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I realize I have covered this topic before in other articles but I want to cover it in more detail here. Water falls in rivers are not that common, in fact it is usually only younger rivers that have them but there are always exceptions to this rule. Rivers flowing through mountainous areas will definitely have more waterfalls while they are flowing through the mountains. Anyway, the reason I like waterfalls, especially seasonal falls, is that coarse gold accumulates at their base.
The pounding water at the base of a waterfall only allows heavier items to remain where the water hits. The heavier materials such as:
- Large rocks ranging from house size down to cannonball size.
- Large quantities of trapped black sand.
- Larger garnets and other semi-precious heavy stones.
- Diamonds (more common in Africa)
- And of course gold nuggets and platinum.
The sweet part of this whole outcome is this is how glory holes are made. A glory hole is a gold rich pocket made by a waterfall or series of waterfalls that leave behind mainly large gold accumulates and large rocks at their bases. Other types of glory holes are made by ancient rivers or waterways that meet and combine flows in what used to be narrow river valleys.
Getting at these gold rich holes of active rivers is the trick. Up here in the North, August and September is the time to go after these spots as that is when the water flow is the lowest. In the South the lowest flow rate would be after a prolonged drought or dry spell.AT THE BASE OF A WATERFALL
Anything at the bottom of a waterfall will either be heavy such as large rocks or cemented into position. “If the current can move it, it would have moved it!”
Pry bars are a must for working these areas. I prefer large high quality bars that have a strike-able head. Both “Mac” and Snap On” make bars like this as may others. Don’t bother with stainless steel as the regular carbon steel bars are the best choice here. Also, if you can get access to a medium sized (3 – 4 lb.) sledge type hammer, this is the time you will use it. Be sure to have all the usual other stuff as well:
- Good quality long handled shovel (like Corona)
- Gold Pan - Sluice Box
- Gold Sucker or the Gold Recovery Pump
- A Magnet
- Drinking Water
- Protective Clothing
Obviously I can’t see the conditions you will be facing but low or no water flow is the safest and most effective way to open up these gold pockets. The primary reason for this is because you have safe control over your mining conditions. The second reason is that you can do a pretty good job of moving rocks and pulling gold out of these areas.
TYPICAL GOLD FORMATION PATTERNS IN WATERFALLS
Think of the impact zone of the falling water from a waterfall. Where the water strikes the rock is has the greatest force. This eroding force usually is something like a sloppy target. Looking down from the top as the water would fall gives you the direct spot the water would strike. As I mentioned, this is where maximum force is applied on impact with the rocks, bedrock or whatever can stand the direct pounding force of the water. Moving out from the center impact area you have the areas of reduced erosion, like rings on a target. Depending on what is sitting at the waterfall base will give you different rings of coarse gold fanning out in somewhat conical patterns. What can change this picture is:
- Bedrock, exposed means almost all the gold will move out to the sides (depends on the nugget size).
- Monster rocks. Are they water worn? If they are they are probably a restriction and a gold flow controller. Work just behind these massive rocks for best coarse gold.
- Cemented rocky mass with no water flow – start at the center and dig a trench in a downstream direction as deeply as is safe to do. I want you to find bedrock as safely possible, but either way, pan or sluice ALL materials. Look for increased production as you dig your trench downstream. When you find a gold rich zone dig in a conical circle with the impact zone of the waterfall as your center. This zone will mark how Mother Nature has naturally sorted out the coarseness of the gold with water force of the falls.
- Fractured Bedrock. Are the top exposed edges worn or sharp? Are the cracks packed with sand and gravel or relatively clean? What direction are the cracks facing? Fractured bedrock offers some tremendous opportunities when you can reach them. The material you find in these cracks will vary depending on where they are located such as a waterfall impact zone
as well the coarseness of gold in this area. Unless you are working under the waterfall impact zone (where the water hits) you can expect a mixture of small nuggets, flake gold and black sand. That, of course, also depends on the size of crack you are working. The impact zone will have the largest nuggets unless there is an eroding rock mass upstream. I have found a few cracks full of crumbled granite mixed with iron oxide chunks in the head waters of the Liard River in Northern BC and the Northwest Territories. Oh there was gold there too but apparently the decaying rock and iron wanted to compete for position with my desired mineral in my pan, sluice box and at the base of the falls in the bedrock. It is well worth your time to work these cracks for gold. I recommend you start with accessible openings to test for the presence of gold and then go for the deeper, more difficult to reach locations.
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