The Finer Points of Crevicing and Underwater Gold Sniping (Part 1)

As you already know, I'm a big proponent of crevicing (or sniping if you prefer) both in and out of the water. This includes dry placer crevicing as well...minus the water! So I want to return to this subject and throw a few tips your way in this longer-than-normal series of posts.

A Preamble

You can believe me when I say that crevicing is one of the cheapest ways you can go to get at the gold in both wet and dry conditions. And in certain states like California where suction dredging is banned (and any motorized gear on a running stream is frowned upon), crevicing or sniping is a great alternative to that gas-powered machinery that 's not only expensive to buy and run, but seen as the Devil's own handiwork by those smug, self-righteous assholes on the Left Coast. Of the two approaches (dry or underwater) I can say with reasonable confidence that underwater sniping is the most profitable from a gold recovery standpoint. Your initial outlay for gear will be a bit more because in most instances you'll need a wet suit, hood, and snorkeling mask to get the job done right for shallow water hunting. Still, your outlay cost will not be on the same magnitude as purchasing a dredge (NOT in California you don't!), highbanker, trommel, etc. You desert rats out there can forego all this talk about being underwater...just swing your detectors, work those dry pans, and fire up the ol' dry washer. Anyway, that's my preamble here for what it's worth. Later on I want to really get down to the nitty gritty on underwater gold sniping...the "how to's" and the "what to do's." So you newbies out there take heed, especially if you're living or mining in the Once Golden State (or anywhere else for that matter).

The "Big" Question

A big question that many people ask and that I asked myself early on in my mining career is this: "How can I tell a 'good' crevice from a 'bad' one? Of course, good here means containing decent gold and bad means just the the opposite. Some small-scale gold miners and most recreational or "weekend" prospectors think that crevicing is all about luck because you never know what a bedrock crack or crevice is going to contain. Well, this is true to some extent but if you listen to what I have to say in the following tips the odds are gonna get much better for you (without any money back guarantees, of course!). Please remember here that dry or desert placers are a bit screwy when it comes gold deposition factors and I''m coming at these tips from a wet placer standpoint primarily. Anyhoo, here's how I appraise potential crevices above the waterline or out in yonder desert, assuming of course, that exposed or shallow bedrock exists there in the first place.

1) Get a good "lay of the land" first. Most small-scale gold miners don't have the freedom to spend as much time as they'd like on their prospecting and mining activities. You know the routine, you're working a job you don't really like to support yourself and/or the family, you have things to do at home (those "honey do's"), and life is making its typical demands on you to deliver the goods from a non-gold standpoint. So the tendency is that when you DO finally get out of the house and you arrive at your favorite gold spot (or a new one) you're all hyped and excited to start pulling that yellow and want to get right at it...digging, scratching, and shoveling like a madman (or mad woman)! Don't do this. If you want to up the odds on finding productive crevices TAKE YOUR TIME. Get a drift on the stream hydrology in the immediate area and your location relative to it. Look upstream and focus your attention there first. Do this slowly, methodically, and with care and then ask yourself the following questions:
  • Where are the low pressure areas of stream or wash flow?
  • How much bedrock is available?
  • Is that bedrock exposed or shallow enough (overburden) to work?
  • What type of bedrock are you dealing with. Water-worn and smooth, or rough and angular ("bookshelf" bedrock), or a mix of the two?
  • Are there "secondary" channels atop bedrock lined by boulders or big rocks that could funnel the gold along certain pathways? 
  • Do you see crevices under or on the sides of these secondary pathways?
  • What are the crevices like where you are? Parallel or perpendicular to the stream or wash flow, or both?
  • Are those crevices filled with loose rock and gravel or packed tightly? 
  • Are they near the stream flow, midway up, or high up in flood stage zones?
  • Do you see evidence of iron staining from nails, old metal scraps, etc. in those crevices?

Narrowing Things Down

These are by no means all the questions you should ask yourself but they're a good start. That said, these are the types of questions you should be answering for yourself BEFORE you put a digging or crevicing tool in your hot little hands. In essence what you're doing here is narrowing down your prospects (no pun intended!). This "narrowing down" is like looking through a camera lens at a wide angle and gradually turning that photo frame into a close up. Once you've got the "close ups" wired things can be narrowed down even farther. This is when your vision is akin to looking through a microscope at the details that will enable you to make an "educated" decision about which crevices you want to work and which ones might contain potential nuggets and coarse gold, which are likely to hold large flakes, fines, and occasional "chunkers," and which ones will be giving up mostly fine or "flood" gold. This tip alone should indicate to you that success at crevicing or sniping is not just the luck of the draw or happenstance. There's a logic flow to it all.

There'll be more tips and suggestions on the way in this series, so stay tuned.

Best to one and all.

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Thanks, great article, ready for more when you get time

  2. JR, great as always! deer hunting this fall, I went up above the old gold mine town of Shoup. It is a ghost town, but the buildings are privately owned. I know the owner, so we decided to see where the road went. It doesn't go far, but the creek has the only exposed bedrock I have ever seen in our area. It is pretty smooth and water worn,....not good I think....but the cracks go straight across the creek and look to be about an inch or less wide. I got kind of excited seeing that! I'm not sure if this is private ground or not, I think it is, but I will have to ask. If it's not, someone probably has a claim on it, but I saw no claim notices. I hope I can give it a try! Looking forward to what you have to say about sniping in this series!

    1. I'd give 'er a try if you are able to Gary....probably hasn't been worked much.


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