There are many factors involved in prospecting a river to find gold in your pan. First, look at the general outlay of the river. I like to visit my claims in the winter, when the water is low, and then again during spring runoff to watch the water flow at high water. Where does the river get wide, where does it get narrow, are there any sharp bends, and is there any exposed bedrock. The type of bedrock, color of the gravel, the hardness of the rocks, and the placement of the vegetation all play important roles in where to look.
Gold only moves when the river is in its flood stage. It takes tremendous power in order to move the boulders and gravel to release the gold and move it. Any spot in the river where the flow of water is diminished, the gold will drop out. This could be behind a boulder or large bedrock outcropping, where the river widens or makes a sharp bend, or where it can drop into a crevice. Cleaning out these crevices in bedrock is called “crevicing” or “sniping.”
When looking at the bedrock, the type of bedrock you are dealing with is very important. The harder the bedrock, the slow it erodes or deteriorates. Granite bedrock is very soft and erodes quickly, indicating that it doesn’t allow enough time for the gold to accumulate. Serpentine bedrock is much harder with an abundance of fissures, allowing for the gold to drop out. Because it is harder, it allows more time for the gold to accumulate. Shale bedrock, much like that found in the Fraser River, has a lot of crevices in it, but erodes and breaks apart very quickly. You can find gold in it, but you have to break apart a lot of bedrock to find the gold scattered amongst it.
The color of the gravel is another key element in your quest for the gold. Upon inspection of the gravels, you will notice that some rocks are shinier than others. That is because they are very hard, and are denser and heavier. Compared to the softer and lighter rocks, they erode much more slowly, giving them their polished look. These darker rocks are what you want to look for, and you will find that they tend to accumulate in definite areas along the river. These areas are known as heavy gravels. When these heavy gravels drop, the gold will usually drop with them. If any bedrock is exposed, check the bedrock along a straight line between these heavy gravel spots.
Many times on prospecting trips with friends or other prospecting colleagues, either my son or myself, will point to a spot on the river, and indicate to our colleagues to “dig” here. In every instance that I can recall, they look at us in bewilderment when they find gold, and want to know how we knew there was gold there. It’s because we took note of the heavy gravels when reading the river.
When looking at the vegetation in the river, you only need to consider the vegetation that is growing below the high water mark. Small trees and large brush in the river channel indicates that it has been a long time high or powerful enough to move the gold. Sometimes you will notice small trees growing in the river bed where the river widens out. This is a very good indication that gold is dropping out there, and probably staying there. Look for large trees in the river beds. If they are bent or beat up, this is an indication that water and debris are hitting it during flood stage. This indicates a decrease in water flow, otherwise there would be know trees. Check the riversides or bedrock here as it should be holding gold. If the tree does not show any signs of wounding or scarring, that’s an indication it’s in a backflow area (no current or dead water) and there will be no gold.
Hope you enjoyed this installment. Stay tuned for more, and Happy Prospecting!