Question on gold bugging/panning

I know some of the basics of what to look for: outside edge of a meander, preferable in a place where it makes a hard turn, fair amount of small gravel, etc. My question is how far down a mountain or range I should go. The further down, the more gold has been extracted out of the vein but also the more places it could have been trapped in a stream bed. So where would be a good place to look, halfway down? at the foot? somewhere in between or further up?

Not an expert in any regard and I’m not sure there is a real answer to your questions. Isn’t the trailing from the vein that is depositing the gold just as likely to be upstream as downstream? My answer is, go to a location that is not heavily trafficked by others, but also one not too far from your other resources (like your food, car, campsite, etc.)

You actually want to be on the inside of a meander. Your looking for a place where the speed of the current drops off. The heavier gold particles will settle to the bottom when they’re not being carried along with the current. A buddy of mine had good luck when he diverted a stream and was able to work the gravel a the base of a waterfall.

That’s actually not quite right. Water going around a bend exhibits vortex flow (sort of like water circling a drain) where, all things being equal, the fluid on the outside of the bend actually moves the slowest. Point bars form because there’s secondary flow along the river bed that flows towards the inside bank from the outside bank that scours material off the river bed and deposits it at the point. Gold can become concentrated by density sorting on the outside of the meander because the secondary flow can more easily sweep lighter materials onto the point bar, leaving the heavier gold behind.

Now, granted, actual rivers can be chaotic things and don’t always behave like nice tidy flume experiments. Flow often is actually slower over point bars simply because the water is shallower. Point bars also sometimes get completely obliterated and re-deposited during spring runoff, so if you’re in an area that’s been heavily worked over, the “fresher” sediment on the point bars can be a better bet.

As to the OP’s question, in general the closer to the mother lode the better, but in some areas stream dynamics and the mining history of an area can make places further downstream more productive for a hobbyist panner.

Just from observing panners, lower down at the FLAT part of the land profile. The steeper the slope, the higher the energy of transport and chances of deposition is smaller.