What You Really Need to Know About Tertiary Channels (Part 4)

 (Whether you're working Tertiaries or not, small-scale gold mining is hard, dirty, and potentially dangerous work in the best of situations.)

There's little doubt that some Tertiary Channels hold very good gold potential, but working these ancient riverbed gravels can be problematic in most instances. This is another fact that many small-scale placer gold miners conveniently forget, whatever the reason for that lapse of memory.

2) Difficulties Accessing and Working Tertiaries

I'm about to tell you something that may prove disappointing to some of you, but you already know how I operate when it comes to all things gold mining...I don't BS and I won't fill your head with dreams of easy-to-get gold. (Unlike some, I believe I owe you that honesty.)

Gold Panning Kits
Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

Here's the basic download on Tertiaries...they are difficult to access and even more difficult to work using SMALL-SCALE mining methods (note the emphasis here). So read on:

Location: In the U.S., many Tertiary Channels are located in areas that are either off limits (claimed up, private property, or part of state parks/historic sites) and in areas outside the contiguous U.S. they are often found in remote regions where heavy ice and snow (i.e., Canada, Alaska) or heavy jungle growth are contributing factors. In Central or South America don't expect to find Tertiaries calling out to you from the sides of paved roads. Inevitably they'll lie in areas that only hard-core miners or mining groups will be capable of dealing with,

Terrain: Even the classic Tertiary Channels of Northern California's Motherlode Region typically lie hundreds of feet above existing river or stream courses along fairly steep slopes and ridges that are heavily forested and that no poison Kool Aid drinking, whack-job "greenie" (or his or her compatriots) on this side of Mars is going to allow you to mine in the most efficient manner. Let's also not forget that California, Oregon, and other Western states have developed a strong anti-mining sentiment in recent years (with California winning the gold medal in this regard).

(Think you could find and work Tertiaries in jungle terrain like this?)

Graft, Corruption, and Murder: South of the border, you'll have to grease lots of palms (la mordida or "the bite" as the locals call it), play very serious head and monetary games with local officials and law enforcement agencies, and do your best to avoid being kidnapped or murdered by drug cartels or thieves. Just plain disappearing due to any number of natural or man-made reasons is also a distinct possibility wayyyyy down south.

Deep Overburden: Remember, Tertiary Channels are ancient gold-bearing rivers that were left "high and dry" by massive and sometimes cataclysmic geologic events that re-shaped the very earth around them. In favorable instances, Tertiaries were pushed or uplifted closer to the surface while others were buried under successive layers of overburden, with some of these hundreds of feet deep (not to mention those Tertiary gravels covered by successive lava flows). That said, what fat chance in the world does any small-scale gold miner carrying a shovel and 5-gallon bucket up a steep hillside have of striking it rich on a Tertiary? Getting the picture here?

Never say die, however. There are some viable and profitable Tertiary mines around and we'll talk about those efforts next time as well as some of the methods and techniques used to get at all that Tertiary gold.

Best of luck to one and all.

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

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

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


  1. JR

    Thank you for the outstanding info on tertiaries.

    This is a little off topic but we wanted to quote one of the dream merchants, from their website: "Today, there is actually more gold to find than the old-timers found way back in the 1800’s gold rush era." If this statement were true why is it even the dream merchants can't show weekly pics of people finding fist sized nuggets or enough golf ball sized ones to fill a tin cup?

    We don't remember reading this, so we'll ask: What is your most single favorite peice of mining equipment?

    Amber and Paul

  2. Amber and Paul: Yes, the dream merchants are very fond of playing up the huge amounts of gold still left out there. This plays into the aspirations of many people just starting out...the fact of the matter is their data on available gold is questionable, to say the least. Then as you rightly point out, they conveniently seem to forget that even if their theories are true, why aren't THEY out there getting all that gold?? My favorite pieces of gear to use are the sluice box and the dry washer. However, the single most efficient piece of gear for getting lots of gold is the suction dredge (I've used everything except a trommel in my mining career). Best to you both. J.R.


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