Where to Find Gold in a River

Where to Find Gold in a River


Knowing where to find gold in a river will save you a lot of time, a lot of work and also increase your prospecting productivity. As you already know from the page on the physical characteristics of gold it is very dense, almost 20 times more dense than water. it is also virtually indestructible, which goes some way to explaining its phenomenal price, but also how it always keeps its value throughout human history.

If you have not already, please read the page on the physical characteristics of gold before reading this one as it will make this page easier to understand.

An easy way to understand where gold will be in a river system is if you think of it as being lazy, yes, the gold is LAZY. It does not like moving and if it does it moves at little as it possibly can or takes the shortest and LAZIEST route between two points – it is conservation of energy personified, well, elementified :).

So if we were to draw this laziness of gold on a map of a river what would it look like? If you think about my previous paragraph on gold being lazy and try to envisage what that means i imagine you will have a fair idea of where the gold will be in a river.


In the images on this page i will attempt to show youwhere to find gold all of the places in a river system that gold can accumulate and be found. I will start at the source, or Mother Lode rock and follow the golds journey through the river system and eventually down to the Sea. The image shows a basic map of a river system as it would travel down a mountainside. It starts at the junction of three small rivulets and takes a winding and dropping course down to the Sea.

In the next few images i will show you where gold can accumulate along this rivers journey, each individual gold accumulation will be discussed in more detail on another page –

The first location is of course the Mother Lode, this is the parent rock that may have lay in this location for many millions of years. It would have been formed as molten Quartz was brought up to the Earths surface due to an intense geological period many millions of years ago, the molten gold would have been intertwined with the molten quartz –

where to find gold - the mother lode

Next on the gold Journey is Residual Gold. This is gold that has broken off from the main lode due to the weathering of the surrounding rocks and Quartz – when rocks are freeze at night and heat up during the day they eventually crack and fall, in the case of our rock, this means that the gold is released from the mother lode, it then becomes residual gold –

where to find gold - residual goldAfter many years, sometimes millions of years, gold will eventually find its way into either a river, stream or creek, this can be due to gravity or hydraulic action. This is the point where residual gold turns into alluvial gold –

where to find gold - alluvial goldDue to Golds high density it will travel along the lowest points of the riverbed, it will usually dig its way all the way down to bedrock along with other heavy elements such as silver, tin, platinum and the magnetic sand called hematite and magnetite.

The next stage of accumulation in our river occurs when it encounters a change in elevation – the river drop suddenly over a waterfall. Not only will the gold fall out of the flow here but the river itself will gouge a hole out beneath it as it hits the ground below, this is the perfect trap for large gold, for this reason it is sometimes known as a glory hole. The two images below show this process –

where to find gold - glory hole awhere to find gold - glory hole b

Our next possible place where gold can be found is where two rivers meet. This can cause gold to concentrate in an area due to the complex vortices and rotations of the river waters as they meet each other – gold will not be carried along a river if the speed of the current either slows down or changes direction suddenly, it will instead drop out of the flow and settle in a calm part of the river –

where to find gold-where two rivers meet

The next thing to look out for are ancient river beds. These occur where a river once ran but no longer does. This could be due to volcanic forces, earthquakes, a landslide or simply the river “deciding” to meander a different way. If you find one of these you can be almost certain that the vast majority of it has been unprospected and may contain large concentrations of gold –

where to find gold - ancient riverbeds

Obstructions to the flow of the water can create eddy currents behind them, gold will tend to settle on the seaward side of such obstructions. These can range from boulders to tree roots and everything in between –

where to find gold - obstructions & eddy currents


Pay-streaks can be formed when a river begins to meander when it is at its lower altitudes and begins to slow down. These can be highly lucrative but difficult to find without the correct information on how they form, you can watch a video showing how they form here – Gold in river bends.

where to find gold - bends in rivers

High Benches can also be a good place to look, these will generally be unprospected and can contain large gold. A bench deposit occurs when a gold-bearing river erodes its banks and cuts deep into the Earth. This leaves rich gold seams high and dry above the present day rivers height, this can range from just several feet above the current river to several hundred feet –

where to find gold - high benches

At any point along the rivers journey it may come into direct contact with the bedrock that lies beneath, this is a good place to look for flakes and nuggets that may be trapped within cracks and crevices within the bedrock, this is sometimes referred to as sniping –

where to find gold - cracks and crevices


As the river nears the end of its life and returns to The Sea it also takes the gold with it. This gold can still be found in the sea in the form of nuggets which can be found through dredging, and also Beach Placers which are accumulations of the gold through the action of the waves and long-shore drift –

where to find gold - beach placers and gold dredging