Mining for Gold in River Moss (Part 1)

("Moss miners" working in Northern California, photo courtesy of The New 49ers Inc.,

"Moss Mining"

Although I myself have spent very little time searching for placer gold in river moss, many recreational and small-scale miners use this approach extensively. In fact, I know of a number of individuals who approach "moss mining" with the same level of enthusiasm as any bedrock gold "sniper" worth his or her salt would.

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However one thing to bear in mind here is that unlike your basic bedrock crevice sniper, "moss miners" are not typically recovering coarse flakes and small nuggets but very fine gold values. The kicker here is that, in some cases, the amount of fine gold (in terms of actual weight recovered this way) can far exceed that recovered by crevicing. Go figure....

"High Suspension" Transport and "Entrapment"

The overall concept of how fine gold values become entrapped in river moss is fairly simple. When a auriferous stream or river is in full flood stage most of the very fine gold values (and some lighter flakes as well) will be moved along in what I personally call "high suspension" transport. High suspension simply means that the lighter gold values will be carried or "suspended" higher up in the water flow in general, while larger and coarser pieces (including placer nuggets) will tend to be tumbled along or carried lower down in the hydraulic flow.

When a stream or river drops from flood stage, the lightest gold particles will then be left high and dry near or on areas that form "traps" to catch those very same particles. I call this "entrapment" and it can be effected through any number of means, including the root systems of various plants and our topic of conversation here, river moss itself.

Mossy Areas Can Be Good Gold "Traps"

It's no secret that artificial "miner's moss" has excellent fine gold trapping and retention capabilities, much more so than the old indoor/outdoor carpet strips that were all the vogue in sluice boxes and other placer mining equipment back "in the day" when I first started my mining career. Therefore it stands to reason that areas of real moss growing in and along gold-bearing streams and rivers can be excellent gold traps themselves.

This is especially true if those mossy areas exist in "strategic" gold deposition points where the abrupt reduction of water flow from flooding or other high water events takes place. Even mossy locations left high and dry (like that pictured at the beginning of this post) above current water flows can be good gold producers if, and this is always the qualifier, they are acting as gold "traps" for flood-borne gold particles.

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In my next post on this subject we'll cover some of the basic techniques and methods for recovering fine gold from river moss. Until then, keep the faith!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "A Placer Miner in Africa: "Joseph's" Story (Part 5)"

(c) J.R. 2009

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