stream gradient (the amount of drop or angle of the stream over a particular distance), and the width to contain it. Unless the gold has been freshly deposited, its weight will cause it to quickly settle and embed itself in the various cracks, fissures, roots, and other obstacles in its path as it moves downstream. Therefore, it will take substantial velocity for it to move again. Periods of unusually heavy flooding, which occur every few years, tend to rearrange these deposits.


Imagine standing at a high vantage point during an unusually heavy spring runoff. If you were to drop a relatively large lump of gold, say the size of an almond, in this fast-moving water, how would it travel? If the stream were fast and narrow with little obstruction, the test lump of gold would probably travel uninterrupted for the full course of the stream. However, nature does not form streams and rivers that are that smooth, straight, and narrow. Each turn, new tributary; outcropping, variation in grade, etc., will determine the velocity at each given point.


What we are looking for then, when we study our topological map, aerial photograph, or make a first-hand inspection from a vantage point of our selected stream or river, is there anything that would cause the gold to drop or be deposited. Namely, slower water, the inside bends or sharp turns in the river, wide spots in the river which have a slower flow of water, and obstacles such as large boulders, outcroppings of bedrock, deep pools, fissures, or large cracks in the bedrock, particularly those that run perpendicular to the course of the stream.


It is best if you first study your particular stream selection from both an overview of the area and an on-the-spot inspection at the water level. Walk the stream bed for several hundred yards in either direction. Study the various locations of rocks and boulders. These will range in size from baseballs to basketballs to boulders as big as a house. All have come to rest during past runoffs; like our gold, unwilling passengers riding the force of the flood water. You will notice that on the inside curves, as I discussed, there will likely be deposits known as “gravel bars”. These are excellent sites for the deposit of gold. Look for the perpendicular crevices, particularly if they coincide with the inside curve of the stream.


What we are looking for in those areas which contain an accumulation of gold, not necessarily overlooked by the original ‘49ers, but perhaps a deposit accumulated over the last 100 years and perhaps several major floods. This is not to say that the original ‘49ers cleared out the area because their methods of recovery were rather crude and haphazard. It is estimated that the ‘49ers missed about 1/3 of the gold which they mined.


So, take good notes, read the river or stream, and visit the same area at various times of the year to determine the best times to see if you can strike it rich.



Dennis M. O'Connor

November 14, 2010 at 4:32 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Peter Gill
Site Owner
Posts: 311

I think if you look at a river, there is so much under the water that can also stop the gold like reeds or weed..... And of course rocks.... a pebble bed must be a killer, as the gold will not get far across all those pebbles. But at the same time, I guess a pebble bed is a natural trap to find gold..... Umm a lot to look at when looking for gold.


God Bless


November 15, 2010 at 4:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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