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For over hundreds of thousands of years gold and other minerals have eroded from host rock and travelled downhill through slope creep and fluvial transportation to become alluvial deposits.  Each year brings spring thawing, the resulting runoff creates high-water flooding conditions that erode old existing deposits sweeping gravels, rocks, and boulders as well as gold fines, flakes, and nuggets downstream.  These will travel downstream until encountering any obstruction that slows the speed and force of the watercourse down, these natural and sometimes unnatural obstructions act as riffles in a sluice box.  Learning to see and recognize these riffles will become a valuable skill for finding gold bearing deposits.

Because gold has a high Specific Gravity, it will fall to the stream bed were ever the water current slows down, over the years gold particles will be redeposited in very predictable areas/spots in a water course.  Once there the gold will continue to settle toward the bottom until it reaches bedrock or false bedrock ( a layer of impervious clay). 

In a creek, stream or watercourse gold and other heavy minerals will follow the path of least resistance, the same as the water flow, slower water is capable of moving fine gold, and faster stronger flow is capable of moving flake and nugget gold.  In any watercourse you will have obstructions, natural riffles, these act to slow the water movement down, this gives the gold a chance to fall out of suspension, rocks and boulders are natural riffles and gold will start to settle on the upstream side but the majority will settle on the down stream side of these natural riffles. 

Now there are many that will tell you that you can not find gold in areas of swift running water, so not true, there is gold there as well, in is just harder to find.  There will be very little fine gold in swift water, though this is actually the area where you will find nugget gold, but bear in mind that the amount of gold per yard of material will most likely be the same for fine or coarse, so you can see how this could become discouraging.  You will only find the odd piece here and there and generally no colour, so it does take some perseverance and hard work.


Most fine gold will settle out as soon as the velocity of the stream is checked or obstructed in any mode, generally this a curve or bend, bedrock, or even a fallen tree in the stream. So lets take a bit of a look at the spots in a watercourse that would hold the best potential for finding fine gold.




· As water will take the path of least resistance so will gold, although gold will settle out of the water flow at the first obstructions.

· Gold will settle on the inside of corners as the water flow decreases.

· The inside of a curve or bend is an area of deposition, while the outside of a curve or bend is an area of erosion.

· Gold will continue to travel down stream during periods of high water flooding, mainly during the spring runoff periods, but also to a lesser degree during summer or fall storms.

· Gold being the heaviest mineral (generally speaking) with settle into the gravels in a stream bed during high-water flooding, as during this time the gravels in the stream bed liquefy, similar to the action in a gold pan or sluice box.

· Where you find fine gold particles on the curves or bends of a stream bed, you will be able to find larger particles (nuggets) in deeper water off the edge of the bend.

Chinese miner operating a rocker on the Quesnelle River  around 1865

A nice area of bedrock on one of the claims, will be taking a closer look next summer, some easy pickin’s


When ever the water flow is interrupted/obstructed gold being as heavy as mineral as it is, will drop out and settle into the gravels.  Some will settle is the up stream side, but the vast majority will settle in the low pressure EDDY’S on the downstream side of these obstructions.


This applies to rocks. Boulder, bedrock out cropping’s and even logs and trees that have fallen into the watercourses, so keep your eyes open for these items.


Moving along, what applies to streams, and rivers also is a general sense applies to the benches/terraces along side most existing watercourse today, the bigger the water course, say as in the Quesnel or Fraser River  the easier to see what I am going to be telling you .

This is a topographical map of an area on the Quesnel River, as you can see that at one time in the long ago past (15,000 30,000 may 100,000 years ago the river was flowing at a higher level, cutting back and forth and eroding some areas and leaving bench deposits in others, these are the old bench deposit, some just above the existing river, other 100s of high higher, these are the places to prospect for gold bearing gravels that you can actually possibly set up a working gold placer mine.

This is another view of the same area, zoomed out, as you can see the old water course changed and moved around a fair bit, leaving a lot of benches and terrace that the mining in bygone days were unable to work as the technology of modern pumps and equipment did not exist, if you learn to read these types of maps, your odds of finding you gold mine will increase tenfold, so take the time to do your research and learn from it as well listen to some of the older prospectors, learn from them, they do have a bit of knowledge and some are more than willing to past it on…..


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