What You Really Need to Know About Tertiary Channels (Part 1)

 (N. California's Ruby Mine has produced some spectacular pieces of Tertiary placer gold.)

Ancient Gold-Bearing Streams

I've talked a little bit in the past about Tertiary river gravels (Tertiary Channels) but I'd like to take the opportunity here to address another aspect of these ancient gold-bearing streams. The main reason I'm doing this is because I've received a number of e-mail queries on this subject recently and I feel a strong need to respond to these questions for reasons that will quickly become apparent.

First, let me give you a brief rundown again of what Tertiary Channels are. They were prehistoric, gold-bearing streams that existed as "recently" as 2.5 million years ago all the back to 60 million years.

As eons passed, these rivers and streams ceased to flow due to extreme geologic upheavals and in most instances were covered to a great depth by successive geologic events, including lava flows and terrain fracturing, uplift, and alteration. Eventually portions of these ancient gold-rich channels were brought closer to the surface or even uncovered in certain locations after other geological forces took hold assisted by erosional and weathering factors.

Lindgren's Classic Work

I've mentioned U.S. Geological Survey geologist Waldemar Lindgren in the past, but my respect for the man and his work remains undiminished. Lindgren's classic treatise, "The Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California" was first published in 1911 but remains the best (and most detailed) scientific and analytic work ever written about Tertiary Channels.

 (Waldemar Lindgren.)

I own an early edition, hard-bound copy of "The Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California" and you'd have to shoot me dead and pry Lindgren's book from my cold, stiff fingers if you wanted to get it away from me. Even if you don't live in the western or southwestern United States, I highly recommend you read what Lindgren has to say about Tertiaries...it can only help you in terms of your overall mining knowledge because these gold-bearing channels exist in a number of locations outside the U.S.

One of the Worst Offenders

Don't worry, I'll eventually get to the heart of this series of posts. First, however, I'd like to digress a bit here and bring your attention to the fact that a number of online "dream merchants" have taken Lindgren's hard-earned work (and that of others as well) and distorted it to suit their own mercenary needs and goals.One of the worst offenders here is a self-proclaimed expert and self-styled Indiana Jones type I'll call Mr. Adventure.

This hustler and snake oil salesman has (to the extent I can determine) made a pretty decent living selling purported maps and other info relating to these ancient gold-bearing rivers to the uneducated, the unwary, and downright gullible. What Mr. Adventure won't tell you, of course, is that even if he could direct you right to rich Tertiary ground the odds of you being able to access that ground (a good deal of it lies on foreign soil) are slim to none and the odds of you actually working that ground as a solitary, small-scale gold miner are just about zero.

We'll talk more about the "whys" of this last statement in my next post. Until then, best of luck to you.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Prehistoric Rivers of Gold (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

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


  1. Jim, although I can't afford to contribute directly to you financially, I have clicked the sponsors' ads to help(if it adds up to anything) Your recent decision to end this site is understandable. I know and appreciate the info. you have shared with us. BRAVO! I know how you feel about "Dream Merchants" and I guess what I'm suggesting is that you look at publishing your knowledge in a book(or series of books) at a reasonable price. You deserve to be compenasated for what you've contributed to those of us that "yearn to learn without getting burned. Just my two cents and a way to say thanks... John H. aka goldnsands1 in Medford, Oregon.

    1. Jim, I second that! In fact, I told you that 3 years ago! I know you did the "E-Book" thing, but I'm old fashioned I guess. I want a book I can hold in my hand and turn pages. I'm guessing most of your readers are B.C.(before computers) also. My cousin has writen several books on fly fishing, if you are interested, I'll ask him for some names and the how to, to get it published. The info you are giveing here has real worth, you should get paid what it's worth! Gary

  2. Thanks for all my friend. I'm not quitting though....too much work put into this thing to quit now. Just need to get re-focused a bit. The book(s) idea is a good one and something I've had in the back of my mind for some time now. Thanks! J.R.

  3. JR
    Is Lindgren's book still available? As long as a book comes well recommended the education is priceless. Your tenacity frustrates the dream merchants and makes for better educated miners. How dare you arm us with valuable knowledge??? We can't thank you enough.
    Amber and Paul

    1. Reprints of "Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California" should be available through Amazon.com, but I'm not 100% certain. Check first. This book will likely be pricey, so be prepared for that. Also, Lindgren has a number of other fine treatises on gold and gold mineralization that I'd recommend as well. Best! J.R.

  4. I know you mentioned the book Gary...so I wasn't ignoring that fact or letting someone else steal your thunder. If I do the book I'll self-publish (probably) and ship myself. But that book won't come cheap...I can tell you that much ahead of time. Best, J.R.

  5. Jim, No trouble there, just trying to help. I've watched this time and time again, not so much with gold mining, but other things. I also trap in the winter months. The guys that make the real money are the ones that have books, vidios, lure and supplies for sale. Gold mining should be no different. An honest "Dream Merchant" is not a bad thing. Folks need to start someplace, if the gadjit dose what it says, or the book tells it like it is, and helps you do what you are trying to do, thats a great service. Reading your posts the last few years, I know you would do a good job. It costs quite a bit to put a book together, and it's a gamble if you will get your money back, let alone make a profit. Trying to learn how to do this, I found (and bought) a lot of worthless books, if there was a really good one out there, I'm sure it would sell. Anyhow.....just a thought. Gary

  6. Thanks Gary. All of your points are well taken and I'll file them away in my once (but no longer!) fertile brain. Best, J.r.

  7. I'm glad to see you decided to keep posting. Your articles are top notch!

    If anyone is interested Lindgren's book is available for free download here:


    Thanks for the great blog!

  8. Wow! That's great information for the other readers. Thank you very much for sending this info along and for commenting. J.R.

  9. OK, I know, this is a six year old article but...
    First of all, thank you for the wealth of information you give out so freely; very much appreciated.
    For anyone who can't download the book from the books.google link above because 'Sorry! This content is not available in your country yet'... (like where I live (Israel)), one can also download said book in various formats from 'The Internet Archive' at https://archive.org/details/tertiarygravels00knowgoog

    Again, thank you so much for your great blog!!!

    Michael from Eilat on the Red Sea


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