Don't Forget Those Gravel Bars (Part 1)

(Gravel bar on the N. Yuba River in California.)


Gravel Bars Can Be Good Gold Producers
Gravel bars come in many different forms and sizes, with the larger ones forming small "islands" in various locations along a given stream course. In the photo above, you can see a substantial gravel bar on California's North Yuba River that has formed between a split or "forking" of the river itself.
Some gravel bars can be very good gold producers as evidenced by historical accounts of the California Gold Rush. Read any good history of that period and you are bound to learn about the fantastic richness of spots like Bullard's Bar (now submerged beneath a man-made reservoir of the same name), Mormon Bar in the Southern Motherlode mining region, and the famous Goodyear's Bar outside Downieville.

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One of the Richest Gravel Bars Ever "Harvested"
This latter location was one of the richest gravel bars ever "harvested" by the argonauts of 1849. Miles Goodyear and his brother Andrew were the discoverers of this rich piece of placer ground, and before illness took Miles' life it was common for the brothers to recover more than $2,000 worth of gold for each wheelbarrow full of gravel they panned or processed.
At today's gold prices this would be the same as you and I recovering over $120,000 in placer gold from each wheelbarrow of gravel! Granted, locations like Goodyear's Bar were the recipients of millions of years' worth of gold deposition before they were discovered and worked out. But the point I want to stress here is that many gravel bars are excellent gold deposition locations.

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Take This Statement to Heart
I have no doubt that you, being the careful reader you are, have noted that I said "many," and not all gravel bars are good gold producers. Take this statement to heart here and now. Just as some stretches of stream bedrock or sections of bench gravels are nearly barren in terms of placer gold values, so it goes with certain gravel bars.
Why this is so is open to conjecture. Obviously, gold deposition physics and stream hydraulics are key components, especially as they relate to a river or stream's high water levels at flood stage. All I know is that in my own experience working gravel bars some have been very good gold producers while others have been piss-poor, to put it bluntly.
We'll talk more about gravel bars (including specifics on how to work them) in my next post on the subject. Until then, keep smiling and don't forget those gravel bars!

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If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold Mining Questions and Answers: Part 14"
(c) J.R. 2009
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