Sluice Boxes to HighBankers

Sluice Boxes have been around for quite a while now. They are usually placed into a stream. The problem is it maybe difficult to set up depending on current water conditions and in some cases you will not be able to set one up at all. There is not always a swift shallow area for setup and this can pose a problem. In gold prospecting, there are always challenges and you have to adapt like the old timers.

In modern times we can set up the sluice box out of the water, put legs underneath it, and use a gasoline water pump to acquire the water you need to run it. I am talking about highbankers. Highbankers are considered a small scale gold mining production tool. Whereas sluice boxes can be used to backpack into a remote site and to do some sampling. Highbankers are going to take more planning and it will also take you more than one trip to get all the parts you need.

There are also backpack highbankers. I owned one. Problem with that is I have yet to see a model that does not have the small engine sitting in a bad position and cause flooding in the oil chamber. You probably know what I am talking about if you ever worked on a lawn mower. If you tilt it onto its side, it causes flooding and it can be hard to get the darn thing restarted again. So even though a backpack highbanker sounds feasible, until they come out with some better designs I will just use a regular highbanker that I carry in my hand.


The great thing about highbankers is the ease of the setup. The rule of thumb is to drop the sluice box 1 inch in pitch for every 3 feet of length that you sluice box part of the highbanker happens to be. You also will want to make sure it is level. You can pretty much eyeball it and you will notice rocks and material building up in a particular area of the sluice box if you have it wrong. You may need to adjust it after you start running some material.

How much water you are sending from your pump into the highbanker is very important. Not enough water and you will overload your ripples. Too much water and you will blow your material straight through and lose gold.  The correct amount of water flow is when you can visibly see your ripples at half full of material and you can see the material vibrating behind the riffles. This also applies to a sluice box sitting in a stream or even a suction gold dredge. Once you have the proper amount of water flow you are ready to start production.


The question I always receive is it necessary to classify the material before you place it in the highbanker or sluice box. That is a hard question to answer, because some models of highbankers have a classifier built on them. Some have grizzlies which only prevent larger rocks from falling into the box. The fact is classifying down your dirt and material before you place it in the highbanker or sluice box will help you recover more fine gold. It really depends on your equipment.

Tip #1: Be careful with clay. Clay will bounce around in your box and pick up small pieces of gold and rob your sluice box of gold. Some clays are good because if there is a clay layer, sometimes it will also have a layer fine gold that may lay on it in some situations. If you want to process clay, break it up by hand before you place in your sluice.

Tip #2: If your going with a buddy don’t bring two highbankers. One highbanker is enough to keep two people busy shoveling and classifying. You can save gasoline in this way and setup time this way.