California and much of the western United States has been experiencing a drought for many years now. The last few winters in particular have been especially dry in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where some areas that generally get many feet of snow each winter have gotten literally none.
This not only creates challenges for the water users in general, it also hurts the placer miners. Heavy snows in the winter helps gold miners find more gold in the following summer.
Finally, it seems that that some moisture has arrived.
The high water flooding that takes place in many gold bearing rivers has a large effect on the amount of gold that concentrates in paystreaks and placer deposits. Even areas that are heavily worked by placer miners can be rejuvenated and renewed with new gold when high water events take place. That is why a lot of snow in the wintertime can really help to “recharge” your favorite gold rich creek or river in the summer.
Gold is generally the heaviest element in the water, and it takes considerable energy to move it. Gold typically moves very little during most of the year when water flows are low. It is those few extreme events that really have a tendency to move gold, the warm spring days that melt winter snowpack and cause melt water to rush down the river with extreme force.
Eroding Gold from the Hillsides
This high water not only moves the gold that is currently in the water, but it also helps to erode sources of gold that are up on hillsides that have not yet made it into the river yet. Heavy rain and snow melting will cause natural erosion that will carry new material down into the waterways. This is a natural erosion process.
This natural process ensures that a gold-bearing creek or river can never truly be “worked out”, because even the famous area that have been mined heavily for over a century will continue to be recharged with additional gold that moves down from the hillsides.
Also Read: 8 Different Ways to Mine for Gold
Flash Flooding in the Desert
Flash flooding in dry washes in the desert have the same impact. These rare events that generally occur after a heavy rainfall cause massive flows of water to shoot down narrow desert washes. When this happens, huge amounts of dirt, gravels, rocks, and organic material are pushed downstream.
When the flood is over, virgin grounds are exposed, and new sources of gold that were once deeply buried with overburden are now exposed. In the same way as those gold-bearing river, a dry desert wash that has been mined hard by metal detectors and drywashers can be completely renewed by these heavy rain events.
There is Always More Gold to Find
Since these processes of erosion are natural and will continue to occur, they ensure that an area is never truly worked out. Even the most “hammered” washes and placer mining areas can see new life after heavy rain or show events. So never make the mistake of thinking an area is no longer productive. Keep an eye on the weather. If flooding has occurred in a known gold rich area, it may be worth you time to do a little prospecting and see if new sources of gold have been exposed.