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springtime gold rush

Well, it's inevitable.  This spring promises to be one of the biggest gold rushes ever!  One of the reasons for this is, of course, the price of gold and you have planned through the winter months, to extract decent, if not large, quantities of this precious metal.

Mother Nature has washed down, or at least moved around more fine to coarse gold due to rains, snow melt and just plain time and erosion.  That is right, there is a fresh quantity of gold exposed every year, usually in the spring.

Here is another thought at getting coarse gold.  The water levels will be at their lowest in early spring.  This is before snow melt or early rains.  Trouble is it is still pretty cold with this low water lever.  here in the north, the ice lets go in the valley bottoms first without much snow melt or high water levels.  Even in the big rivers, the water flow is greatly slowed in March.  It is a premium time to work for nuggets behind boulders or get at bedrock that is almost never dry or at least in shallow water.

My personal technique is to work on an inside curve of a gold bearing river (The Fraser River comes to mind) and hit the forward edge of these curves.  You are looking for 1" and larger gravel to indicate decent water flow at the forward edge.  Now locate big boulders in this heavily graveled area.  Try to find older rocks that have been there a while.  Usually right behind these big rocks you will find a miniature sand bar.  That is what you want to locate.  If you test pan these mini sand bars they should contain A LOT of black sand and a little fine gold...great!

Now dig down deeper on the same spot and keep panning the results.  You should be digging through cemented, fairly large gravel chunks, mortared together with mostly black sand.  Always pan out each "dig".  About 2" - 4" down you should hit large flake gold.  Keep digging.  Yes, I know it is hard going, I have been there lots.  When you have to quit using your shovel because the ground is so hard, you are reaching the start of the coarse gold layer.  Most of the flake gold will disappear and you will start finding little gold pieces in your pan.  You will probably have to use a pick or crowbar to free up these cemented gravel / rocks as you dig down.  I have hit some nice gold chunks around the 2 1/2' - 3' level.  Please be careful that the sides of the hole you are digging don't collapse on you.  Also watch that the large rock you are digging behind doesn't fall into the hole you just dug.

You will reach a point where you can't dig any further and the shovel just won't dig any material out of the hole anymore unless you count a teaspoon of sand and gravel.  So I take Mr. Crowbar and break up as much heavy material in the bottom of the hole as I can.  Then I select one of the pumps.  I have used both the Gold Recovery Pump and the Magnum Gold Hornet with great success when pulling gold out of these holes but prefer the Magnum Hornet because it is hand held rather than needing to be set on something.  I then pump out the rich bottom materials into the capture cartridge of the pump.  Then I dump that out into my gold pan and usually get a golden surprise.  Little chunks of the soft yellow metal we all love littering the bottom of our pans.  It kind of looks like stars, if the sun is shining right into the bottom of your pan and when you swirl it around, the black sand looks like a comet with a golden lead.

One other trick I use is to suck out the hollow spots under rock shelves that sometimes line the river.  I take the narrow nozzle end of either one of the pumps and vacuum out as much heavy material as I can reach.  Just keep pushing the large gravel rocks out of the way with your nozzle tip and pump the handle sucking up tons of heavy sand flakes and gold pieces.  Yes, both the Gold Recovery Pump and the Magnum Gold Hornet work very well in dry conditions as well as wet.

The part I like best when dealing with the hollow locations under the rock shelves is that no one else can reach these spots!  Depending on how far back these spots go, I have used a 10' suction nozzle to punch back to cemented black sand at the rear of these narrow overhangs.  Just keep pushing the large gravel out of the way with the tip and sucking up the rest.

One last great spot I have found is vertical cracks in the bedrock, that extend well above the water.  My favorite locations are where there are rapids of small water falls pouring through these "rock teeth".  Only the heavy gold can get stuck in these spots while everything else gets washed out.

So, remember to get out early this spring for coarse gold.  The water level is low and the nuggets are waiting for you.  What a great way to spend a spring afternoon.

    My Gold Panning

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