Underwater Gold Sniping: a Low-Cost Approach to Getting the Gold (Part 3)

(Another type of underwater gold viewer.)

In my previous post I brought the "snipe" tube to your attention as one of the main tools associated with the first (and cheapest) method of underwater gold sniping. Other forms of underwater viewers can be used as well depending on your inclination and how much you enjoy stooping over and straining your lower back. This latter point is something you really need to consider if your going to use any sort of underwater viewer.

Even commercial or do-it-yourself "snipe" tubes of greater length will strain your back over time, especially if you're tall as I am. Try stooping over for hours at a time peering through one of these things and you'll learn all too quickly what I'm talking about here. This drawback, however, can more than be compensated for in terms of the placer gold you can "spy" and recover with one of these simple underwater viewing tools.

Most Important Tip

Now I'm going to give you the most important small-scale gold mining tip I can regarding the use of a "snipe" tube or underwater viewer (this tip also applies to the second method for underwater gold sniping but we'll talk about that when we get there):

Got that? In rivers, streams, or creeks with tons of overburden rock and gravel and little or no available bedrock to search, you're pretty much going to be pee-peeing into the wind with a "snipe" tube or underwater viewer of any sort. Just a plain fact.

More Than Passing Familiarity

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule in this regard. I myself have, on occasion, recovered gold using a "snipe" tube in non-bedrock areas but I also had to use a lot of muscle to get underneath large rocks or boulders to make it happen. Getting the gold this way is more luck than anything else, so if you're serious about finding decent gold values over time you need to be concentrating on bedrock while using one of these underwater viewers.

 (Placer gold "resting" in a bedrock depression. Image courtesy the New 49ers.)

You must also have more than just passing familiarity with stream hydraulics and (here it is again)...gold deposition physics. If you don't know what I'm talking about here then don't go rushing out the door to buy a commercial "snipe" tube or into the garage to construct one. It ain't gonna do you a bit of good, brothers and sisters.

Impermeable Layers

Remember, gold is extremely dense and heavy and will constantly work its way downward, especially in wet placer environments where running water is constant and flooding takes place on occasion. This means the yellow metal will continue to sink until it meets an impermeable layer...in this case bedrock. Once atop bedrock, gold will come to rest or (and this is a big point here), it will drop further into bedrock irregularities like cracks or crevices.

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

This is doubly true in good deposition spots like low-pressure areas or drop offs. Here, all sorts of gold (including small nuggets, flakes, and fines) can get squeezed down deep into tiny fissures and cracks from bottom to top. That's where your "snipe" tube comes in handy.

Much Harder to Spot

Oh...one last thing. Yes, gold will stop its downward movement on very solid clay layers as well. However, in my own experience placer gold can be much harder to spot on or mixed into stream clay layers whether using a "snipe" tube or your naked eyeball. This is especially true if the clay layer you're dealing with is yellow, pink, red, or orange.

In my next post we'll talk about how to use a "snipe" tube and what sorts of back-up tools you'll need. Until then...best of luck to you.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Gold in the Southwest: Texas"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. I like your site it's about time a miner shares his knowledge with the greenhorns getting started.
    I'm 74 and every day i learn something new and i try to share it but there is a small audience out there. Lately I've been using the Gold Prospectors net.

    1. Thanks Reggie. I'm sure I could learn a thing or two from you as well. Best to you, J.R.


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