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Monday, December 23 2019
Did you know that “bad” weather can be a plus for prospectors? No one ever hopes that Mother Nature causes catastrophic loss of life and property, but the ups and downs of weather events in any gold-bearing area are something to take advantage of. Nature can help all of us in our quest for the shiny stuff!
Typical winter storms usually do not create enough havoc to force substantial amounts of "new" gold into movement. However, when Mother Nature really goes to work over a “bad” winter or for an extended period of time, a great deal of gold can be set free, creating a bonanza for gold hunters in spring and summer. Gold veins that have been hidden for decades suddenly can be exposed. Floods can also sweep gold out of abandoned mines and wash it downriver. Known gold digs can be washed out, trees uprooted, and the landscape eroded. Benched gold deposits can be released and transported back into running streams.
If you’re in an area that experiences high-water events, get out and keep an eye on the water flow so you can try to figure out where the gold actually drops out. Watch the flow lines around boulders and trees. Watch where the flows slow down. The rule of thumb — gold is in the inside bend where water is slowest — is a rule of thumb, but not always 100% accurate.
On the flip side, if drought conditions prevailed last fall and continue this winter, adequate water levels needed for panning and sluicing may be difficult to find. By knowing this ahead of time, you won’t waste your time. You can plan to travel to better areas in the coming months.
Water isn’t the only force that can work in a treasure hunter’s favor. If you are a detectorist, keep an eye on the wind. Downslope winds can strip and scrub away a great deal of surface material. This wind-driven movement of top sands can make an exciting difference— areas that came up empty just last year may suddenly be productive for a metal detector!
Whether you’re in the midwest, southeast, or way out west, water table elevations and annual precipitation can have a significant impact on the amount of gold exposed in waterways, which can affect the probability of what you’ll find in your pan. Greater than average winter precipitation may swell waterways, liberating trace gold previously stranded in ground by droughts of late summer and early autumn. Good luck and be safe!
Monday, July 30 2018
Places where gold naturally concentrates in an environment of streams and drainages are known as paystreaks. No matter if you are panning, sluicing, dry washing, or metal detecting, in many ways your success at gold prospecting comes down to locating these elusive natural pay streak concentrations. Keep in mind that most gold paystreak formations occur during times of flooding and that many factors affect how gold gets deposited. Perhaps the biggest factor is that gold is dense and is more than 19 times heavier than water. The denser an object, the more easily it will resist the flow of moving water. That means it takes a very strong and fast moving water flow to move along a nugget the size of a pea.
When deciding where to start sampling, it’s helpful if you think of a river or stream as a sluice box. Waterways obviously don’t have aluminum riffles and matting, however, they do have natural gold traps that do the same thing that a sluice will do— allow gold to settle out of gravels and be caught while the bulk of the sands continue downstream. Heavy material such as gold doesn’t get spread along evenly, it is most likely caught in certain areas. The downstream parts of inside bends in a stream are favorable places to look for pay streaks. Just how good depends on how sharp the bend in the stream actually is. Usually the sharper the bend, the better the pay streak. If a tributary is known to have coarse gold, look at the intersection of the tributary and the main channel.
Behind an obstruction (large boulder, an island, or an outcrop of bedrock) is another good place to look for a pay streak. Boulders and other obstructions can create turbulence where ordinarily smooth flowing water turns into fast flowing whitewater. It is between the fast white water and the quiet dark water that gold drops out. The coarsest gold tends to be found on the outer parts of the pay streak, and the finer-sized gold is on the inner part of the pay streak. When you are working, if it seems as if the streak is petering out as you go toward the middle of the water flow because you are finding little gold, this region of the pay streak is often where the biggest number of nuggets are most likely to occur.
Once you know where paystreaks form, you might wonder if they are more likely found on bedrock or in gravels. They are nearly always found on bedrock or some sort of false bedrock. False bedrock might include caliche, a clay layer, or just a well-packed hard pan. You may just get lucky and hit something great with your first shovel of dirt, but more likely you’ll need to test a few different places. Even very experienced prospectors need to keep testing to find those hotspots and paystreaks. Good luck and keep sampling!
Saturday, December 02 2017
You might have heard the term “flood plain gold” and are wondering what it really means. A very simple definition is “fine-sized gold flakes carried or redistributed by flood waters and deposited on gravel bars as the flood waters recede.” When this “redistribution” occurs, it is usually after heavy winter storms that churned up rivers enough to turn part of the bedload over and move the river bar gravels from one place to another. Within these gravels is fine gold that was previously deposited there. When waterways flow way up and above their normal banks, they generally drop the heavier gold in the front of the bar, and as pressure decreases, the finer gold starts dropping into the mixed gravel. Over time, some of this finer gold will work its way down to bedrock, but generally it stays on the move.
How did the gold get there in the first place? There are many classifications of placer deposits, and their definitions can provide the answer. Among the most well-known is stream placers. Streams carry gold from eroded veins and concentrate them in various ways. Modern streams refer to present-day gold-bearing waterways that are the most common sources of gold for today’s prospectors. Tertiary and intervolcanic channels are rivers buried from mud and volcanic flows that existed prior to our modern-day waterways. High benches were created as rivers cut their way deeper into the bedrock and could be located hundreds of feet above today’s modern rivers. Desert placers are generally the result of torrential flash flooding and not a constant water flow. Glacial stream deposits are created by melting glaciers that can concentrate gold if the water flow is sufficient. Marine or beach deposits can come from wave action against cliffs, from off-shore currents bringing in gold-bearing material from under the ocean, or even from gold-bearing streams that flowed into the beach area eons ago.
Since there is a strong possibility that gold can get moved around during storms, it’s now important to know WHERE to find this “dropped out” gold. The secret is to find that drop point and to capitalize on its accumulation. Fine gold looks fantastic in a pan or box, but its weight can be deceivingly light. It takes a lot of fine gold to be equal to a larger piece and to have enough weight to make the recovery effort worthwhile. Some of the best areas to look for flood plain gold are where the stream or river widens out, or levels out, or changes direction. The inside of a bend is good. Rocks and weeds and small shrubs are also potentially good collection spots. When checking out collection spots, be extra careful. Calm water on the surface can hide swift currents underneath.
Keep in mind that the effects of heavy winter rains and snow will not be the same on all waterways. Redistribution might occur to a larger degree on larger rivers. Or it could be the opposite where you live and prospect. No one hopes for an especially “bad winter,” but if Mother Nature makes it so, this information could be the silver lining— a way to turn lemons into lemonade come spring when you can get out and take advantage of any gold redistribution that occurs. Good luck and be safe!
Nugget of News Blog
Saturday, April 01 2017
Typical winter storms that regularly occur in gold-bearing areas usually do not create enough havoc to force substantial amounts of "new" gold into movement. However, when Mother Nature really goes to work over a “bad” winter, a great deal of gold can be set free, creating a bonanza for gold hunters in spring and summer. Gold veins that have been hidden for decades suddenly can be exposed. Floods can also sweep gold out of abandoned mines and wash it downriver. Known gold digs can be washed out, trees uprooted, and the landscape eroded— all pluses for prospectors!
When tons of rock, cobble, and boulders are swept downstream along bedrock during a huge storm, quite a bit of destruction occurs. Plants, weeds, and trees that normally grow along the river and gravel bars are washed away. And when a major storm or flood tears up large portions of a streambed, a fair amount of this newly-released gold, because of its weight, will be deposited along the riverbed and settle into cracks and crevices (hand dredges are an ideal tool in this situation). Flooding on this scale occurred in Colorado in 2013. After the heavy rains in the west this winter (in California, Oregon, and Washington to name just a few affected states), this summer promises to be one of the best seasons for small scale miners in many areas. Even farmers in Thailand are looking for gold now to try and make up for the economic loss of ruined pineapple crops caused by floods.
Stream bed layers caused by several floods over time are referred to as “flood layers.” Flood layers are usually a different color, consistency and hardness from the other layers of material within the streambed, making them easy to recognize. Larger, heavier pieces of gold will work their way down toward the bottom of a flood layer as they are washed downstream. The smallest and lightest flakes of gold might not work their way down through a flooding layer at all, but might remain dispersed within the material. Of course not all flood layers contain gold in large quantities, but it’s a good place to start. In early spring, rivers are still high in most places, but in the next few months, stream beds could be exposed for better gold hunting. Some of the best areas to look for flood gold are where the stream or river widens out, or levels out, or changes direction. These areas can allow concentrations of gold to collect either on bedrock or in the contact zones between layers. Another place that tends to collect gold are gravel bars, especially the ones located towards the inside of bends in a waterway.
No one ever hopes that Mother Nature releases the type of fury that causes loss of life and property, but when a catastrophic weather event occurs in a gold-bearing area, take advantage of it. Get out there and get your share of the shiny stuff! With so much more runoff than normal shaking gold from them thar hills, the best prospecting will come in the summer months when the water has receded. Good luck and be safe!
Nugget of News Blog