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These swirling water tornadoes can hide some decent gold at their bases but the trick is reaching them. All the whirlpools I have ever checked were in deeper water and by deeper water I mean 15 plus feet deep.
What makes these water cork screws?
- Fast moving water mass passing a stagnant or reverse direction water flow.
- Fast water passing a sheer zone. This can be underwater rock face or a sudden widening of the river at the bottom.
- An underground stream entering the river. Unseen, this creates a constant series of whirlpool like water tornadoes that flow down the river for a short distance. I will mention here that if you have the time when you first approach a whirlpool, try fishing it first. The larger trout wait in these spots for food to get trapped in the swirling current.
Whirlpools are dangerous to gold mine. Yes, because of their design only the heavier gold will stick to their bottom but keep in mind what is happening here. River currents blast through these locations vacuuming off their bottoms leaving partly exposed bedrock or something like a cobblestone roadway at their bases. Some will silt up with lower current flow in the off season covering the gold bearing material with a layer of sand and clay particles. Slow river flow conditions are THE ONLY WAY to go after these spots otherwise death will probably result in attempts to reach their golden bases. The beauty of mining whirlpools is that very few others will do it. You will see weekend miner upstream and downstream but never in the whirlpool location.
RULES FOR MINING WHIRLPOOLS
- You will be underwater for this mining technique and scuba equipment is best, however snorkeling can also work.
- Extreme danger exists not just from the current but from what the current will throw you into. ROCKS! Ok you could be impaled on a log.
- Be aware of undertows. The swirling current can take a strong downward path pulling you with it.
If I sound a little fanatical about the danger it is for a good reason. I do not want your death to be part of the “Gold Mining Experience”.
- This is where I strongly recommend an underwater dredge if you can manage it in the current.
- Always work on the downstream side of the flow unless rocks prevent it. I have “accidentally” sucked up micro nuggets and larger flake gold as I worked a spot just because the river’s current worked them into my suction nozzle.
- Don’t let the fish bother you. No I am not kidding.
I was dredging a whirlpool in a medium sized river in Southern BC which had an abundance of “sucker fish” hugging the bottom. Not a problem, most of them moved away when I cleaned out behind a large rock. However, when I moved across to the other large rock between which the current was flowing, there was one very stubborn sucker that refused to move. I “shooed” him away and he actually flicked me with his tail but wouldn’t leave so I used my hand to keep him away from the intake nozzle and did a quick clean out of the base of that rock. Yes, I thought about vacuuming him up to move him but I am not that cruel. Anyway he probably would have jammed the crash box at the top of my sluice.
Depending on the whirlpools size and position you will either be looking at a slight depression lined with rocks or you will have a small raised middle part where the low pressure center is. The gold usually settles like sprinkles on a doughnut.
Looking down from the top there will be the heaviest nuggets where the current is the fastest (this is in the middle of the ring or doughnut). Then in the center or just to the outer edge of the ring is where the lion’s share of flake gold will be and there should be a lot of it.
DEPTH OF GOLD
This varies with each unique river and its flow as well as the distance from the source of all this placer gold but my experience has shown me that gold starts right at the surface of a whirlpool erosion zone and can extend down to bedrock. However, when the rivers current slows as with seasonal water flow changes, silt can accumulate in some quantities right over these gold rich areas. You will then have to move the silt off first before dredging the erosion zone. This brings up another interesting point. It is best to locate and mark whirlpool locations at higher water flow rates and then come back when the rivers water flow level is lower and safer too.
Whirlpools offer another way to mine gold that few other people have tried. Scuba or snorkel equipment is a must and you should use a suction dredge but filling a five gallon plastic or metal bucket will also work. Plastic buckets will float until about 1/8 full of gravel /sand. This is a dangerous way to get gold unless the water level is low so you are not risking life and limb.
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