Gold in Small Streams, Creeks, and Brooks (Conclusion)

I'll be wrapping this series up in this post and then we can move on to other things. I've spent a lot of my small-scale mining years working both large and small-stream venues, so what I'm about to impart is based on actual experience and not necessarily standard operating procedure from a gold deposition standpoint. So take what works for you and leave the rest.

It's a Relative Term

I finished off my last post with an admonition about obstructions, obstructions, obstructions. My repetitive use of this word is for good reason since much of my success in small venues (again, I'm using this term to denote smaller streams, creeks, and brooks) has been the result of working obstructions. Granted, I've had success in rivers and larger streams working obstructions as well, but in small venues it's a must from my standpoint. The best obstructions in both large or small venues are those bigger rocks and boulders in key locations in the stream course or directly adjacent to its sides. Now this term "bigger" is relative. In small venues you often won't see the same size of larger boulders or rocks that you'll find in larger venues. So in small venues any rocks (or boulders) of substantial size fit the bill. Let me digress a bit here. I often get asked about log jams and the like in terms of obstructions. Log jams are typically fairly recent additions to small venues and are nearly always associated with flooding. From a gold recovery standpoint I can emphatically state that I've NEVER recovered any gold of consequence working log jams and that's why I don't even bother with them UNLESS they've formed a nice little gold deposition drop off directly below them. I've written about drop offs in Bedrock Dreams in the past (use the search function in the sidebar) and they can be very good gold producers in both large and small venues, with the latter venue having the edge here. But as sure as the sun rises in the east some wag will e-mail me or comment on how they've hit the "big one" working log jams. Well, if that's the case brother or sister...more power to you.

 (I wouldn't waste five minutes here.)

(But I certainly would here.)

It's Still Hard Work

If obstructions in small venues are sitting atop bedrock or shallow bedrock (which is typical in many instances) then you are doubly blessed. All you need do here is to get those obstructions out of the way. In larger venues a come along is a must in moving big obstructions aside and there will be times (depending on the size of the obstructions in the small venue you're working) where that come along will easily pay for itself in placer gold. At the very least you'll need a decent set of pry bars (short and long) to assist you in moving some obstructions out of the way in small venues. The key here is the ability to remove the gold-bearing material packed directly behind (downstream side) and underneath those obstructions. I've mentioned this before in Bedrock Dreams, so bear with me yet again. One of my old-timer mentors was a "specialist" at working obstructions in small venues. He had a "second sight" or nose for gold in this regard and could readily prove it by the nuggets and coarse gold he kept in jars that I myself saw and marveled at. If he couldn't move a small venue obstruction by hand, out came a pry bar or the come along. I've mentioned Ramshorn Creek in Sierra County, California numerous times before in various posts and this creek was one of his favorites back in the 1980s (but he worked other "feeders" in the area as well). He pulled ounces of gold out of Ramshorn simply by working obstructions and I was there to witness his success on more than one occasion. By way of comparison, he pulled more small nuggets and gold in general in a day on small venue "feeders" than most of the suction dredgers working the North Yuba River downstream of him...and that's a fact. But moving large obstructions is hard work and don't think for a minute it's not.

(There can be very good gold beneath and behind obstructions.)

Drops Offs and Waterfall Mania

Of course, obstructions aren't the only spots to pull gold from on a small venue. Some of the "standard" spots you're told to check in books, videos, and online can be good at times too. But each small venue is different and I've been on some that were very stingy in giving up gold in those "normal" spots. In fact, some are so damn stingy they won't hardly give you a microdot regardless of where you dig (those spots should be crossed off your "to do" list, by the way). But I've rarely come up empty by hitting obstructions or small drop offs along most small venues. This is even true in dry placers, despite their erratic nature when it comes to gold distribution. So the first places I sample on a small venue tend to be obstructions or drop offs. Now let's get something straight here. By drop offs I'm not talking about waterfalls unless they're teeny tiny like the fake ones in someboody's backyard. There's a lot of BS circulating around nowadays about placer gold accumulating directly beneath waterfalls and we can thank certain reality TV numbskulls for a good portion of this erroneous  perception as well as a few self-proclaimed gold mining "experts" online. Most of you already know this but allow me to clue in the clueless out there. The larger the drop and the more powerful a waterfall is, the more hydrological turbulence it creates. The greater the turbulence the greater the likelihood any gold being washed over that waterfall (including coarse gold and nuggets) will be carried downstream a ways. So if you're hung up on waterfalls and gold, do us all a favor and begin looking for the good stuff at the point where the main turbulence ends and for some distance downstream of that point. But hey! What do I know right? That basic knowledge could have saved certain ass clowns on a particular reality gold show boo-coo time and money when they were stepping all over themselves attempting to work a claim in Alaska. And if you want to contest this point feel free to show me the proof of all that gold you recovered directly beneath a raging waterfall. Then I'll eat my humble pie and tip my hat to you.

 (I'm ready to eat it any time...)

That's it for this round. Be good to one another.

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Good advice Jim and well taken!

  2. Another good one JR! I can't wait to get up the mountain back to my tiny gold streams!
    I have a question about bigger streams and river though. I'm not sure if there is really an answer, but I'll run it by ya anyway.
    Picture a big, wide, straight and long gravel bar with lots of cobble stones up to basket ball size, but no big obstructions. Is there , in general, a "best spot" for gold to collect? (front of the bar, center, tail end, edges, middle ?) Or is any one spot any more likely than another?
    The reason I ask, is that our Salmon River, (a gold bearing river) last year was at flood stage and moved a huge amount of rock into new gravel bars that were not there before. It also removed some very big ones as well. I haven't had a chance to try any of them yet.

    1. You want to work the head of the gravel bar (faces upstream) and the outsides for some distance downstream of the head. Hope this helps.

    2. Great! Thank you! I'll let you know what I find!


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