Do You Need Water to Find Gold?

Finding Gold in the Desert

One of the biggest misconceptions that most beginning prospectors have about gold is that it is only found in rivers and streams.

No doubt about it, there has been a lot of gold taken out of the water, and even today miners are recovering gold in the same rivers where it was first discovered hundreds of years ago. Does that mean that gold is only found in the water? Absolutely not!

In fact, since rivers and streams are where most people go looking for gold, they are often the areas that have been exploited the hardest. By thinking outside the box you just might increase your odds of finding some gold that hasn’t already been discovered by prospectors before you.


Erosion and Gold Concentrations


Gold often ends up in the water, but it got there by the processes of erosion and gravity. Gold that was originally part of a vein that was encased in rock gets eroded out of the rock, moves downhill and downstream until it eventually winds up in the river, where it continues to weather and erode into a smooth river-worn nugget. This process may take millions of years to occur.

What the prospector should really take away from this is the fact that gold is not limited to the river, in fact there is a chance that it can be found anywhere.

Of course rivers and streams are still excellent places to look for gold, but this is because the gold has accumulated there over the years, not because it originated there. So don’t limit your prospecting to just in the water, or you will be limiting yourself to just a small fraction of areas that you could be finding gold.

Another important thing to remember… the place that the river is right now is probably not in the exact same place that it has always been. Sometimes floods and high-water events will cause a river to change course and carve a new channel, leaving the old channel (and all its gold!) behind. This may have been a few years ago, or it may have happened millions of years ago. These are called bench placers, areas where gold was left “high and dry” when the river got rerouted.

These places can be extremely productive if a prospector is fortunate enough to find a good one.


Specialized Mining Equipment


The other reason that prospectors are so attracted to water and often don’t think about other areas is because much of the mining equipment is designed to work with water.

You just can’t use a suction dredge without water, no matter how much you want to. However, there is certainly other tools that the prospector can add to their arsenal to find gold away from the water. Drywashers and metal detectors are both used successfully by thousands of prospectors to recover gold in areas that have no water at all.

Remember, gold is where you find it. A dry hillside in California’s gold country has much higher odds of having gold than a river in Kansas. So think outside the box and go find the mother lode!

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