Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mossing for Gold

When I first arrive at a new place to pan for gold, one of the first things that I like to do is find a thick patch of moss near the water line and take a sample of the material underneath.

Cleaning the moss can be a little tedious as there tends to be a lot of silt and clay and the gold is often very fine flood gold.

The reason that I like to moss for gold is that it has proven to be a good indicator of what is happening in the area.

Because there tends to be more fines than larger gold, I like to use the mossing as a way to determine whether or not I will start a more expansive sampling process or whether I will look for better places.

Another advantage to mossing for gold is that it is a quick way to see some color in the gold pan. This always starts my prospecting day off with some excitement and gets the gold fever stirring.

When you go gold panning, do you moss? How do you start off your prospecting trip?

Sampling for Gold

When you are into the gold deposits, gold prospecting can be extremely fun. Many times, however, prospecting can be frustrating when little gold appears to be present. When this is the case, it is often worth it to spend your time sampling for a better location before getting out all of your gold panning equipment. Let me give you a small example to illustrate the need for sampling.

On two separate trips to a particular location that was noted for having gold, I spent a lot of time working up and down the small runoff creek with little success. Every now and then I would come across a speck of fine gold and maybe a flake if I was lucky. I sampled what seemed to be all of the probable and obvious locations for finding gold deposits, but continued to find meager amounts of gold. I panned some of the gravel from along the banks and still not much gold.

After this second trip, I decided that I wouldn’t go back to that particular location. A few months later, I was talking about gold panning in this creek and he insisted that there was some good color if you knew where to look. I decided to give the place a last chance and went back, this time accompanied by my friend. We again ran a few pans from the creek with little to show, when he suggested a place that had provided some good color in the past. It was about a 75 yards away from the creek in a completely dry location.

Rather than pan it out, he set up a sluice and we began filling buckets with gravel. At this point, I was a little more optimistic because I could see clear evidence of drywasher tailings nearby. Sure enough, this little area produced a decent amount of gold flakes and even a small picker. The lesson I learned that day was that even if the pickings seem slim in all of the right locations, it can be worth it to run some samples away from the river, what may seem a poor place to pan can actually hold a pleasant surprise. Since then, I am much more open to expanding my search areas.

How to Cleanup a Sluice Box

When using a sluice box, you will be able to process a lot more material in a shorter amount of time than you could accomplish with a gold pan. This means that your sluice box can accumulate a large amount of black sand and hopefully gold in a short amount of time. Failure to clean your sluice box regularly can result in lost gold as the riffles can become so bogged down with heavy concentrates that the newly added gold bearing gravel merely washes out of the sluice about as fast as it is added.

So how do you know when it is time to cleanup your sluice box? Generally, I like to cleanup when black sand begins cover much of the top three riffles. If you can no longer see some of the riffles and instead you are only able to see black sand, then this is bad.

It is hard to say how often you should cleanup your sluice box because every location is different. Some gold bearing rivers have little black sand and other have large amounts of heavy concentrates. In the first type of location you may be able to sluice for gold all day without cleaning up, but in the second type of location yo may have to cleanup every hour or two.

When cleaning up your sluice box, the first thing that you need to do is set up something to catch all of the contents of sluice. This can be a gold pan, a bucket or perhaps one of those black plastic masonry tubs. I prefer something deep like a bucket which makes it more difficult for the concentrates to splash out of.

Next you will need to pick up the sluice box slowly and keep it level. You want the water to drain off the lower end of the sluice without washing out much of the material in the sluice.

Then you will places the lower end of the sluice into the bucket, gold pan or other container and tip the sluice up at an angle. With another gold pan or small bucket, pour water into the top of the sluice to wash out the bulk of the gravel and concentrates. Now you can unlatch the riffles and lift them up. If the riffles come out completely, be careful not to knock the material off as gold may be stuck to it. Rinse the the riffles off into the bucket and then set it aside. If it is attached to the sluice, rinse them off and then lift them out of the way.

Now carefully remove the carpet or miners moss from the sluice and keep the whole thing in the bucket and then pour more water down the trough of the sluice to rinse out the remaining concentrates. You may need to scrub off some clay buildup which may have caught some of the gold.

After removing the clean sluice from the bucket, it is time to clean the carpet material. Carefully grab each end of the carpet and while keeping your hands close together, lift up the ends of the carpet. As most of the fines will be in the carpet, be especially careful to keep the carpet in the bucket area so that any material that drops off will fall into the bucket.

At this point, the carpet should be in the shape of a “U” with the middle sagging into the bucket. Lower the carpet until the middle is submerged in the water. Carefully lower one end of the carpet while lifting the other side so that one half of the carpet passes under the water. Repeat in the opposite direction. Turn the carpet over and do the same thing to the other side of the carpet. This will allow the heavy material to fall out of the carpet and end up in the bucket. Repeat the process until the carpet is clean.

Now you have a choice, you can either pan down the concentrates to collect your gold or you can dump keep it in the bucket and cleanup later. I prefer to maximize my time when gold prospecting so I prefer to save up all the concentrates and clean them up at a later time.

Finally, you can put your sluice back together and get back to sluicing for gold.


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