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Categories: From the Gold Prospectors Magazine, How-To's

 Thursday, December 17, 2020

Where’s the GOLD? (Three-River Style)


Where’s the GOLD? (Three-River Style)
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From the November/December 2020 Gold Prospectors Magazine

by Kevin Hoagland



Alright, gang, this one could tax your stream-reading skills. An old favorite spot of mine from years gone by that is being prospected again by my prospecting buddies Kevin Bell and Rick Hallows. (Rick, thank you for snapping this shot.)

Interesting enough, when the photo got sent, I moved on from it thinking it might be a bit too tough for some. Then I thought, to hell with it, gotta jump into the pool sometime just as I did 30 years ago in this same spot. It hasn’t changed much and after sharing with KB my thoughts on “Where’s the Gold?”, he told me the gold is still dropping out in the same place.

Here is what you are looking at: two rivers left and right at the top of the photo — I’ll call those NW & NE— and a gulch coming in too as all head in from the west.

Here are some hints: I dredged in this spot almost 30 years ago;  it is known for flooding and fast water at times; and here are the biggies: River Right (NE) is wide and really deep, River Left (NW) is shallow and some of us call it rocket water coming into the confluence, and the Gulch … the gulch will just tear you to pieces when it is in flood stage.

Look closely at everything you see. When I first prospected this spot, I was standing almost where this picture was taken and there is a lot of information to take in. Remember, look at everything.



The obvious spot of the inside bend (bottom left) is not the spot.

Let’s start with the cobble and rocks (mid photo). Notice they are neatly lined up going across the river, then a break and they pick up again on the other side a little further upstream? Almost looks like a broken levy. This is caused each year by the gulch entering into the channel with such force that the east to west pressure pushes the water just past the confluence of the two rivers to the far or right-hand bank. 


Remember the hint about the right river being wide and deep? Wide and deep means a lot of water flow but not necessarily a lot of dominating pressure, like a volume pump compared to a pressure pump.


Now take the left river, which we’ve called rocket for a reason. At the confluence the PRESSURE is so great that it pushes the VOLUME river to the east. Now add in the gulch’s pressure heading straight across both of the rivers just past the confluence and you have all the gold heading for the far bank from under the trees, to the flats and downstream for some distance.  


The items that you need to look out for when in an area like this are many.  I’ll list a few and you can email with any others you spot.


Circle: Grass, branches and other detritus in the tree some distance above the water. Look around the photo and you will see other areas of detritus in different spots. This gives you an idea at the flood stage rise in the rivers and the gulch. But there is something else as well. The gulch will never flow at the same volume of the rivers. It will, however, flow with enough force to (I’ll call it) tunnel into the mains and push it around from a level below that of the now wider, more powerful and faster water past the confluence. Take a look at the drawing below. It will help in understanding the power of water and its ability to move gold. 


I hope you got something out of this “Where’s the Gold?” It makes me feel really good knowing that my prospecting techniques that got me on the gold in that spot are still valid and still used in the same spot all these years later.



Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development at the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman's Association of America. He can be reached at

Total Comments (3)


3 comments on article "Where’s the GOLD? (Three-River Style)"

Robert Mahurien

1/3/2021 8:42 PM

looks like very slow moving water, how would you sluice that area, area looks great, but siuicing would be worthless with slow moving water.

Tim Pangburn

1/9/2021 8:02 PM

Mr. Hoagland, Thank you for this information. I just joined GPAA and am excited to start panning for some gold. I know I won`t get rich but am looking at this as a learning tool and as a hobby. Hopefully when my twin grandsons get a little old i will teach them to pan for gold. Hopefully they want to become future panners. I have panned for gold before a couple times a few years ago when I lived in AZ and I did find gold then. Thank you again, Tim


2/4/2021 5:20 PM


I'm sorry I missed your question about sluicing. In areas of slower water make sure to have a header on your sluice and use rocks to channel more water into your sluice. Now with that said do you know the right amount of water? Here is a link to an On The Gold Podcast sharing the process of Fluid Dynamics.

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