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nugget shooting on bedrock - advanced

Tips for Finding Nuggets

Even though gold can be quite plentiful in the earth's crust and in sea water, coarse gold or nuggets can only occur in lode veins. Usually with associated quartz.

After many millions of years, erosion wears and chips away at these source veins, producing large heavy gold nuggets.

These original gold pieces were very large, from the size of a suitcase to the size of a truck. These pieces were further worn down with yet more time and they spread across a larger area, based on their mass (size).

It is ironic that a few of these veins are still largely intact. The trade off is that these mega nuggets are at the lowest possible depth associated with that particular vein. There are always exceptions but the bulk of the stuff we find is the extension of a much larger mass. Gold with quartz is a greatly diluted off shoot from a source vein. These smaller pieces break off and get ground down with time and erosion. So what we find has already been reduced from it's former size.

Finally we get to where we find gold nuggets. I went into some detail on the how's and whys of nugget formation to help you understand Mother Natures geological tetris game she plays.

Gold Nugget Rules

1) The stuff is incredibly heavy and doesn't like to move much.

2) Large pieces or a mass quantity will always be in the lowest, deepest location and can settle, even below bedrock in stratification layers.

3) The density makes remote detecting relatively easy. Metal detectors use a "characteristic frequency" to locate gold. We have yet to use the fundamental frequency, meaning the spacing between gold molecules.

4) When it comes to nuggets, water is our friend. Any flowing body of water that contains gold will naturally concentrate it.

The beauty of the flowing water scenario is that the river or stream will take the lightest flour gold and carry it for miles. This type of indicator points backwards to the source of coarse gold. Remember the big stuff doesn't like to move much.

In fact that is one of the ways we find nuggets. Early prospectors used this "track and find" method to locate the richest areas. BUT as you start to get closer to the source of the eroded veins, the gold will seem to run out. "If it is big, it is deep!" This is why I like bedrock so much. The stream or river flow will try to carry gold up on to it...for a time. Depressions, holes or any deep cavities will trap and hold coarse gold for many thousands of years with virtually no movement.

I have written about how Billy Barker would "drift" or tunnel down 40 plus feet to capture some huge quantities of nugget gold lying on bedrock in the Gold Rush of 1858. What isn't mentioned is that there was only flake gold on the surface, nothing else even suggested that large gold pieces were 40 - 50 feet under their feet. However, he pulled out 60 ounces of nuggets within 48 hours of reaching bedrock. He used this deep search method so well that the bulk of his 37,500 ounces of gold the he mined in his lifetime was from drifting down to bedrock. Most of the other miners managed to make a living by surface panning and sluicing but the real treasure was the hardest to reach.

DO NOT tunnel or drift down like Billy Barker did. Many prospectors lost their life that way. It is NOT worth the risk.

I am still working on the deep gold drill which will pull nuggets off bedrock down to 120 feet. The snag I have run into is the drill tip. Commercial bit are very expensive. The tips I have made will drill down 30 feet and then stop. The end mushrooms over, totally work out. I am trying high carbon pressure pipe right now.

In part I of nugget shooting on bedrock I mentioned hard to reach areas like undercut sections of a stream or river bank. I use a systematic approach to locating nuggets.

1) Start where coarse gold has already been found. This might seem a little too obvious but please read on.

2) If you start in a popular gold area, the ground will be well turned over. There are only 2 effective techniques I use to source our heavy yellow friend.

a) Dig down to bedrock on the outer edges of the valley and work those area.


Cracks and crevices are the most productive spots. Remember the flow of the stream has changed course a number of times.

b) Intentionally work the "pain in the butt locations":

i) large boulders

ii) holes

iii) under log jambs

iv) in rapids at low water times (September(ish).

3) Gold chunks or pieces will be carried down stream to a distance based on best water flow rate. If you look at this "nugget spread" in a river, it will appear heavy to start and then play out to a thin tip in the center of the water way.


Finally switching to just flake and fine gold carried for many more miles downstream. Remember, the surface gold will be the smallest, lightest stuff that is easy to reach. You will need to take samples by digging test sample hole as you go.

4) Bedrock, Bedrock, Bedrock. This is our cheat method. If the area has been well worked, work around the immediate bedrock location - sides and hard to reach spots.

5) High benches, upper rock shelves and adjacent side channels. I am amazed at how few miners bother to search these easy areas. Just take a few sample and you will know how much gold is there.

6) If you hit a pocket of black sand, thoroughly clean it out. A dense accumulations of black sand is a good indicator of other heavy miners such as gold, platinum and possibly even diamonds.

7) When you come across cemented gravels, dense clay (false bedrock) conglomerate, especially in deserts, a fast effective cheat method I have used it to shave or chip off a small amount of material and hold a strong magnet to it. I am looking for quantities of black sand. The black sand indicates that this compressed ground was formed at or near the bottom of a river or stream. Just what we are looking for! You need a hammer and a tub of water to test your sample and see if there are any nuggets inside. Sometimes you can see exposed gold right on the outside of your sample piece.

You can do well for yourself by searching the lower sections of these formations. I have heard of conglomerate composed mostly of black sand and gold. These heavy pieces look all black on the outside when they are weathered but when they are broken apart they reveal some rich surprises. Iron oxide (black sand) will oxidize staining the whole exposed mass black.

Mother Nature always has some twists and turns for us to work out. Whether that is investigating desert ares, conglomerates or sucking nuggets out of cracks and crevices in streams and rivers. There is a world of golden wealth out there for us to find. It is our brain and some ingenuity that helps us find some of the heaviest minerals on Earth. It is like being a kid again, but, instead of finding shiny rocks, we retrieve valuable gold and some great stories to tell.

    My Gold Panning

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