How to dredge for gold

Gold Dredging In The United States

When the gold dredge was first created to mine placer gold from rivers and streams it was a multi-story piece of heavy equipment that took several people to operate effectively.  Gold dredges today are much smaller and more manageable – and some dredges can even be worn as a backpack for easy carrying. Their speed and effectiveness make them a very popular method for gold extraction.

There are a multitude of different dredges, coming in all shapes and sizes, but most of them follow a simple principle – a pump sucks sedimentary material from a riverbed and runs it through a ridged trough along with the river water.  This trough, called a sluice, catches the heaver gold material while allowing silt, sand, and water to wash away.

Finding A Gold Bearing Spot To Dredge

Dredges are normally used in rivers, creeks, and streams.  They can also be used in ponds and lakes with a water source inlet like a stream or waterfall, though this usually requires more specialized equipment, such as scuba gear, and submersible dredge.

Of course, not every river or creek you find will bare gold.  States such as Colorado, California, and Alaska have streams and rivers that have a heavy yield of gold.  With a little bit of research, you can easily find a good area where gold has been turning up.

Once you’ve located suitable water to dredge, look for telltale signs that gold might be deposited in a particular area, such as:

  • Bends in rivers and streams – gold is pushed against the outer bank of these, and the current has less force to carry them along from there.
  • Mouth of a river – as rivers enter a larger body of water, the current slows significantly, depositing gold material very near the mouth.
  • Waterfalls – for basically the same reason that gold can be found at the mouth of a river, beneath a waterfall is a very good place to dredge for gold.
  • Rocks – large rocks and stones in a river act as a natural pan for gold, collecting heavy gold material against the current-ward side of a stone.
  • Logs and other debris – though not normally as rich with gold as a more permanent rock, anything in the current of a stream or river will act as a natural pan.

Remember that, since gold is heavier, it often sinks beneath a layer of lighter sand and more abundant gravel.  If you find a spot like the ones listed above but don’t find gold right away, be patient and keep trying.  Don’t give up on a good spot unless you still haven’t struck gold after reaching the black sand layer.

The Process of Gold Dredging

The process of dredging for gold is very simple.  It starts with inspecting our dredge to ensure that it is in good working order.  Most dredges work from a gasoline powered pump, so make sure it has gas and the oil is changed and full.  Also, ensure that there are no holes in the intake hose or sluice box, as gold material could easily find its way out through these penetrations.

Once your dredge is ready to go:

  • Be sure your sluice will dump the unwanted gravel and sand downstream of your site.
  • Turn on the pump.
  • Vacuum up a small area of riverbed material with the intake nozzle.
  • Watch that you aren’t pulling in too much at once, or you might clog your intake.
  • Don’t try to dredge more than a square foot at a time.
  • Work AT LEAST until you’ve reached the black sand layer.

Once you’ve worked through some of the black sand layer, check your sluice – if you have found a gold bearing spot, you should have a few nice sparkles between the ridges of your sluice.  If so, keep dredging – if not, try another square-foot area – if still not, move on.

Remember to clean the intake and sluice after every use to avoid getting clogs made from fine dust.  It is also important to store your equipment according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid damage.

If You Still Haven’t Found Gold

If you’ve tried dredging several times and still haven’t found a single ounce of gold, don’t get discouraged.  Gold is an elusive mistress, and sometimes it takes a professional to find a truly great spot.  You might consider joining up with a local gold club or a nation-wide association to make use of professionally gathered resources as to where to find gold, how to make a claim on it, and specialized techniques to fill up your sluice.

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