In the Pursuit of Gold
Tips and Techniques for Finding Gold
Where to Look:
Over the years gone by it has often been said by many a experienced prospector that - "gold is where you find it" - and this is inclined to be very much the truth of the matter. You may hear so many expert opinions and theories about where gold should be and where to look, and many of these predictions may well be accurate, but the fact still remains that gold continues to be found in the most unexpected places.
One such typical example of this is the gold nugget found inside a fresh water oyster at the old lead reservoir at Dunolly (see archived news item ) by a prospector using a metal detector, so the lesson to be learned here is never reject any source as being a not possible. The modern electronic metal detector has provided to prospectors an advantage that single isolated gold nuggets can now be located in ground that is not practical to work by the older more conventional methods of locating gold, hence the case cited above.
However it is not the purpose of this article to cover the methods for locating gold bearing areas for those proposing to use a metal detector, that is a whole subject on its own, and will be covered in another article at a later date, This article is purely intended to introduce some of the better recognised procedures for identifying the most likely areas to look for as a starting point for locating alluvial gold, and as such it is intended for the less experienced recreational gold seeker wishing to try this/her hand at gold panning and/or one of the other wet gold recovery processes.
So to Begin:
First and foremost the beginner should concentrate their efforts within a known gold bearing area. Information as to where a States auriferous areas are to be found may be obtained from the State Mines Department, also by research at libraries, the internet , or should one be lucky enough to have such an acquaintance, by talking with an older or more experienced prospector.
If you have read the opening paragraph on our Gold Panning Page about the concept of gold panning and you stop to think about it, it should be obvious to you that what we are searching for is gold that has already been at some time in the past been relocated from it’s original shedding point. Gold that we would expect to pan has either been washed down a slope with other rocks and gravels into a gully or creek, and/or held in suspension in a moving flow of water, and then when some event caused that water to slow, deposited it in a new location. This may have been in a past or present creek or river, or maybe on the side of a hill leading from a gold reef, regardless it has moved from the place where it was originally shed to where it now lies.
The method of finding gold on a slope or hillside which has been shed from a gold bearing reef and consequently tracing it back to find that original reef is called loaming; as this technique is somewhat ambitious for the beginner it is not covered in this article, even though the process of panning out the collected loam samples does use the same techniques. This leaves us with both the past and present creeks and rivers, and in our efforts to introduce the beginner to where to look and what to look for when deciding the most likely places to pan for gold, it is best to concentrate on existing creeks and rivers which may still be readily observed as they now exist.
As a general rule in Australia our creeks only flow at intermittent periods and are either dry or at best form a series of water holes during the dryer seasons.
Gold will nearly always lodge in the deepest holes along the course of a stream which is usually near the centre on the straighter sections, and nearer the outer side of the sweep on bends, and once having been deposited, it will usually remain where it lies, as it cannot not travel uphill to dislodge itself. When a stream is dry or near dry, the deeper holes and other places most likely to trap gold are easily observed, and any gold that has been lodged during a wet season will be there waiting for you.
Streams conditions are continually changing, and at various times of the year as the water flow changes with the seasons, many of their natural features present differing conditions favourable to the entrapment of gold as the two photograps above and below serve to illustrate.
Same stream as above - Different season
Be aware of, and look for stream features such as, – Rock Bars that form natural riffles to catch gold – Benches which form on the inside sweep of a bend in a stream, due to the flow of water slowing on the smaller inner radius as opposed to the larger outer radius where the water travels faster, always remember that it is on the inner radius where the water slows and benches form, that gold which is being swept downstream will often settle to the bottom along with some of the other heavier materials that ultimately form the bench – Deeper Pot Holes which may have been formed by strong eddy currents when the stream was flowing fast, these pot holes will then lie in readiness to trap gold when the stream flow subsides - Abrupt changes in stream width and/or depth forcing the water flow to slow down or speed up, give special attention to any areas where the stream flow has been forced to slow - all these factors should be taken into consideration when selecting where to gather your wash dirt to pan.
Natural rock bars
Advanced Recovery Techniques
Crevassing can be highly rewarding and should not be overlooked as a viable source of material for your pan as it often yields a high gold content compared with the amount of material that is finally washed. Crevassing involves the process of scraping the trapped material from out of the cracks in rock formations and from any other places that have been undisturbed for a considerable time. Material obtained by crevassing can be a high yield rich source of wash dirt as a quantity of gold may have been trapped for many years along a gold bearing creek bed, and gold may still be slowly accumulating in those crevasses to this very day.
If enough patience is exercised the trapped material can be carefully scraped out using suitable sized and shaped implements. There is no hard or fast rule regarding the implements used, a piece of wire (like an old coat hanger or fencing wire) with a hook formed on one end is one useful tool, or you can form a hook on each end with one hammered flat enough to allow it to enter into the finer crevices, an old knife and/or a garden trowel can also be used, and there is no doubt that as you build a working knowledge of the conditions encountered in the field, you will discover many other useful implements that you can also use with great effect.
Regardless of the tools you use, it is most important that you remove all of the material at the very bottom of each crack or crevice, as this is where most of the richest wash dirt is to be found. When removed the material collected is simply placed into the pan and carefully washed in the normal manner.
Crevices filled with finer material where gold may be found