What You Should Know About Gold Panning

Gold panning is making a comeback. With the price of gold experiencing a massive increase over the past decade from about $300 an ounce to $1571 an ounce today, many people have gold fever. While gold panning may not make you rich, it can be a fun way to bring in some extra money and get a little exercise while enjoying the beautiful outdoor scenery.

In the early days of the gold rush, most prospectors used gold pans as their preferred method, and today, many gold seekers are returning to this simple technique. By using light pans for prospecting and systematically sampling gravels as they work their way up a stream, when the gold color stops, the potential of a gold vein feeding into the stream might be close.

While gold seekers won’t find any nuggets just lying there out in the open waiting to be found, it’s still fun and exciting to slosh the pans of gravel to see if any color can be found. If you’re interested in gold panning, it’s easy to get started. If you’ve never watched anyone pan for gold, one of the best ways to learn can be by visiting an old gold mining town that offers demonstrations and the opportunity to try gold panning yourself.

A quick Google search brings a wide variety of opportunities to learn gold panning and watch gold panning demonstrations across the nation, including:

  • Marshall Gold Discovery Site State Park in Coloma, California has weekend gold panning demonstrations throughout the summer
  • The Phoenix Gold Mine in Idaho Springs, Colorado, has experienced miners who will show you how to pan for gold and let you try it for yourself
  • The Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, South Dakota offers gold panning as well as a mine tour and guarantees you’ll leave with genuine 24K gold. Half day and full day experiences on a nearby creek are also available.

If you’d rather get right out and try gold panning on your own, here is how you can start:

  • Purchase a gold pan from a hardware or department store that specializes in mining equipment, or buy one online from one of the many sites focusing on gold prospecting.
  • Find a stream or creek that has produced gold before. Gold maps and books can help you with this; make sure you’re on BLM Land, in a National Forest or Wilderness Study Area.
  • As gold is much heavier than sand and water, when it flows down the river it gets trapped in pockets of slow moving water. The goal is to imitate the stream with your gold pan, and get the gold trapped on the bottom.
  • The quickest way to learn is by watching. There are many videos on YouTube that offer excellent gold panning instructions. Before you head out to gold country, take time to study these and in no time you’ll catch the fever of gold panning too!


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