Gold in Small Streams, Creeks, and Brooks (Part 2)

Well, we dealt with the issue of paranoia and anger management issues somewhat so it's time to move forward again.  Hopefully, you'll gain a bit of additional knowledge about working "smaller" placer venues.

Don't Push Things

Before we get into the heart of the matter, however, let me say the following. It's easy to dismiss claim owners or other miners who have chips on their shoulders, but NEVER take their anger lightly. Here's why. As I said in the comments section of my previous post, things can go really bad very quickly in certain instances. I personally know of two people who were murdered back in the 1980s over claim disputes. In one a pitched gun battle ensued resulting in the death of one of the "combatants" and in the other a young dredger was shot dead by an angry claim owner. As I've said many times before, no mining claim dispute, access to a gold area, or simply getting the gold is worth dying for. It's sort of like the road rage phenomena we all see, hear about, or experience firsthand. Some raging crazy ass will inevitably end up resorting to the gun in his glove compartment instead of his middle finger when dealing with what he deems a personal affront or "intrusion" into his space. And as far as I'm concerned I will NOT send any of my readers to a gold area where some paranoid nut might actually act out his morbid control fantasies. That's why I removed this dude's soapbox via  the post in question. You see, in cases like these, discretion is the greater part of valor and seeking confrontation is the wrong move no matter what. So I try not to push things and neither should you. That said, if some nutcase comes at you out there with angry or hostile intent...well, you gotta do what you gotta do. Enough said on that...

Flooding in Small Venues

By way of explanation I'm going to use the term "small venues" as a substitute for small streams, creeks, and brooks simply because it's more expedient. Flooding (either moderate or heavy) occurs in small venues just as it does in larger rivers and streams. Although there are similarities there are differences in this regard as well. Small venues tend to be impacted by flooding more quickly than their larger cousins and also tend to have their high water levels drop more rapidly as well. Gold deposition in these instances will follow the basic hydrological principles of larger streams but with certain variations that you should be aware of. Since most small venues have narrower water courses and sides that are less steep, decent amounts of placer gold being carried downstream will flood over existing banks and onto the immediate terraces or grounds adjacent to the stream course. Most of this gold will be small in size (as it is in larger venues), but it's not all that uncommon to find large flakes or even "pickers" or small nuggets above and to the sides of small venues cemented into any spot that acts as a trapping point. As unlikely as it sounds, I've actually seen gold lying on the surface to the sides of small venues after heavy flooding! How many times, you ask? Twice that I remember. So it does happen, although not very frequently. I wouldn't make it your main focus, but to spot gold this way (that is, if you're going to spot it at all visually) you have to be on-scene immediately after the flooding takes place and water levels have just dropped. If you're a detectorist who searches for coins or lost jewelry you'll understand why this is so. When a coin or ring is lost it will remain visible for a short time on the surface (longer if the ground is hard packed) until specific gravity and Ma Nature do their thing. In other words, those objects will soon sink into the ground and/or be covered up by dirt, mud, grass, etc. This is even more true of placer gold. So when prospecting small venues always take a bit of time to patiently search or sample areas above them and to their sides. Also note that most of the gold found along the sides of small venues will be shallow in depth in the majority of instances.

 (Note the sides of this creek.)

Benches and Shallow Gravels

If you spot existing bench gravels (no matter how slight or small) near small venues sample those as well. Using Ramshorn Creek (a "feeder" of the North Yuba River in California) again as an example, very good gold can be found in clay-bound bench gravels found in sections along the creek's course and a short distance away from it. Now it's good to stop here for a moment to discuss the issue of bench gravels no matter where they are found (whether in small venues or in larger rivers and streams). It's been my experience that benches are usually not formed by flooding. They are remnants of older versions of existing stream courses that have been left high and dry over time. And no, they are typically not "ancient" as certain misinformed folks would suggest to you outside of Bedrock Dreams. This said, however, in small venues some benches are formed by recurring flooding. The point you should take away here is that you should never pass up bench gravels in ANY venue...large or small. You'll also find what I call shallow gravels in most small venues. These can be in the streambed itself or, again, along its sides. I say "shallow" because compared to larger rivers and streams, the overburden in small venues is generally shallower than the overburden in larger venues. Common sense, in most instances. However, the shallow gravels in small venues have never been a good gold producer for me. Never. That is, unless they are found above and off to the sides of a small venue. Confusing, right? It confused me for a long while too, so don't feel like the Lone Ranger in that regard. But my crackpot theory is this: average water flow through the bed of an existing small venue is usually not very strong and other than microdot or flour gold, little placer Au is being carried downstream...if any at all. When flooding occurs in small venues, however, the gold being rushed downstream will surge over and onto the small venue's sides and drop whereas in midstream it's just carried along until it meets a significant obstruction or stopping point. Of course, any gold of larger size or weight will tumble along a small venue's bottom and end up trapped on bedrock or beneath or behind a larger obstruction. The key word in gold recovery here concerning small venues is OBSTRUCTIONS! OBSTRUCTIONS! OBSTRUCTIONS!

(Obstructions galore!)

In the next post I'll discuss the issue of obstructions and how important they are in getting good gold from small venues. We'll also talk about the role bedrock plays here too.

Best to all of you out there.

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Dang, now I'm wanting to get back to my little trickle of a stream!
    Next to it, about 100 yards away, is a much bigger stream that I have never tried. I want to hit that one as well.

    1. I'm surprised you haven't hit that larger stream Gary. Definitely worth looking at.

  2. It's more visible to the forest Nazi's.......sad that that should matter.....

    1. I get it now...yep...staying out of view. Been there too...


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