The Value of High "Point Gold" (Conclusion)

 (Lots of "high points" here.)

In this post I'll be concluding this series about "high point" gold and filling you in on a few more details and tips concerning this prospecting approach. So grab a cup of joe, sit back, and we'll get started.

I left you hanging a bit last go around when I alluded to what I found in that narrow "high point" crack atop that Volkswagen-sized boulder back in the 1980s when I was spending my summers working and dredging in California's northern Motherlode Region. That crack ran laterally (left to right, right to left) across the top of that large granite boulder and it was only about a quarter-to a half-inch wide. It was packed to the brim with seemingly uninteresting material (some dirt, sand, tiny pieces of rock) but since myself and my two dredging pards were on our daily lunch break, I started picking away at that crack with one of my pocketknife's smaller blades just for something different and yes, relaxing, to do. I took no more than a small handful of material out of that "high point" crack and dropped it my "Gravity Trap" gold pan. What quickly showed up was one small nugget, three or four chunky pieces, some large flakes, and the inevitable fines. I'll admit you could've knocked me over with a feather at that point. I scrambled atop that boulder once more and began cleaning out that small crack with a vengeance! What eventually turned up was another small nugget and more flakes and fines. By the way, I pulled another small nugget and more coarse pieces and flakes from a nearby boulder with a crack on its lower, downstream side. Well brothers and sisters I'm here to shout out "Halleluja!!" in heartfelt praise and spread the gospel to you. "High point" prospecting and boulder crevicing work. There it is...

Tips and Recommendations

Lest I give you a one-dimensional tip here, it's good to remember that ANY obstruction or potential gold trap that rises vertically from the surface of a stream or wash or that lies substantially higher above current water levels is fair game when it comes to "high point" gold. Now this doesn't mean that you'll always find placer gold in those spots and I won't guarantee it by any stretch. But based on my own knowledge and experience "high pointing" is a worthwhile prospecting method that'll add significantly to your existing gold prospecting and mining skills. Remember what I said about thinking outside the box? When you take on a "high point" approach this admonition takes on particular importance. My recommendation here? Instead of rushing around willy-nilly in and around that stream or wash:

1) Stop and take a deep breath.

2) Sit yourself down with a good view of your surroundings, and then start "eyeballing" that spot and imagining it in full flood and with water at its highest possible level therein.

3) Start looking for "high point" obstructions (boulders, boulders with cracks or crevices, depressions, exposed bedrock, gravel deposits, clay banks, natural depressions, etc., etc., ad infinitum).

 (You may be surprised at how many nuggets turn up in "high pointing.")

4) Remember, "high points" can rise vertically from the watercourse or its adjacent banks or they can be located higher up and away from the existing stream or wash. What they all have in common is this: your visual (or gut) assessment that they are typically impacted only during flooding or extreme high water flows.

5) Be systematic in your sampling of potential "high points" and don't get discouraged if yellow doesn't start popping up immediately. Take your time and be thorough and investigate any and all spots that catch your eye.

6) Make sure you bring with you the appropriate tools or implements that you believe will allow you to handle ANY "high point" situation, from the tiniest boulder cracks to areas of exposed bedrock or gravel "beds."

7) Also remember that no two mining locations are alike. Each one is different in terms of configuration, obstructions, water flow, flooding frequency and intensity, and so on. What applies at one location may not apply strictly to the next. Again, remain open to the possibilities and think outside the box.

Now you and I both know that water can be a very powerful (and frightening) element of nature. But one thing that's always mystified me about H2O is how it could push small nuggets and chunky pieces of placer into "high point" boulder cracks like the one I described at the beginning of this post. And with water zipping along at high speed at flood stage. I still find that fact nothing short of amazing, although a well-schooled "expert" could explain it to me in short order I suspect. How could it force that material into those tiny cracks and crevices atop a rounded, granite boulder? See, I don't know it all (and have never claimed to know it all!). So if someone could explain the physics of that sort of deposition to me I'd be eternally grateful for the info. After all, I'm a small-scale miner...not a Ph.D hydrologist.

One Last Thing...

Oh, one last thing. In "high pointing," very large boulders are always a good spot to begin your search for gold. Not only if they contain cracks or crevices on their surfaces, but the ground or gravel around them should be sampled as well. The usual rule of thumb is to only check the downstream side of large obstructions (and once in a blue moon the upstream side) but here's where you think outside the box again. Check all the way around (i.e., 360 degrees) those larger obstructions and you may come up with a nice nugget like I did on one was just under the surface adjacent to the right side (as opposed to the upstream/downstream sides) of another "high point" boulder.

 (Whatever gets the gold is useful.)

"High pointing" is never 100% accurate or 100% productive. However, it is a viable and important tool to add to your existing mining and prospecting arsenal. So stay away (and like my buddy "Muskrat" says) "stay out" of culverts for safety reasons and the fact I believe they're a waste of time from a gold standpoint anyway. Oh, and the next time you're watching a well-known gold show or prospecting video, or reading one of the many "how to" books out there, pass along to me just how many times they mention "high point" gold, will you?

Be safe and keep smiling.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Jr, you are right, it seems all wrong that something as heavy as gold would end up high on top of a boulder, but water it amazingly powerful. The currents going over and around rocks spin everything who knows where. I guess like they say, "Gold is where you find it!"

  2. Great series of posts, thank you!
    The old-timers were very efficient at getting the straightforward deposits cleaned out over here in Tasmania, but high points can be good. Even though I've found pieces well clear of streams in the past, it never occurred me to concentrate on them during a trip. I can't wait to give it a try!

  3. In all do respect carnal I wanna say thanks for being a great friend and showing me the ropes about gold mining. I found a new passion for something and I love it, always con respeto tu carnal Ernie! Siempre Oro puro

  4. De nada Ernie! We are carnales siempre.


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