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River Deltas can be a widening in the river where the current slows and allows the silt and sand layers to build up or the final outlet of a river into an ocean. Unless the source of gold is near this Delta you should expect to find small flake and flour gold in great quantities.
I always focus on forward leading sand banks with coarse sand making them up. Stay away from “silty”, clay built banks on the river’s edge as these will only contain the very finest (micro-fine) gold. Gravel banks can go either way. Some will have a little flake gold while other will be almost gold free. The river’s current is usually flowing too fast for small gold particles to settle where the larger gravel will. I have worked gravel banks that have had some gold in the and in my opinion they generally are just not worth it. You would be better off working a coarse sand bank. It is easier shovelling and classifying and your gold production is usually higher too.
HOW TO GET MAXIMUM GOLD PRODUCTION FOR RIVER BANKS
I start looking for likely sand banks on outside curves of the river first and sample pan three or four different locations on your test sand bank. Go easy on the panning; remember you are looking for fine gold flakes, not nuggets here. Pre-classifying is a good idea to take your sample down to 1/8” screen size. Now you should have a gold pan full of sand and very small rocks in it. Do the usual water, pan shake to allow the small gold to settle to the bottom. (I.e. fill the pan of material to the top with water and shake side to side for 30 seconds to give the gold time to settle to the bottom. Let the water out and into your gold pan repeatedly flushing out the lighter sand and some small rocks. With your pan angled 15 – 30 degrees, keep shaking it and flushing the water and sand out over the rim.
By now the bulk of all the gold in your sample should be pretty much at the bottom of your pan. Continue the side to side shaking focusing the lowest point of your gold in the pan to the bottom corner. With continued shaking and washing the lighter sand over the front of the rim of your pan, you will reduce the amount of material to approximately three tablespoons.
What you are left with is a bunch of small pebbles, a little sand, black sand and gold. I usually scratch back the little pebbles with my hand and discard them out of my pan. The odds of you finding a pebble sized gold nugget are against you, but keep an eye out at the pebbles you are tossing out just in case. Finally you are down to a little sand, black sand and gold.
Hold your pan flat with about ¾ of a cup of water in it and gently swirl it around, let excess material wash over the edge of the pan.
Let the water wash the remaining contents around the pan. What you should see is a trail of gold, black sand and then regular sand in a comet like streak in the bottom of your pan. Obviously it’s the gold we are interested in, however, when we find a good location for setting up our sluice box (a high percentage of gold), we will be interested in not only catching gold but black sand as well. The reason for wanting the black sand is because when we capture the black sand we also get a very high percentage of flour gold. We will separate this find gold when we refine our heavy material, but more on this later.
MORE TIPS ON EXTRACTING RIVER GOLD
1) If you find large boulders in the main flow of the river you can sometimes reach them at low water times. Up North low water time would be in August. What I usually find behind these huge rocks is a trail of gravel and sand that quickly tapers off as the river’s current regains its flow behind the rock. This tapered trail, more times than not, contains an abundance of gold. Pan or sluice all of this material as you will find layer after layer of gold rich sands and gravels from previous seasons of water flows. These spots contain concentrated wealth so please don’t pass them up. Be cautious not to over dig behind the boulder and risk having it topple over on you, especially if there is still a current of water flowing around the rock.
2) A related gold trap exists behind old log jams. Hemlock and cedar seem to last the longest when submerged in water, however even if there is only remnants of the logs left behind the logs have already done their job. Logs can form a natural riffle that consistently traps years of gold flow behind them. I have had considerable success just looking for either the root ball or the top of the water logged tree that has remained up on the bank while the rest of the log that was in the water mostly rotted away. It depends on many factors but a typical scene might look like; a partly rotted and covered root clump on the shore starting to extend itself into the river replaced by a funny out of place raised sand bar that lines up with the tree roots. Well that log has captured years of gold material behind it and is an excellent way to get easy shallow gold. Again, I favor low water for safety and ease of access to this material. If the log is rotted but still partly there make sure you either pan or sluice the material that is inside the log as well.
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