How to Read a River for Gold Prospecting

Updated February 21, 2017

As the price of gold rises, many people are looking for new ways to acquire it. One way to find gold is by learning to read a river. Gold can often be found in places throughout a river where the water is running slower than normal. Gold is heavier than most types of gravel or stones found in a river, and these lighter materials will continue to wash down the river, while the gold deposits in the areas of low water pressure.

Locate the areas of the river that have low water pressure. This is usually areas where the water runs more slowly than other parts of the river.

Find areas of the river where the flow of water is obstructed by either a sharp curve or a large object, such as a boulder. The gold will accumulate on the downstream side of the object or curve.

Look for areas of the river with large amounts of bedrock, especially where bedrock crosses the length of the river. Bedrock can function as a filter, and pieces of gold get caught in the cracks.

Pay attention to areas where the river gets wider than normal. In these areas, the water pressure will decrease, and gold may deposit under the water.

Note of all the areas of the river where gold is commonly deposited. Visit each of the spots you identified as potentially having gold, and use your gold pan to sample that spot. If you find gold, make a note of the spot and move onto the next one on your list.

Once you've travelled the length of the river, go back to the promising spots, and spend time sifting through the entire area with your gold pan.


When you find gold pieces in your gold pan, place the contents of the pan into a bucket. This way, you can sift through your findings at home and spend less time out in the river.

Things You'll Need

  • Gold pan
  • Bucket
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About the Author

J. Johnson has been completing freelance writing work since September 2009. Her work includes writing website content and small client projects. Johnson holds a degree in English from North Carolina State University.