Prehistoric Rivers of Gold (Part 6)

(Waldemar Lindgren in his later years.)

In this sixth and final post of this series, I'll be focusing my attention on what famed geologist Waldemar Lindgren had to say about the relative sizes of placer gold recovered from Tertiary gravels that were once part of prehistoric rivers of gold. Additionally, I'll be commenting on some other aspects of Tertiary Channels that I think have relevance.

Gold Sizes in Tertiary Channels

Lindgren did not say a great deal about the size(s) of the placer gold he had seen recovered from Tertiary Channels of the day, but he did address the size aspect peripherally in "Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California." As a geologist, Lindgren's primary focus was on the scientific aspects of California's prehistoric rivers of gold and not the commercial aspects (although he fully realized the importance of the latter).

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The size range of the gold recovered in California's Tertiary placers covered every troy weight from hundreds of pounds (in a few spectacular large gold masses) to 20, 40, 60, and 80-ounce nuggets, to nuggets weighing only a few ounces, on down to coarse pieces under an ounce, and finally all the way down the scale to the usual fines and flakes.

Fines and Flakes, or Nuggets?

If you've read my previous post on this topic ("Prehistoric Rivers of Gold [Part 5],", I have placed a photograph at the beginning of that post taken at California's historic Ruby Mine. This photo shows some of the larger nuggets (and some of these are truly exceptional) still being recovered from Tertiary Channels in the Motherlode Region.

Overall though, the majority of gold recovered from Tertiaries tends to be in the flakes and fines range. Lest you become disappointed from learning this, much of this "smaller" gold is often found in pockets or paystreaks that can be quite rich, even by today's standards. So this begs the question: "Would you rather have a 2-ounce Tertiary nugget or 20 troy ounces of Tertiary fines and flakes?" I myself would choose the latter (and unless I miss my bet so would you).

Beware the Dream Merchants

OK let me digress a bit here because I think I owe it to you. Just as I owe you my definition of what a "dream merchant" is.

A dream merchant is someone who, in any number of ways, attempts to "cash in" on your dreams as a gold miner or treasure hunter. One way dream merchants try to tap into your love of all things mining (or treasure hunting) is by selling you "insider" information, usually in the form of maps and the like. And brothers and sisters hear me now: this "inside" info typically doesn't come cheap.

The trouble is, just as I recently pointed out in a post in my other blog, "Treasure Trove Dreams," is that most treasure maps are absolutely worthless (see my post in "TTD" titled "5 Treasure Hunting Pitfalls to Avoid [Pitfall 1], Ditto for "special" maps purporting to show you the way to placer gold riches.

Let me give you an example. For some time now a self-proclaimed mining "expert," world traveler and adventurer, treasure hunter, jack-of-all-trades (you name it), has been selling maps that will supposedly lead you to Tertiary Channel riches from Alaska on down to Tierra del Fuego. I will name no names but some of you may know of whom and what I am speaking about here.

Yes, gold-bearing Tertiary Channels exist. That much is known and has been established not only by Lindgren but by other geologists as well. However, the jury is still out (scientifically speaking) when it comes to to the existence and extent of Tertiaries world wide and more importantly, their exact locations.

Never mind the fact that even if you did find a Tertiary this way that you, all by your little lonesome, could work it and recover all that gold unhindered. More than likely it would be buried under ancient lava flows or millions of tons of overburden, perhaps in a foreign country where they are not well-disposed to foreigners "stealing" their riches.

So, when someone wants to sell you outrageously pricey maps or some sort of instructional program that will (purportedly) lead you to fabulously rich ancient rivers of gold throughout the known world, well my friend, this is what should happen to you:

A bright red flag should start waving frantically before your eyes and a tornado siren should start screaming in your ears. Next, ask yourself this question. "If I knew absolutely, without a doubt, exactly where tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold lay hidden, would I broadcast that fact to others?"

Hell no.

My friends, as painful as this may be to you, there just aren't any get-rich-quick schemes in gold mining. The prosecution (J.R.) rests its case.

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So be smart and use your hard-earned cash in a manner that will provide you with better gear or equipment or perhaps purchase that claim you've always dreamed of. Otherwise, the dream merchants out there will be picking your pockets and laughing all the way to the bank.

Good luck and stay safe out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "California Gold Districts: Chuckwalla, Azusa-Tujunga, and Dulzura"

(c) J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR

    I appreciate your comments on "dream merchants". Spend that money on a good come along & 5' bar, get out and expend some elbow grease and with some luck and alot of 3P's the gold will come.


  2. Jack,

    I couldn't agree more. Thanks for the great comment and for your support. J.R.

  3. what a great blog. you are quite an individual. keep it up.

  4. Thanks for the nice comment. I try my best. You are very kind....I've been called many other things in my life other than "quite an individual" and some of those are not fit to print! Take care out there. J.R.


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