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How to Find Gold in A Rive. Where to Find Gold in a River. Gold Mining. How to Pan for Gold

How to Find gold in rivers and streams. Gold diving. Use of the hookah rig to find gold. Gold flakes, nuggets, and platinum nuggets are shown. Gold and platinum are 15-19 times heavier than other streambed materials and concentrate in low pressure areas and cracks that run across rivers and streams. 

You look for a crack on the bank, and follow it out until you meet the "gold line" and there you suck it out with your dredge. Gold will be on the outside edge of a river gravel bar, at the head of the bar (large gold but usually beneath big boulders), and at the tail end of a bar (vast concentrations due to river bars forming in the shape of an airfoil and sucking fine gold to the tail end) but be small to microscopic at the tail end. Gold will travel down a river or stream in a line, usually off center of the high pressure water. Gold will settle behind a boulder. 
A good place to fish, can also be an excellent place to find gold. "Black sand" is iron ore that can be readily identified in gravel bars and is a ready indicator that gold is probably present. The most effective and economical way for the average person to find paying concentrations of gold in a river or stream is with a simple ($80) sluice that you shovel into and the riffles retain gold, platinum, gems and anything heavy for you. Gold can be found up high on the old river channels and recovered with metal detectors, a gold wheel, a highbanker, or simply by identifying the material, shoveling it in your truck and working it out later in a wheel, or your simple stream sluice. 

The states which have gold in vast quantities are: Maine, Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Idaho, Washington, Montana, and Oregon. The rest have gold as well, some in very good concentrations. All have gems of some kind that a sluice will separate and hold. Good luck finding the gold of your dreams! 
When gold prospecting a new stretch of river, it can at times be difficult to pick a place to start gold panning. There are a number of places that are good starting points for any search. I will cover how to read a river for gold and how to sample a stretch of river. 
Placer gold tends to deposit in areas of low water pressure. By this, I mean that anywhere the water slows, gold will try to find a resting place, while lighter gravels continue to wash down a river. When searching for these low pressure areas it is important to visualize the river during the runoff season as this is the time when the gold moves the most. If you are not able to visit the river during high water season, look for the high water mark. Look for the highest points on the bank where drift wood has been deposited. This is probably close to the high water mark.

Gold often travels down the gut of the river, taking the shortest path possible. This can be visualized by looking from the inside edge of a bend in the river up or down to the edge of the next bend. Look for anything that might obstruct the flow of water along this path. There might be a large boulder or other object that can break the flow of water. The down stream side of the object can catch gold.

Look for sections of bedrock that cross the river. If there are cracks or crevices crossing the flow of water, they can act as natural riffles in a sluice box. Surprisingly large pieces of gold can work their way into what appear to be small cracks. When a river widens, the water pressure decreases. This can allow gold to deposit.

The inside bend of a river causes water to slow enough that gold can be deposited on the bend along with other gravels that form a bar. Depending on the bar, placer gold can be concentrated on the up-river and down-river sections of the bar. 

It can also be deposited in pockets throughout the bar. Flood gold, the gold that is easily moved during floods, can be scattered in the top layers of gravel thoughout the river with pockets forming in spotty locations. These are not the only places that placer gold can deposit, but they are some good places to start.

Now I highly recommend that you try sampling rather than just picking a spot and going for it. The goal of sampling is to locate a more richer section of gravel before you start gold panning. It is well worth the time and effort to sample so that you can find the pockets or paystreaks of gold. A paystreak is often a somewhat narrow stretch of river that has a higher concentration of gold than the rest of the river bed.

When sampling, don’t wast time trying to extract every flake or speck of gold from your gold pan. Look for a promising spot and pan it down until you can get a good idea of the number of pieces of gold that came from the hole. Make a note of the spot and move onto another promising spot. Continue to make note of the concentration of gold in each spot. Then, after sampling several spots, go back and work the spot that was producing the most gold.

If while sampling you discover a really good deposit. Take some samples upstream, downstream, and on the sides to find the boundaries of the deposit. This will let you know the general area of the gold deposit and you might just discover an even richer part of the deposit. I know that I would rather work the richest part of the deposit, if I was limited on time. 

Once you have located a good spot, now is the time to slow down and really work the area. Pan the material down until you only have about a half a cup of material in your gold pan. At this point, you can see some of the gold and know whether or not you are still in a productive spot. Rather than spend a lot of time separating the gold from the other gravel, place it in a small bucket or container to cleanup at home. This way you spend more time getting the gold.

Catch gold fever by panning for your own gold. Take a number from the prospectors of yore and spend an afternoon by a stream, pan in hand. Panning can be rewarding, if done correctly. Follow these steps to learn how to pan for that glittering ore.

Go to a stream or river where you have heard gold has been found. Whether there is a family spot, you’ve heard legends about a certain stream, or you just have a hunch, there is generally some truth behind the wives tales and family stories. While you may think that because a spot has already been panned there won’t be any gold left, this isn’t the case. Streams and rivers carry small flakes and nuggets from upstream deposits. Every winter, storms unearth more gold, and that gold could be yours.

Pick a spot along the side of the stream or river. The spot you pick should have water that is a minimum of six inches deep. If it is any shallower than that, the water might be too muddy or filled with leaves and other debris to get a good look at your pan when it is under the water.

Pick a spot with a slow current. The water should be moving fast enough to carry away the silt and debris you sift out of your pan, but slow enough the water will not upset your panning motions when your pan is submerged. 

Pick a spot that has large rocks or a fallen tree along the water’s edge. This is optional but a large rock that you can sit on while prospecting will make your day much easier (and your legs and back will thank you).

Pick your pan. Standard pans are either metal or plastic. Plastic pans are better for beginners because they are rust-proof, lighter in weight than metal pans, black (which allows the gold to be seen better) and they can be textured with ribs to catch gold.

· If you do use a steel pan like the 49ers of yore, make sure to remove any oil from its surface. (If you are using a newly bought pan, you shouldn’t have to worry about oil.) Remove oil by holding the pan over a campfire with a pair of tongs or fireproof gloves. Heat the pan to a dull red glow and then dunk it in water. This process removes the oil and leaves the pan with a dark blue color that makes seeing the gold easier.

Understand the panning sieve. Sieves can be set over a pan and will separate the large items from smaller ones. It is not necessary to use a sieve but they can be helpful, when sifting the gold from black sand and concentrates.
How to Find Gold in A Rive. Where to Find Gold in a River. Gold Mining. How to Pan for Gold

Knowing where to find gold in a river will save you a lot of time, a lot of work and also increase your prospecting productivity. As you already know from the page on the physical characteristics of gold it is very dense, almost 20 times more dense than water. it is also virtually indestructible, which goes some way to explaining its phenomenal price, but also how it always keeps its value throughout human history.

If you have not already, please read the page on the physical characteristics of gold before reading this one as it will make this page easier to understand. 

An easy way to understand where gold will be in a river system is if you think of it as being lazy, yes, the gold is LAZY. It does not like moving and if it does it moves at little as it possibly can or takes the shortest and LAZIEST route between two points – it is conservation of energy personified, well, elementified 

So if we were to draw this laziness of gold on a map of a river what would it look like? If you think about my previous paragraph on gold being lazy and try to envisage what that means i imagine you will have a fair idea of where the gold will be in a river.

n the images on this page i will attempt to show you all of the places in a river system that gold can accumulate and be found. I will start at the source, or Mother Lode rock and follow the golds journey through the river system and eventually down to the Sea. The image shows a basic map of a river system as it would travel down a mountainside. It starts at the junction of three small rivulets and takes a winding and dropping course down to the Sea.

The first location is of course the Mother Lode, this is the parent rock that may have lay in this location for many millions of years. It would have been formed as molten Quartz was brought up to the Earths surface due to an intense geological period many millions of years ago, the molten gold would have been intertwined with the molten quartz

Next on the gold Journey is Residual Gold . This is gold that has broken off from the main lode due to the weathering of the surrounding rocks and Quartz – when rocks are freeze at night and heat up during the day they eventually crack and fall, in the case of our rock, this means that the gold is released from the mother lode, it then becomes residual gold 

After many years, sometimes millions of years, gold will eventually find its way into either a river, stream or creek, this can be due to gravity or hydraulic action. This is the point where residual gold turns into alluvial gold

Due to Golds high density it will travel along the lowest points of the riverbed, it will usually dig its way all the way down to bedrock along with other heavy elements such as silver, tin, platinum and the magnetic sand called hematite and magnetite.

The next stage of accumulation in our river occurs when it encounters a change in elevation – the river drop suddenly over a waterfall. Not only will the gold fall out of the flow here but the river itself will gouge a hole out beneath it as it hits the ground below, this is the perfect trap for large gold, for this reason it is sometimes known as a glory hole. The two images below show this process

Our next possible place where gold can be found is where two rivers meet. This can cause gold to concentrate in an area due to the complex vortices and rotations of the river waters as they meet each other – gold will not be carried along a river if the speed of the current either slows down or changes direction suddenly, it will instead drop out of the flow and settle in a calm part of the rive 
The next thing to look out for are ancient river beds . These occur where a river once ran but no longer does. This could be due to volcanic forces, earthquakes, a landslide or simply the river “deciding” to meander a different way. If you find one of these you can be almost certain that the vast majority of it has been unprospected and may contain large concentrations of gold

Obstructions to the flow of the water can create eddy currents behind them, gold will tend to settle on the seaward side of such obstructions.These can range from boulders to tree roots and everything in between. Pay-streaks can be formed when a river begins to meander when it is at its lower altitudes and begins to slow down. These can be highly lucrative but difficult to find without the correct information on how they form, you can watch a video showing how they form here – Gold in river bends 

High Benches can also be a good place to look, these will generally be unprospected and can contain large gold. A bench deposit occurs when a gold-bearing river erodes its banks and cuts deep into the Earth. This leaves rich gold seams high and dry above the present day rivers height, this can range from just several feet above the current river to several hundred feet

At any point along the rivers journey it may come into direct contact with the bedrock that lies beneath, this is a good place to look for flakes and nuggets that may be trapped within cracks and crevices within the bedrock, this is sometimes referred to as sniping. As the river nears the end of its life and returns to The Sea it also takes the gold with it. This gold can still be found in the sea in the form of nuggets which can be found through dredging, and also Beach Placers which are accumulations of the gold through the action of the waves and long-shore drift.

Just let me say there is a lot of gold still waiting to be mined out there. When you look at the geological history of our earth and all the glacial movements of massive gravels, sands and mountains, it is not hard to understand that there is still a large quantity of placer gold "in them thar hills". The best indicator of gold, or gold bearing deposits is any low spot or river valley that cuts through any area of land. Usually we concentrate our efforts in these wet low drainage basins. This is the "easy gold", but this easily mined gold only represents a small portion of what is really available. Rivers (or streams) cut through ancient riverbeds which through time are sometimes left "high and dry" (high benches) on their journey to the ocean.

Obviously finding ancient or orphaned valleys that contain decent if not large quantities of coarse gold is very lucrative. The richness of these areas makes finding them very worthwhile. This is especially true if an area has been well worked. 

These somewhat obvious old river channels are often rich in gold deposits as well as other minerals and gems. What I look for is an overgrown gravel area with cottonwood trees growing on top. Cottonwood trees have a relatively short life (60 - 100 years) and their roots will naturally seek out "wet pockets" on bedrock. During dry periods (August) look for the trees with the greenest leaves. These trees are pulling water from the deepest pockets in what appears to be a dry area.

The second strong indication is bedrock and large boulders that have been worn or smoothed by water. I look on the valley sides or banks for large sheets of bedrock that extends downwards on an angle into what was once the river or stream
High Benches

A high bench is basically an ancient river or stream that has been left high up on the side of a valley. Sometimes these high benches can be obvious, other times not.

What to Look For

Look for pockets of green growth, trees or bushes in an otherwise dry area. This is the easy way to find placer gold in these elevated locations.

I was first made aware of this method by an old prospector that worked a gold claim in Atlin, BC The grizzly old miner had a full beard and mustache stained orange by his pipe smoking. He would often gesture with his pipe, pointing out different parts of his mining operation. Once, just after a meal, he pointed to an especially green patch of aspen and cottonwood trees growing about 1/4 mile up the hill from his claim and said "That's where the real gold is". He went on to describe why it was an excellent location and if that were part of his mining claim, he would start digging there looking for nuggets. 
The spot was a "v notch" upon the side of the mountain. Once side of the notch was a huge slab of bedrock (a massive flat rock), while the other side was an assortment of fist sized rocks.This tiny valley went back about 50 yards into the mountain before stopping and continuing upwards again. Everything around that spot was drab and lifeless except that location, which was full of green trees and other plant growth. He described how to dig along the bedrock, from the exposed portion down into the ground. He said "you look for a sudden change in soil density - clay or a hard rock bottom". As you are digging down, you keep taking samples. Pan out these samples looking for black sand, fine gold and in this area, garnets. When you hit a rich spot it will be obvious. Your sample suddenly has gold pieces in it. Dig a little further and you are into nuggets.

Once you have found this, clean out the spot with special attention on the bedrock cracks.These cracks will contain the richest gold deposits that cannot be easily washed away.Continue digging back into the bank until:

a) all the gold runs out
or
b) the overburden becomes to great to keep going.

That sounded straight forward until he told me I couldn't go up there and dig for gold because it was off his claim. Yes, I was very disappointed.

Some good advice from an old prospector.

Most of us know the basic idea behind Ancient Riverbeds, old dry rivers that contain good quantities of gold now, we just have to know how to find them.

Some Common Rules to Help You

- Most ancient dry waterways will be higher than the current stream or river. (This includes when the river changes course). 

- Are the valley sides made of just loose gravels and rocks or is there bedrock or the solid rock of the hills and mountain present?

- Has there been any hard rock gold claims in the area?

- What size of coarse gold nuggets have been found? What quantity?

Since a river wears it's way into the valley floor, pretty much all older riverbeds will be higher. Sometimes much higher.

The reason the valley sides are important is that any solid rock will hold an elevated riverbed intact for millennia. Gravels, silts, sands are usually glacial wash down and may contain gold but it is not the source of it.

If there are hard rock gold formations nearby the odds are that that was the source of gold in the area. It is time to stop looking for the ancient riverbed and look for other gold formations. Keep in mind that outcropping of gold (intrusive rock formations) occur in clusters. 
Picture a main vein of gold being broken into fingers. These fingers fan out towards the surface. The "found gold vein" is quite possibly an offshoot from the main vein. When searching for ancient stream beds always be on the look out for rusty, oxide stained white quartz formations. This quartz normally is sticking out from the ground because it is quite hard. It is harder rock that the surrounding "parent rock" that it went through to reach the surface. Ancient river channels are often easy to spot once that material is exposed.

1) The lower sections of these riverbeds are often comprised of cemented gravels that when freshly exposed are blue in color. This blue cemented gravel turns a rusty reddish brown when left open to the elements. In this case, look for loose soils, gravels and sands surrounding a "blob" or outcropping that is: 

i) rusty in color
and
ii) appears to be a cemented mass.

Take samples of this gravel "blob" at different locations. You are looking for black sand and fine gold. Use your gold pan to test these gravels.

2) These ancient river channels are often, but not always, located on bedrock. A perfect example of what to look for is:

i) a shelf of rock or bedrock off the valley floor with something somewhat solid sitting on top.

ii) the gravel / sand part sitting on top of the bedrock will be:

a) dark brown

b) rusty brown
or
c) blue (if freshly broken)

iii) The black color indicated magnetite and other oxides present in the lower layers of the riverbed. As always, take samples and pan the results. You may have to crush or break apart a sample. Look for high concentrations of black sand and fine gold.

Using the existing river or stream as a fixed starting point, work your way along the bank taking samples as you go. We want to focus our samples on natural depressions and rock shelves. Identify each sample taken making sure to mark, on each bag, the location it was taken from. Work up the sides of the river valley always sampling from low natural depressions or any type of rock shelf. When you have taken all the samples you want, use a gold pan to check the results. When you find indication of an ancient waterway (black sand and fine gold), return to that spot and take many samples in a wide pattern. If you plot your heavy concentrates on a map you will quickly get a "birds eye view" of where the old river was.

Work you way up the hill or mountain taking samples in approximately 100 yard widths up past where you think the ancient river might have been. Once more, pan out the concentrates. What we are looking for is where the heavy black sand / gold samples thin out or stop. This will tell us the height or elevation where the river channel was. 

Finally we start probing the gravels looking for a denser section. We might find bedrock or rock shelves, but we will find things that aren't suppose to be there. Among natural broken mountain rock and associated debris you may suddenly find water smoothed gravels and different colors that don't match most of the mountain's decomposing rock. As I already mentioned, there should be a denser section of concentrates or cemented gravels.

The reason you will tend to only find very small heavy concentrates while looking for the ancient riverbed is that most of the larger heavies quickly sink into the mountain's natural rock (slide). Using a pry bar and a good shovel, work loose the concentrates on the lower section. Check for coarse gold (nuggets).

Make sure to also break up and pan out other sections of this gravel mass. These hardened sections occur in bands and there may be some very rich gold finds suspended in the upper gravel mass.