There is often a lot of talk about the rich gold deposits that can be found underneath of a waterfall. The reasoning that this can occur is quite simple really. High water events push gold downstream, and gravity eventually moves the gold over a waterfall where it becomes trapped. After millions and millions of years, some exceptionally rich deposits of placer gold will accumulate.
This is certainly a natural occurrence that has happened, and some of the richest concentrations of gold ever found have been reportedly found beneath waterfalls. While the major deposits were found below large waterfalls on sizable rivers, the same effect can happen on smaller creeks too.
Although the richness of gold beneath some waterfalls has been well documented in some locations, there are also countless waterfalls in gold country that have little or no gold beneath them. In most cases, you wonít strike it rich looking for gold underneath them.
So why has there been all this interest in the mystical waterfall gold?
Many of you probably watched a popular television show where a miner was digging for a so-called ďglory hole,Ē an ancient waterfall that supposedly had millions of dollars in gold just waiting to be unearthed.
There were a few problems with this minerís plan; but one that most experienced miners knew all too well was that just because a waterfall may exist, there is no guarantee that gold will accumulate underneath of it.
How Gold Concentrates Below a Waterfall
For gold to concentrate in any situation there needs to be a way for it to be protected from fast water and pressures of gravity that would make it continue moving. The assumption is that underneath any waterfall you will find a large plunge pool where gold will simply fall to the bottom and sit there forever.
This simply is not the case for many natural waterfalls.
If you were to look at a waterfall during the late summer, when water flows are relatively low, it might seem that gold easily settle out beneath it. The water flows are relatively slow and there is probably a deep pool with slack water.
However, look at that same waterfall in the spring on a warm day, when snow is melting and water is rushing over the waterfall. You will probably see that there is a massive amount of energy that could easily push gold onward. What seemed like a deep pool in the summer might be almost impossible to identify during peak water runoff in the springtime.
The natural geology below the waterfall has a lot to do with how (or if) gold will settle out beneath it. Yes, in some situations gold will drop out and settle in gravels beneath the waterfall, but most of the time it will continue its journey downstream.
Another thing to consider is that the truly rich placer gold deposits beneath waterfalls were some of the first to be mined. Everyone looks for gold beneath waterfalls, and the accumulation of gold that may have occurred over millions of years was mainly cleaned out by the early miners. Yes, under the proper conditions these placers will replenish themselves over time, but the heavy concentrations of gold are probably long gone.
Also Read: Gold Prospecting Basics
And: Where to Find Gold in the U.S.
There is certainly nothing wrong with looking for gold under waterfalls. There is certainly nothing wrong with looking beneath waterfalls when you are sampling a river of creek with your gold pan. The point of this article is simply to point out that many prospectors have an unrealistic assumption that simply searching for gold beneath a waterfall will yield massive amount of gold. And this is simply not the case in most situations.
Learning how to locate paystreaks is a much better way to advance your prospecting technique, and one you understand how gold gets deposited in a waterway you will find that you donít need unusual geologic conditions such as a waterfall to find concentrations of gold. Placer gold can be found along stream bends, behind large boulders, log jams, deep in bedrock cracks, and in many naturally occurring areas in any stream or river. You donít need a waterfall to discover gold.
Next: The Basics of Gold Panning