The Finer Points of Crevicing and Underwater Gold Sniping (Part 4)
Let's take a look at some more tips for you crevicers and gold snipers out there. Both tags are essentially the same thing using similar strategies and approaches. The only major division is whether you work above the waterline or below it.
8. Look for signs of foreign object oxidation in crevice gravels. For those of you who don't know it already, this is a huge visual clue that should never be ignored. What do I mean by "foreign objects?" Old iron nails, screws, spikes, braces, or scraps of iron metal (or anything else composed of or containing lots of iron). So understand I am not talking here about naturally oxidized or "rusty" looking quartz or host rocks stained through natural iron oxidation...I'm talking about man-made iron items that are "foreign" to the natural stream or wash environment. Just like lead shot or fishing weights, these foreign iron objects often end up in crevices along with other "heavies." If this foreign oxidation (or the objects causing it) are near a crevice's surface they will stain the surrounding rocks and gravel a rusty reddish orange (or yellow-orange at times). Since both lead and iron are heavy enough to be deposited in similar fashion to the heavier gold, any visible crevice oxidation should draw you directly to it like someone hypnotized by good old Doctor Mesmer. In other words, it's a damn good visual clue that may reap very good rewards for you when crevicing and sniping.
Be advised, however, that many crevices hold oxidized iron objects deeply and mask that iron staining within that crevice so you can't see it from the top or surface. But if you begin digging into a bedrock crack or crevice and start finding the visual clues already mentioned that is a very, very good sign from a gold recovery standpoint. Also note this fact...DON'T automatically toss away any fused clumps of foreign iron objects that you've recovered in a crevice. Check any larger, heavily oxidized foreign objects or fused clumps carefully because pieces of gold (including small nuggets) can get bound up in all that oxidation and fused into those iron clumps. I even recommend you take any large fused iron clumps home with you, break them up, and pan out the smaller residue. Or do this on-scene if you prefer. Either way, don't just toss these clumps away. How do I know this? I've found gold in these fused clumps on multiple occasions over the course of 40 years as a small-scale gold miner. And you beach jewelry and coin hunters take heed here as well. This same principle applies to beach hunting with the only difference being that gold and silver rings or jewelry and/or coins can be bound up in fused iron clumps and any surface "staining" of beach sands or gravels should be detected and dug. Need I say more?
(Always check fused iron clumps for gold.)
9. Surface black sands showing in a crevice don't necessarily mean anything. In fact, this point is true in all aspects of small-scale gold mining. I've known people who go absolutely ape-shit crazy when spying lots of surface black sands in a large crevice (or nearby areas). They get all excited and start digging like maniacs with the expectation that gold will be mixed in with these surface showings or just below them. Well, that does happen on occasion but much more rarely than you might think. What you must understand here is that black sands are everywhere. Hell's bells, you could dig up a bucketful of dirt or gravel from your backyard or driveway, pan that stuff out, and guess what? You'll find black sand in the bottom of your pan but no gold. Get the picture here? On the flip-side of this coin, however, if you start getting into a bedrock crevice and find lots of black sand mixed in or adhering to the dirt, rocks, and gravel in that crevice, you're probably onto something pard. This is especially true if those black sands show a range from very fine to coarse chunks. Then it could be time for your crazy dance 'cause the gold is likely to show itself in very good ways. Final admonition here? Black sands are EVERYWHERE so don't allow them to guide you in every instance.
(If black sands were gold we'd all be billionaires!)
10. Yes, cracks or crevices atop big rocks or boulders can be successfully sniped both above and below the waterline. Gary Thomas ("Muskrat Outdoors") posed this question and it's a good one. If large rocks or better yet, boulders, in the low-pressure of areas of running streams or rivers are present clamber atop those puppies and see if there are any small cracks or crevices on them that run perpendicular to the water flow. Don't worry about the fact they sit high and dry now...imagine them covered completely during high water events like flash floods (desert placers) or in time of heavy rains where water levels can rise dramatically with great carrying force. An example of the latter condition can be seen in the Northern California Motherlode when the winter rains from Pacific storms impact the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains. During extreme events in this area, rivers like the North and South Yuba, and the forks of the American can turn into raging beasts with water levels rising many feet from "normal" stream flow. If you're working underwater (even in shallow water) keep your eye out for these boulder-top crevices as well. Here's why. I never thought of boulder crevices as gold traps or gold producers until the 1980s when I stumbled across a few granite boulders like this on the North Yuba River and found crevices packed with material on top of them. Some of these crevices were very narrow and a bitch to clean out but they all contained gold, including coarse gold and small nuggets. So don't pass these types of crevices by in your sniping efforts. They aren't abundant compared to "regular" bedrock crevices but they do exist and I have pulled good gold from them.
(There are boulder "opportunities" here.)
That's it for this round. In my next (and last post) on this topic I'll be focusing on underwater gold sniping.
Be good to yourself and others.
(c) Jim Rocha 2018
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com