Tips on Getting More Dry Placer Gold (Part 2)

Gold Concentrators

As promised, here is the second post in my series on getting more dry placer gold:

Tip Number 2: Look Higher Up

We all know that deposition physics tells us that gold will always seek the lowest point possible in a streambed. Although this is true in most instances it does not “hold water” in every circumstance.

Once again, primarily because of their infrequent water flows, dry or desert placers always provide the greatest exceptions to basic gold deposition rules. Sure, you can still find gold in dry placers at typical deposition locations such as inside bends, behind large obstructions, and resting on false or real bedrocks, but not always. Sometimes you have to look higher up.

Let Me Guess…

Take a moment right now to stop and think about your favorite dry placer location and where you usually find yourself sampling or running material. Now let me take a guess as to where that is. Hmmmmmm…. somewhere in the lower areas of that wash, gully, or arroyo correct? I also suspect my guess is accurate about 70-80% of the time.

Now if my guess is indeed accurate and you are consistently getting decent gold values working the lower portions of that wash or arroyo then more power to you my friend. There’s no reason for you to move….at least not for now. But if you’re struggling in that wash or arroyo you need to start looking higher up.

What’s higher up? Let’s take it in stages:

1) The first step or stage is to shift your sampling or mining focus to the walls or sides of that wash or arroyo where you see gravel and rocks similar to those found in the wash itself. These are “bench” type gravels that have been left high and dry by the current stream course and that can, at times, contain good gold values. Keep your eyes peeled here for evidence of coarse black sand stringers or layers, especially if they also exhibit areas of reddish oxidation from ferrous metals. You may also want to run a good gold-seeking metal detector very slowly and carefully over these rocks and gravels…trust me, more than one nice nugget or pocket of placer gold has been found this way.

2) The next level to consider includes any and all “terraces” adjoining the wash or arroyo or left as “islands” in the middle or forks of that wash. Terraces are somewhat level areas sitting above the wash itself and they can contain boulders, trees, and various sorts of desert bushes and brushes. Sometimes you will spot evidence of old diggings such as shallow pits and tailings piles left by the oldtimers. That means they were getting gold out of that terrace and chances are you can too. But even without indications from previous mining efforts, terraces should always be sampled or "swept" carefully with a metal detector.

I'll continue with additional "looking higher up" gold-getting tips in a subsequent post. Until then keep the faith out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "More on Gold Prospecting: Sulphides and Gold."

(c) J.R. 2009

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. This is a good series on drywashing, especially for those new to desert gold prospecting.

    If any of your readers happens to visit Arizona we have informal gatherings and are also willing to connect and share drywashing & metal detecting spots and experience.

  2. Thanks for the positive comment and for your support Lou! J.R.

  3. Makes perfect logical sense brother thanks

  4. No problem Mort. Thanks for commenting. J.R.


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