It's All About Accessibility
(This photo of California's gold-bearing Tuolumne River tells all.)
Low Water is Advantageous
Over the past month or two many of you have been kind enough in your e-mails to send along attached articles concerning the drought here in the western and southwestern United States and the fact that hobbyist gold-panner types as well as experienced small-scale placer miners are reaping the benefits of low-water conditions in streams scattered throughout the region. I suspect very few of you reading this fail to understand why low water is so advantageous to placer miners but just in case a few of you don't quite see the picture clearly, it's all about accessibility.
Accessibility in what sense? In the simplest terms, likely gold deposition areas of a stream that are typically off limits due to regular or high water flow or depth suddenly and magically become available thanks to low-water conditions. More accessibility means more gold, particularly if you know what you're doing out there.
Couple of Tips
Right off the get go, you want to be sampling the areas behind and underneath potentially "juicy" obstructions such as large rocks or boulders that were off limits before due to higher water conditions. If you need a heavy pry bar or a "come-a-long" to do this, then by all means do it. And let me give you a couple of tips in this regard, OK?
1) Don't focus your efforts solely on obstructions in low-pressure areas of a stream. Although low-pressure obstructions are your best bet overall, I will tell you here and now I've found very good gold behind and underneath obstructions that were positioned in what I call "chutes" or areas where fast-flowing water does a straight shot on its way downstream. Go figure, brothers and sisters because this isn't the way things are supposed to be when it comes to gold deposition factors. You know that and I know that. But as I've said many times before, Ma Nature likes to pull a fast one on us now and then...so take heed. It doesn't mean you'll hit the yellow every time you work an unlikely placed obstruction, but if your gut instinct prompts you then go head on. You may be pleasantly surprised.
2) Dig downstream at least 3-4 feet behind a likely obstruction, not just directly behind it. I bet I caught a few of you napping on this one, didn't I? Most of the gold prospecting "experts" out there usually don't touch on this and focus instead on having you dig directly behind (downstream side) an obstruction. You should definitely proceed as potentially wiser minds than mine have suggested, but your digging or sampling should include a few feet or more of gravel excavated downstream from the rear edge of that obstruction. I use a "V" shaped digging pattern with the narrow part of the "V" pointing downstream and the wider part taking in both flanks of the obstruction. Again, Ma Nature is funny about how she deposits gold and although your best color will be directly behind (or below) that obstruction you're working, at times I've found that the color will extend back some distance from the initial eddy points in many instances. If you're wondering about the "V" pattern, the father downstream you go from the obstruction, the narrower the deposited paystreak...a stream hydrologist could explain this to you with all the required scientific and technical terms. I suggest you take me at my word for this and avoid all the "high-falutin' book larnin'" stuff.
(Lifelong moonbat and California Governor Jerry Brown explains how the state's drought conditions were brought about by climate change...er, um...or global warming...umm, no, by small-scale miners using suction dredges. That's it!)
By the way, both of these tips can be applied to dry placer locations also, although not with the same degree of certainty. Remember, dry or desert placers can be highly erratic in terms of gold deposition factors even in the best of circumstances. That said, it's a good idea to employ these two tips just the same...at times I've found good desert gold this way. Trust me on that. By now you know I don't employ smoke and mirrors or try and BS you (like some do) with my self-proclaimed standing as the greatest wannabe gold prospector and miner ever. (See how I managed to get that little shot in there?!)
Next time I'll give you some info on working low-water bedrock. Until then, be safe, be smart, and don't let the bastards grind ya down.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2014
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org