HOW TO FIND GOLD IN THE
CARIBOO/CHILCOTIN & FRASER RIVERS
100% CANADIAN—CARIBOO GOLD RUSH COUNTRY HOME GROWN
The major gold bearing regions of British Columbia are fairly well defined and documented, although there is always the possibility of new discoveries to be made.
To find gold, the prospector should first go to areas where gold has been discovered, we are going to look at the Fraser River and Cariboo/Chilcotin. The exact locations of historic mining are fairly easy to find out through researching the files and reports of the government agencies, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Annual Reports for general areas of Cariboo/Chilcotin and Fraser River take a look at these maps.
By focusing your search on past producing areas, your chances of finding gold are much greater than stumbling aimlessly around the bush. Well there is a chance of someone finding a new major discovery, it is extremely remote and best left to a little more experienced prospectors. Though I do have to say that it is impossible not to find some gold values in just about any gravel deposit in the Cariboo/Chilcotin or Fraser River drainage.
For the novice or recreational panner starting out I recommend going to the Fraser River, pretty much anywhere along the river you will find some colour in almost every pan, not a lot but enough to learn the art of panning and identifying the associated minerals of gold.
Here is a set of guidelines for the Recreational Panner to follow, as well a short tutorial on How to Use Mineral Titles Online for the Recreational Panner.
In the Cariboo/Chilcotin gold was first found on in quantity just below where the mouth of the Quesnel River empties into the Fraser River, some of the gravel bars, Richbar being the most famous one, were very rich. From there the miners headed up the Quesnel River, finding flour and flake gold in increasing amounts. It is said that about this time, an American named Dunlevy and a small group of other Americans, paid a native to lead them overland to a place that he knew of is search of the yellow metal. This would become known as Horsefly River, about the same time men had worked their way up to the junction of the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers, finding gold in every bar and along the banks of the rivers.
The old maps of these times, show that the miners explored somewhat around the area, but stuck mainly close to the main waters, for a couple of good reasons, there was gold to be found there, enough to supply for the basic costs of living while looking for better ground, and security of having a company of men around in a strange and foreign land.
Today we have the luxury of lots of back country logging roads that make getting in there a lot easier, though if travelling down these roads use extreme caution and if possible have a truck to truck radio and be tuned to the proper channels for the given road.
So lets take a look at how gold first gets into the alluvial deposits that we are looking for,
Approximately 50 million years ago the Canadian Cordillera (Rocky and Cariboo Mountain Ranges) were formed through plate tectonics, the faulting buckled and shoved the earths crust upwards into massive mountains. Over the years weathering and mass wasting eroded the rock and more importantly the exposed lode deposits, then through slope creep, gravity and fluvial transportation the eroded material was carried to the valley floors below. Through earthquakes and landslides, which further broke and crushed the rock, releasing the gold and sweeping everything along to the streams and river, where the fluvial action washed much of the lighter materials away leaving rich concentrations of precious mineral behind.
So this explains how gold gets into the stream beds, but now it time to figure out what happens to the gold after entering the stream. You have to always keep it in your mind, gold is heavy, one of thee heaviest minerals/elements we know of, with a Specific Gravity of 19.3 roughly. Because of this one main fact, we know that gold will settle in certain spots and areas of a water course once carried there. Your ability to recognize the areas/spot will make all the difference between a long, tiring, day and a successful rewarding day. Panning gold is hard work, and if you can read the creek/stream ,your chances of it paying off good for all your effort will be much higher.
The first step when you reach a promising stream, look for a high vantage point from which you can inspect the creek for likely areas. Also try to visualize how high the stream gets during the rainy season, most importantly, try to visualize the stream's high-water mark during the rainy season. Remember that gold carried downstream during the spring run-off may be deposited high and dry by summer when you are most likely to begin your search. As you stand there, overlooking the creek, you must be able to visualize these six really important BASIC rules, remembering that they also apply to spring run-off. So don't overlook these signs even if they're currently above the high-water mark.
(1) GOLD IS HEAVY
Gold is extremely heavy, six or seven times heavier than rock, and, therefore, it settles on the bottom. The key word here is down. Gold's excessive weight forces it down-downhill, downstream, down into the sands and gravel, down into bedrock cracks and crevices, and down in your sluice box or gold pan.
Gold is assisted in its downward movement by wind, rain, earth, tremor, rock slide and agitation. Once gold settles on the creek bed, it will sift downward through the lighter sand and gravel. Because of its weight, it will continue to sink until it reaches bedrock, where it will become trapped in crevices and such.
(2) WATER VELOCITY
Because gold has a tendency to sink, it will concentrate wherever the creek slows down or loses sufficient velocity, to drag it further. In other words. if gold is dragged down a mountainside to a deep, motionless pool, it will immediately sink to the bottom. The first principle of prospecting. then, is to search where the flow of water decreases. Therefore. pay special attention to the edges of whirlpools. at the tail of eddies, beneath waterfalls and in deeper pools. Fine gold is usually found in the shallow areas, and coarse gold in the deeper areas.
A popular misconception is that all nuggets sink immediately to the bottom at. or near, its source. This is generally true, but depends a great deal upon the size of the nugget and the flow of the water. For example, a stream flowing at only one-half mile per hour can lift and carry gravel about the size of a pea. At five miles per hour, stones the size of cannon balls will tumble freely. When the velocity is slightly greater than 20 miles per hour, boulders that weigh nearly a ton can be moved gradually. And, during spring run-off, the velocity is often much greater than this.
Gold tends to be deposited at any point where obstructions hinder or halt its progress. Large rocks beneath the surface act as natural riffles and can accumulate rich pockets of placer gold. Likewise. a fallen tree trunk or other natural obstruction will impede the gold's progress, causing it to sink. If a tree trunk, embankment or other obstruction projects from the bank into the current, a suction eddy will likely be formed. It is in these deep-suction eddy pools that many of the richest "glory holes" have been found. However, these pools are usually deep. and may be accessible only through the use of scuba gear, underwater dredges, and the like.
(4) SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO POINTS
Again, due to its weight. gold tends to take the shortest route as it is carried downstream. It therefore hugs the inside of bends and curves' in its journey. Then, as these areas tend. to lose velocity, the gold sinks to the bottom. Quite often the suspended sand, silt, iron and gold particles will build up until a small drift of sand is formed. This type of deposit is easily recognizable above or below water, and has accounted for many of the famous "gold bars" of past history. The strike at Hills Bar, near Hope in 1858 which touched off the B.C. gold rush, yielded nearly $2 million. Unfortunately, you cannot make much money trying to pan these sandbars. Even a professional gold panner can only sift through about one cubic yard per day, so unless you are sluicing or dredging, stick to bedrock mining. You'll save yourself a lot of wasted effort, sore muscles and discouragement.
(5) BLACK SAND
Iron pyrites and black sands are good indications of gold, when these are spotted it is always a smart idea to prospect. Black sands are heavier than surrounding sand and settle much in the same manner as does gold. Therefore, if black sands are present, you can be assured that conditions are favourable for placer gold deposits. However, since this principle was well known to early prospectors, it's almost certain that the most obvious black sands have already been panned. If this proves to be the case, modern technology may be very useful. A metal detector can determine the presence of gold and black sand deposits beneath the surface which went undetected by earlier prospectors. Some people search for small nuggets with a metal detector, and many have been successful. However, if you intend to search underwater, be certain that you have a waterproof search coil.
(6) ANCIENT STREAMBED/OLD BURIED CHANNELS/TERRACES AND BENCHES
Over the tens of thousands of years that lodes were being broken up and deposited in streams, the entire topography of the surrounding area was changing. Massive landslides and titanic upheavals frequently dammed up rivers and streams, forcing the water to find alternate routes. When this happened, the former streambeds were left high and dry, and these often contained much-concentrated gold, as can be attested by the following example.
During the Cariboo gold rush, two strolling Chinese miners discovered a large area of gold-bearing land just north of Quesnel. China Cut, as the discovery was named, is estimated to have produced nearly $1 million. The discovery was made along the course taken by the Fraser River during the Tertiary era, 70 to three million years ago, and high above the present level. China Cut and the Tertiary Mine, 9 miles north of Quesnel, are the only two places yet discovered where the present Fraser River cuts through the ancient Tertiary riverbed.
So, always be on the lookout for signs of an ancient or dried-up streambed, as it could produce gold beyond your wildest dreams. In fact, if any major new placer discovery are to be found today, this undoubtedly would occur in an old ancient, unmined riverbed channel.
After familiarizing yourself with these six fundamental rules, you should have a fairly good working knowledge of what happens to gold once it reaches the stream, giving you a distinct advantage over people who haven't the foggiest notion as to where to start looking.
In summary: You know that, once gold enters a stream, it has a tendency to sink to the bottom, eventually making its way to bedrock. However, you also realize that this procedure is dependent upon two important factors: the weight of the nugget, and the velocity of the water. In other words, the lighter the gold particle and the more powerful the waterflow, the easier it is for the water to suspend and carry it downstream. On the other hand, the heavier the nugget and weaker the velocity, the sooner the gold will sink to the bottom.
For the sake of explanation, let's say that the weight of the nuggets and water velocity were such that the gold was being "floated" downstream from its original source. Theoretically then, if a stream were straight, of equal depth and width, free of obstructions, and its downward slope remained constant, prospecting would be futile. Fortunately, this is not the case. A stream wanders around corners, over, under and around obstructions, forms eddies and whirlpools, drops over waterfalls, and changes velocity constantly.
Visualize, for a moment, a cork floating downstream. Watch it as it is carried over the waterfall and plunges, temporarily, beneath the surface. Then it bobs to the surface and continues downstream until grabbed by the whirling motion of a suction eddy. Eventually freeing itself, it continues its journey until its path is blocked by a huge boulder. Here, its progress is impeded until the current forces it around the edge. Finally. the cork is trapped where a fallen tree trunk spans the surface of the stream.
A piece of gold will react in much the same way. However. as it plunges over the waterfall. the heavier pieces will continue to the bottom. and will not resurface. Lighter pieces may be carried by the water's velocity to the eddy. where the current slows sufficiently to allow them to sink. Similarly. gold that is hindered by an obstruction will not merely float as did the cork. but will take advantage of the reduced waterflow and obstruction. and sink. And whereas the cork would bob indefinitely where trapped by the fallen tree. the heavier gold would settle to the bottom.
You must be able to visualize the progress of gold in this manner as it is floated or dragged downstream. You must be able to understand what effects certain changes in the stream will have upon it-if you are to be successful. Therefore. these six fundamental rules should be memorized so that you will know what happens to gold after it enters a stream.
There are also these indicators of gold that you should become acquainted with. These are especially helpful if you are prospecting a stream about which you know absolutely nothing.
(1) BLACK SANDS/GARNETS/GALENA/COPPER/OTHER HEAVY MINERALS
There are two types of black sand: hematite and magnetite. Hematite is about 70% iron. is dark red in color. and will usually slough out of your pan easily. Magnetite is a far better grade of iron, running 75%. It is magnetic. of a darker red. and will not slough out of your pan. Both are frequently recovered with gold. Garnets, olivine, quartz, greenstone, chromites, galena are also generally good indicator mineral in the the Fraser and Chilcotin drainages, copper in real plentiful in the Fraser River.
(2) WATER-WORN ROCKS/ALLUVIAL GRAVELS
While rounded gravel or rock deposits are not in themselves an indication of gold. The presents of these rocks in a deposit does mean that they have been carried a considerable distance and the gravel deposit is better possibility to contain gold. I will have to add to this, there are very few gravel deposits in the Cariboo Region that don’t contain some traces of gold or other heavy minerals.
Sharp. angular rock deposits very seldom contain gold or other valuable minerals, as they have not travelled far, and. therefore. have not had the opportunity to pick up any good deposits of gold.
(3) CEMENTED GRAVEL/CONGLOMERATES
The feldspar portion of eroded rocks is carried farther downstream, where it usually collects in a flat area. This is usually a slate-blue or rusty-red color, and eventually becomes clay, forming a false bedrock upon which gold can be deposited. This cemented gravel has been in place for tens of thousands of years, and is sometimes so firm that you must hammer the chunks to crumble them. These have produced some good finds for panners in recent years, so be particularly watchful for pockets of cemented gravel.
Although uprooted trees are not necessarily indicators of gold, they most certainly are excellent places to search. A recently uprooted tree could prove to be a real bonanza, especially if it was located on the inside of a curve. The roots, which probably have pulled up some of the streambed, could produce some good-sized nuggets, as this deposit likely has never been touched. Never overlook such a possibilities!
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This pic. Shows a real good example of the upper glacial till, then an oxidized layer, and then the old river channel, approximately 200 ft above the existing river
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