Tips on "Seeing" Where the Gold Is (Part 1)

Help on "Seeing" Where the Gold Is

I receive many e-mails with queries asking where to look for gold in a streambed. Although there is a wealth of information about placer gold deposition online including that found right here in "Bedrock Dreams" (my "Reading a Stream" series, for example), there is always room for additional information and help on "seeing" where the gold is.

Metal Detectors
Gold Concentrates
Gold Pans

In this series of posts titled "Tips on 'Seeing' Where the Gold Is" I will cover both old and new ground. A few of the tips and information I will present will prove to be old hat for some of you, while other tips will perhaps make you view things a bit differently when it comes to "reading a stream."

Tip Number 1: Gold is Heavy

OK, some of you out there are shaking your heads slowly from side-to-side and saying to yourselves, "I already know gold is heavy....that's supposed to be a big tip? Maybe ol' J.R. needs to take his iron pills." Well.........I don't need any pills, canes, walkers, trusses, diapers, suppositories, or anything else of the sort..........yet, anyway (I'm 6'3", 198 pounds, in excellent health, and still slim, trim, and combat ready after all these years!)

I know that you know that gold is very dense and heavy (nearly 20 times heavier than the water surrounding it), but how may of you out there fully understand how significant gold's density and weight are to deposition physics? Unlike the rest of the rocks around it in a streambed (even rocks and boulders of substantial size), gold's weight means it will "stop and drop" whenever and wherever hydraulic (water) pressure or flow decreases.

In other words, it takes one hell of a lot of water flow and/or hydraulic pressure to move gold around in a streambed, wet or dry as the case may be. Of course, during stream flood or high-water conditions the lighter pieces of gold like flood or "flour" gold will tend to get moved more easily and higher up while those chunkier pieces, including nuggets, will tend to slowly make their merry way along the very bottom of a streambed.

What sort of streambed bottom are we talking about here? Well, it could be true bedrock, it could be a clay layer (false bedrock), or even a tightly cemented layer (or layers) of rock and gravel with the heavier pieces of gold interspersed throughout. Remain open to the possibilities.

Once again, think long and hard on this simple fact about gold. Gold's density and specific gravity or weight are the single most important factors in terms of where and how gold is deposited in a given stream. If you can burn this simple fact into your brain and approach your sampling or mining accordingly, you are already well ahead of the curve.

This is the first step in learning how to "see" where the gold is. Easy as pie, isn't it?

P&S Fishing Tackle

(Note: Remember that the localized or erratic nature of stream flooding in dry or desert placers tends to mix things up a bit in this regard, but the basic principles of gold deposition physics still apply. J.R.)

Be safe out there.

If you liked this post you may want to read: "Gold in New Zealand"
(c) J.R. 2009
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