How to Use a Sluice for Gold

Gold prospecting is becoming an ever-increasingly popular hobby. Spending time in the beauty of the outdoors and the lure of striking it rich are some of the attractions. The gold sluice allows a prospector to process more than 10 times the material than someone simply using a gold pan. The instructions below will teach you how to use your sluice to concentrate and collect your gold-bearing material.


  1. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 1
    Find an area to start your search. For your sluice to work, you need to find a source of running water, in the same area where gold can be found. Your sluice utilizes flowing water and gravity to separate the lighter gravel (the “tailings”) from the heavier material (gold, black sand), by keeping the lighter material in a state of “suspension” as the material is carried through the sluice and collecting the heavier materials on the back side of the riffles. This works on the basis that gold is 19 times denser than water, and much heavier than the material it is found in. So when you run material through the sluice, gold will fall out, and valueless material will continue through. Walk along the stream bank and look for a promising place where you can set up your sluice. Keep in mind that you will want to set up your sluice close to where you will be digging up your gold bearing gravel. You will need to find a place where the current is moving quite swiftly. Once you find such a place,
  2. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 2
    Set your sluice box directly in the current so that the box is filled with water almost to the top. It is important to make sure your upper (input) end is slightly higher than the lower (discharge) end. It is also important to make sure the box is level (horizontally) and stable, this can be done easily by placing rock around and under the box.
  3. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 3
    Begin Running Material through your Sluice. Once the sluice is stable you can begin feeding your gold bearing gravel into the upper portion of the sluice box in carefully regulated amounts. It is important to not dump large amounts of gravel in the sluice all at once, or it will over load the riffles and your gold, along with all the gravel, will simply be washed through. Make a note to keep an eye on the top part of each riffle when you are feeding material through. If you cannot see the top edge, then you are feeding too much material through to quickly. Note: By using a “classifier” screen to filter down the gravel to a uniform size before its run through the sluice it can save time and help prevent your riffles from overloading with material, where gold can be lost.
  4. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 4
    Tend your Sluice while running material through. It is important that after running a load of gravel through your sluice to check the riffle section for waste material and valuables. It is important to clear waste material from the sluice in between loads so that it does not change the flow and allow heavy material to be washed out. It is also necessary to shovel away the material that comes out the end of your sluice (the tailings) so water flow is not interrupted over your riffles and material can continue to leave your sluice. It is also important to check for valuable material caught on the black mat and in the riffle area that can be removed.
  5. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 5
    Perform a "Cleanup" of your sluice. When you are tending your sluice it is important to notice when it is time for a cleanup. It is time for a clean up when your riffles have accumulated black iron sands and gravel in amounts that extend more than halfway down to the next lower riffle.
  6. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 6
    To perform a clean up carefully lift the sluice box out of the current, while keeping it as level as possible. Take the sluice to the bank, and set tail end in a bucket (or container that you have available) making sure to not spill any material.
  7. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 7
    Rinse the material out of your sluice into your bucket using lots of water. It is ok to overflow your bucket with water because all of the gold will sink to the bottom, and will not spill out. If your sluice has removable riffles and carpeting, remove those at this time and rinse those thoroughly into the bucket as well. At this time you should have a sluice that has been cleaned of all the concentrates you collected and a bucket with the concentrate safe at the bottom.
  8. Image titled Use a Sluice for Gold Step 8
    Pan the concentrate. To get the gold out of your concentrates you will need to pan them. Instructions on “how to pan for gold” can be found on this site (link can be found below in related articles).


  • Increase your odds: There are (depending on your area) clubs and organizations that you can join that feature outings that guarantee you will find gold. Groups also offer maps to claims that the club may own that you are granted access to once you become a member. The Gold Prospectors Association of America is a great place to start. The site contains lots of useful tips, and links to clubs and organizations in your local area.


  • There are some areas that restrict prospecting. Always check state and local laws around the area where you plan on prospecting.
  • Always be aware of your environment and weather conditions. Prospecting usually takes place in areas that present natural dangers like fast moving (cold) water, slippery rocks, and dangerous animals. Always have a plan in place for an emergency situation. Be aware you may be out of cell service as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Your sluice
  • A shovel
  • At least one bucket (or large container)
  • A stream or river
  • Earth/gravel that contains gold.
  • Equipment (Recommended):
    • A gold pan (or two)
    • more buckets
    • classifier or screen
    • A friend to help.

Article Info

Categories: Rock Gem Mineral and Fossil Collecting