In the early gold rush days the sluice box consisted of a simple wooden trough lined with raised obstructions placed at a ninety-degree angle to the flow of the water. These obstructions are what are known as riffels. When all of the gold carrying gravel is “run” through the sluice the water is shut off and the riffels are removed. The heavy materials containing the gold known as concentrates would be gathered. This run would sometimes consist of processing several tons of gold-bearing gravel through the box.
The process of using a sluice box is fairly straight forward. Gold-bearing gravel is dumped into the upper end of the sluice; the flow of water washes the material down the length of the trough. The lighter pieces of gravel are carried in suspension down the entire length of the sluice to come out as tailings at the lower end of the sluice box. Heavy material such as GOLD sink quickly and are caught by the riffels. Once the riffels gather their fill of “Concentrate” a cleanup should be done.
Modern day sluice boxes are made with materials that are drastically lighter and more durable. Currently, sluice boxes are made of sheet aluminum or composite plastic materials. This results in lighter and more portable units that are considerably more efficient at gathering even the finest of gold dust.
The portability of the newest generations sluice boxes are what you need as a modern prospector because most of the gold deposits within easy reach have long since been worked to death. It will be necessary to do a back country traveling to be in the best spots for prospecting currently.
Here are some best practices when getting ready to RUN you material
- Once you have picked the spot with material that you want to work look for a place where the water is moving swiftly. Set your sluice box directly in the current so that the box is filled with water almost to the top of the trough. You can test the current’s ability to carry gravel through the sluice, use a handful of gravel from the creek bed and drop it into the upper end of the trough. If the current washes the lighter gravel down the trough within a matter of seconds, you have found a good location.
- Feed your gold-bearing gravel into the upper portion of the sluice box in carefully regulated amounts. Do Not overload the riffels! How can you tell if the riffels are overloaded? The top of each riffel should be visible at all times.
- Don’t forget to shovel away the tailings from the bottom of the sluice, never allow the tailings to back up into the bottom of the sluice box
- When the riffels have accumulated enough black sand and other heavy material. Carefully lift the sluice box from the current, keeping it as level as possible. Carry it over to the bank and set it down on as level a spot as is available.
- Remove the riffle section of the sluice, roll up the matting which lines the bottom of the sluice box trough and thoroughly rinse off all the concentrate in a DEEP BUCKET!
- Don’t forget to rinse the riffels and the trough itself into the bucket, a lot of gold will work its way under the matting and may accumulate there.
- Pan out the concentrate to see what your labor has yielded for the day.
Remember even if you didn’t find anything you just spent the day outdoors in a beautiful stream. For me, a day like this is worth its weight in gold!