The pursuit of unearthing glittering treasure from riverbanks is challenging, exciting, fun and healthy. For many the real reward is fresh air and exercise. Prospecting for gold is getting more popular too, with those who are looking for new, adventurous ways to enjoy the outdoors.
There are exciting opportunities worldwide for the hobby prospector, and the riverbanks of British Columbia offer an ideal setting. Glacier-fed gold-bearing rivers and spectacular scenery invite adventurers into the romantic backwoods of Barkerville, Wells, Quesnel and Likely.
Perservering prospectors can find gold nuggets in many other regions of the world, as well. In Australia, for example, prospectors endure the intense heat of the Australian Outback in their hunt for gold. Gold pans, though, are not as commonly used in Australia as they are in BC. Because gold nuggets are located relatively close to the ground’s surface in Australia, electronic detection works well. This beats panning at an eel-ridden creek, sharing space with poisonous scorpions, snakes and wild dingoes. As well, the water for washing gold-bearing gravel is not as plentiful Down Under.
Early prospectors during Australia’s gold rush reported finding huge amounts of nuggets close to the surface of the ground. Two prospectors, John Deacon and Richard Oates, were delayed on their journey in the Outback when their wagon wheel stuck on a boulder in the mud. The large boulder eventually yielded 2,248 ounces of gold for the lucky boys.
Here, in BC, the new explorer will likely find coarse gold closer to bedrock or false bedrock, such as clay.
A good rule of thumb when beginning is to search where it has been found before. Many creeks and rivers in BC are gold-bearing, and a study of ancient river beds can sometimes lead to an intriguing journey. The lustrous metal is often washed from local ore bodies by waterways, erosion, rock slides and earth agitation. Although there are numerous theories on the sources of gold, the old saying "Gold is where you find it" seems most apt as many lucky amateur prospectors boast of discovering gold where more experienced explorers might not think to look.
As a new gold explorer you quickly learn that gold is extremely heavy - 19 times heavier than water. Because of its weight, gold gravitates to specific areas of a riverbank. Exploring where the fast moving water slows down at the bank of a river or a waterfall can yield both flakes of gold and nuggets.
Lessons in the
Gold lodges on the banks of the inside bends of rivers, often locating at the shortest distance between two points of a waterway. Traces of gold are found in moss. Flakes are obstructed by large rocks, and nuggets can get caught on tree trunks. Due to the constant pounding of nuggets against rock as it washes downstream, gold becomes less coarse and more pure as so-call ed impurities wash away.
After choosing a prospective prospecting spot, find a comfortable location. Be sure to take along something comfortable to sit on because if you locate a hot spot you will want to stay. You might take along waterproof boots too, because the farther you sit in the water the less you need to bend over to pan.
Find a location where the water doesn’t run too swiftly, as fast water can wash gold out of your pan. Fill your pan about 3/4 full of riverbank gravel, then submerge your pan just under the water. Light materials are now floating and gold and other heavy minerals sink. Shake the pan vigorously to encourage this process. Then, while the pan is still under the water, tilt it gently. Draw it up out of the water and light materials float away. Dip the pan in and out of the water a few times. Repeat this process several times, until about four tablespoons of gravel remain in the pan. Swivel the pan around in a circular motion, tilting it lower on the one side. Lighter materials fall off to the low side, exposing the gold. Finally, continue gently panning the gravel away until the gold is isolated.
Your own style of panning emerges after a bit of practice.
When you have completed panning, the gold can be retrieved by any one of several methods depending on the coarsemess of the gold. Nuggets are easily picked out of the pan, whereas retrieving less coarse gold takes a little maneuvering A snuffer bottle is useful for sucking up grains of gold. It can also can be used to eject fine gold from the pan. Fill the snuffer bottle with water, and while tilting the pan, guide the gold down the funnel of the pan using water gently squeezed from the bottle. A second person usually holds a vial at the low end of the pan to receive the gold.
Man’s fascination with the mystical metal dates back several thousand years. Today, the market value of gold allows mining to be viable economically. As a hobby prospector, you may become wealthy if you are very lucky and locate a hot spot.
……Happy treasure hunting!
Join in the Fun
Historic 1930's Wells Gold Boom Town.
One of the few towns in B.C. where employment was available during the Great Depression.
The wild west and critics didn't deter successful Fred Wells.
Learn about our colorful local history with Joy
1860's Barkerville Gold Rush Town.
Now a world famous tourist attraction,
Barkerville's characters built the boom town
over Billy Barker's Gold - rich Claim.
Click here to view Joy's article, 'Striking it Rich'.
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