Leave No Stone Unturned

There's an old expression about finding something you're looking for that goes like this: "Leave no stone unturned." When it comes to small-scale gold mining this statement holds great value...with obvious exceptions of course.

In My Experience...

The point of fact remains that larger rocks and boulders in a stream or dry wash often act as riffles (like those in a sluice box) to trap gold. Typically you want to search on the downstream side of these types of obstructions and, depending on their size...for a certain distance downstream of them. This is because that's where the stronger eddies form that sweep the gold around an obstruction and behind it. In these contexts I always visualize a "V" deposition pattern taking place with the large, open end of the "V" directly behind the large rock or boulder with the apex ("pointy" end) of the "V" some distance downstream. In my experience over the decades, this apex will terminate about three-four feet downstream of larger boulders and only a foot or two downstream of smaller (relatively speaking, that is) rocks. My take here is not hard science so don't accept it as such. But it does provide a basic guide for finding gold behind larger rocks and boulders. The important thing to remember here is that these types of obstructions DO trap gold on its way downstream. This can include nuggets (usually smaller ones), large and small flakes, and fine gold as well.

 ("Holy bonanza, Batman!" There's a wealth of obstructions sitting on or near bedrock along California's South Yuba River. Just ignore the half-nude/nude sunbathers in the summertime.)

Make Your Move

Does this mean that every stone in the bed of a river, creek, or wash traps gold? Of course not. When I'm keen on doing the boulder, larger rock thing I look for the most likely suspects and their position in the stream flow. Are they in high-pressure hydrology settings or low-pressure ones? Do they exhibit strong or readily visible eddy currents behind them? Do I get that "gut" feeling that they are likely prospects? Here's the strange thing in this regard, however, so pay attention. Often likely obstructions in high-pressure areas (fast-moving, straight ahead stream flow) can be good producers of gold. Not always, but sometimes you can hit a mini-bonanza by working them. I certainly have in my nearly 40 years of doing this small-scale gold mining thing. In fact, the best gold take I ever had by hand digging was behind a large boulder located in a high-pressure area to the left downstream side. Go figure (although dry or desert placer gold deposition can be a crap shoot at times). I mean take a look at a sluice box that's meant to mimic stream hydrology...are there bends and curves in it? Hell no. In general though, you should follow the basic rules of gold deposition and look for larger rocks and boulders sitting in low-pressure areas. Use your eyes, your accumulated knowledge, and your intuition or "inner voice." Then make your move.

 (See any inside bends here?)

Three Solutions

Now some of you are sitting there shaking your heads and wondering how you're gonna work a nice-looking boulder set up in deep or faster moving water. Well brothers and sisters the answer is, "You're not!" Not unless you're using a suction dredge or the suction intake hose of a highbanker. Or perhaps doing some underwater gold sniping. However, if that obstruction you're hot on is high and dry or sitting in very shallow water you can get at it and still do well. I have...in both wet and dry conditions. Like they say (whoever "they" are!), "Where there's a will there's a way." I'd take that a step farther and say that, in my life and mining philosophy, there are at least THREE SOLUTIONS to any problem or issue you face, no matter what it is. You simply need to arrive at the solution that works best for the given situation you're facing. Easy as eating apple pie, right?

 (Easy as eating apple pie!)

Where the Best Gold Is

As you can imagine, I've been around a lot of small-scale gold miners in my day. This includes greenhorns and veterans alike. The biggest mistake I've seen many of them make (both groups) is NOT uprooting larger boulders or rocks to see what's underneath them. Yes, underneath, by golly! Lord love a duck... That's where the best gold will be, especially with larger obstructions. So get underneath these things when and where possible without crushing a hand or arm, or killing yourself. That last alternative is unacceptable, by the way. No amount of gold (natural or refined) is worth losing your life over. One of my old-timer mentors was an absolute magician when it came to gathering up nuggets and grams of gold from underneath large boulders! He specialized in doing only this. Nothing else. And he had one of the largest placer gold collections in glass jars that I have ever seen. Absolute truth. How did he do his thing? With a pry bar and a "come along." And he worked solo except when he was schooling me up some 36 or 37 years ago. So take this point home with you. Granted, there'll be some boulders that are just too stubborn or dangerous to approach this way so just let those go. There's always another just around the bend.

 (Heavy duty "come along.")

Now get out there and get at it!

(NOTE: People are constantly e-mailing me about writing a comprehensive, hard-copy gold prospecting/mining book. I keep saying that market's glutted with that genre of book. However, I'm placing a poll for you to respond to in the sidebar of Bedrock Dreams. I need as many responses as I can get, so please answer the poll question. Thanks!)

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

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


  1. Good morning JR, I voted in your side bar, but it shows "votes so far 0" anyway, personally, it would have to be a real book. (paper copy) Something you could hold in your hand and take with you in the hills....but I'm old fashioned I guess. Over the years, I've bought many books on gold mining. There seems to be only two types. Very basic and mostly how to use a gold pan, or very technical with so many $10 words, I'm as lost as if reading Shakespeare! Good old common sense approach books are lacking. If you cold write something like that, I think it would sell well.
    "leave no stone unturned" I wonder if that expression started from gold mining? Never thought about it, but it fits! Gary

  2. Thanks for the vote Gary...don't know why it isn't showing. That's Google for you. Anyway, the book would be a hard-copy or real book...not digital.

  3. I would love your book, suggestion if I may add, why not take this whole blog as is, clump your posts in order of sections I.e. Placer, lode, wet ops, dry ops, etc... I find it awesome that you keep the instructions short and personable,i have retained the information immensely. I vote yes on a book and look forward to your continued posts until you hang the informational gold pick axe. I thank you JR

    32yr old greenhorn(5yrs and counting GH)

  4. Thank you for the comments and suggestions. I appreciate it! Keep on at it...


Post a Comment