Oberon Rural Experiences


Fossicking is a popular and rewarding activity in the Oberon district, with a few designated fossicking areas accessible to the public where you do not require a "Fossicking Licence".  A fossicking license is required in all other State Forest areas. More details can be obtained from Forestry NSW (Bathurst Office 6331 2044). Gold, sapphires, zircons, occasionally diamonds, smokey quartz. Fossicking in other than designated fossicking areas or private property requires permission from the owner.

Fossicking in Oberon

Many techniques used in fossicking are the same as used by prospectors a hundred or more years ago. Convicts it seems were the first people in Australia to find gold. Convicts while working on the Bathurst road in 1814 found traces of gold. Flogging was threatened for anyone who told about the discovery. The first officially recorded report was made on 15th February 1823, when James O’Brien, an assistant surveyor, found gold in the Fish River around Tarana. News of gold discoveries were kept quiet in those days as it was feared by the Government that rogues and convicts would turn to a life of crime and that workers would desert their employers.

Gold can be found in coarse and fine particles, irregular masses, strings, threads, thin plates and rounded masses known as nuggets. As gold is very heavy it will sink readily in water and therefore will be found at the lowest points of the river or creek.

Fossickers looking for gold mostly use a pan, with sloping sides and at least one narrow groove stamped into the side. The pan can be plastic or metal. When deciding where to pan, choose sediments under boulders, by river banks, in crevices or cracks in the face of the ledge, in small sheltered pools in rapids, in areas where two creeks join or where sediments may be trapped around tree roots.

Fill the dish 3/4 full with dirt. Add water and then begin puddling. “Puddling” is basically washing the dirt. Break up any clay material by rubbing the dirt between the hands—this also helps to remove the mud from the dirt. Continue puddling until the water is relatively clear. Once the clay and mud has been removed, cover the remaining dirt with water and shake the dish. This causes the heavier particles to sink and brings the coarser gravel to the top and sides of the dish. Move the dish with a swirling motion but at the same time, tilt it forward and slowly remove the top gravel by letting the water pass over it.

This process should be repeated slowly until approximately one tablespoon of fine black sand, heavy material and gold remains. Leave enough water in the dish so that the remaining material is loose allowing any gold to sink to the bottom. Then gently tilt the lip of the dish backwards leaving the gold at the top of the dish. By licking the tip of the finger and placing it on the gold, it can be lifted and placed in a small vial containing water.

Fossicking for Sapphires & Zircons

Find an area near the creek where others have been digging, dig 2 or 3 small shovel loads of soil or muddy smallish grained rocks and clay into a large pan or bucket.

Cover the soil or mud with water and break up any clay material and mud with your hands by rubbing the clay etc between your hands. Throw any larger rocks out after checking they are not sapphires or coloured stones. Hold them up to the sun and if you can see through any small areas on the outside of the stones or blue pink or clear colours, keep them.

Next, pass the partly washed material through a double sieve, and break up any remaining clay or mud pieces.

Check through the larger holed sieve and discard any non-coloured pieces or rocks after checking. Pour water over the contents of the smaller sieve, and turn contents out onto a wet bag or a piece of material.

This is when you check your washed, small stony remains for sapphires, zircons and crystals, use a small piece of stick or tweezers to sort through them, looking for any blue, pink, or clear pieces. No matter how small keep them.

Place all of your possible gems in a small bottle or jar with a screw cap top and have someone check them for you.

If you have nothing, discard and start again.

Note: you can clean your clay or soil using the gold pan “puddling” method and keep larger stones and particles for checking than you do for gold.

Good areas to choose sediments from, can be from under or near boulders, by river banks, in small sheltered pools, under and near tree roots and usually above any thick clay sediments when digging in dry areas.


The Mining Act allows fossicking to be carried out anywhere in the State provided no other Act or law prevents it and provided consent is obtained from the landowner.

It is the responsibility of the intending fossicker to check whether the area is available for fossicking.

When fossicking for minerals you cannot:

  • Use any explosives or power operated equipment
  • Drill or excavate to a depth of more than one metre
  • Damage or remove any bush rock    
  • Remove more than 10kg of minerals (other than gold or gemstones); or 30g of gold; or 20g of gemstones during any single 48 hour period.

If you break any of these rules you can face a fine of up to $1000

  1. Little River Fossicking Reserve. Between the two bridges and opposite junction of Abercrombie and Shooters Hill Roads at Porters Retreat. Find: Sapphires & Zircons. 
  2. Campbells River Causeway. Forestry maintained camping area on Campbells River Road. Find: Sapphires, Zircon & Gold.
  3. Sapphire Bend. Riverview Road second turn left on Abercrombie Road after Black Springs. Find: Sapphires, Zircons & Occasional Industrial Diamonds.
  4. Sewells Creek Causeway. Travel out Sewells Creek Road to causeway Fossicking area on right hand side of the road. Find: Sapphires, Zircons & Gold.
  5. Native Dog Creek. Two access points from State Forest Roads.  Drive in at Riverview Forest road left side of road after Foleys Creek road, Drive in a short way, old mine shaft for Gold. Travel on to where you meet up with Beaconsfield road, turn right travel 1/2 km then turn left and follow the road to Native Dog Creek. Find: Gold, Zircons & Sapphires.

    Note: In Dry Conditions best to supply own water.

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