Gold Panning In Oregon

Beautiful Oregon Fine Gold

Gold panning in Oregon - what a trip!

I have been gold panning in Oregon for at least 30 years. I have found plenty of gold flakes and specks, in many different streams, and it is still a thrill.

So it's stream gold I am after. Rain and gravity brings gold out of hillsides into rivers and creeks, and that is where I prefer to prospect. If the stream has any gold in it at all, it is actually pretty easy to find.

Because gold is just about the densest stuff in a watercourse, it tends to settle in certain places, based on the windings of the stream and the kind of obstacles the stream presents to the passage of material during flood times.

So what you look for are the areas where eddies can form. As water slows in places like that, the heavier stuff settles out, along with plenty of other stuff as well. But gold, being so heavy will tend to settle first (at least the bigger pieces). Your job is to dig down to the gold.

What specific locations are we searching for? Behind big boulders, on exposed or shallow bedrock with cracks or depressions, in grass roots along the edge. These can be very productive places. Sometimes, clumps of grass can be quite rich. I have found hundreds of flakes and colors at times in a single clump. During times of high water flow, the blades of grass waving in the current can filter gold particles and carry them down deep into the clump, where they stay until you find them.

I also like to work the gravel over shallow bedrock. Sometimes I can get gold all the way from the surface down to the bedrock itself. When I get into a hot spot, where each pan has many golden particles and specks (flour gold), I just work faster and faster, almost until I wear myself out. I get as excited as a kid with a new toy!

When you come across cracks, it pays to dig them out very carefully. Gold will slide along in the water and drop into cracks and depressions. These can be a bonanza if you have the patience to work them. There are gold digging tools that can be used to clean cracks, and even suction tools to slurp up the sand and gold. It's good to have a variety of tools on hand in your bucket.

When panning for gold, you are not going to process much gold bearing sand and gravel with a pan alone. The pan is for sampling to find a hot spot, and it is necessary for dealing with concentrates at the end of the day. To move much larger quantities of gravel, you need a rocker box or a sluice box. You can buy them or make your own. I have done both.

Gold Panning Tricks

Where to find gold in Oregon

i feel fortunate that I live in a state so well populated with gold. I live in WESTERN OREGON, within easy driving distance of several minor and major gold areas. Even the river flowing through the city I live in contains gold. I can walk down the bank in some places and get gold specks in my pan very quickly. Of course, you are not going to retire on gold specks alone, but it's nice knowing the stuff is so close by.

But within an hour or two, I can be on some streams where the gold is abundant. Years ago, when I was scoutmaster of my sons' Boy Scout troop, I would take the boys out for a day of horsing around on a gold bearing creek. I taught them how to pan for gold, and some took to it quickly, and others found it just too much work. But eventually, we'd all be in the river diving and splashing and having a grand time cooling off. Everybody had fun, gold or no gold.

The BEST PLACES to do gold panning in Oregon are the SOUTHWESTERN and NORTHEASTERN quarters of the state. But even the BEACHES have varying amounts of very fine gold. I tested the black sand deposits left behind after a spring storm, on a beach about an hour from my house, and I was getting hundreds of specks per pan. Now, they may not add up to much value, being so fine, but again, it is just nice knowing it is there. Some of the beaches farther south were in fact worked commercially many years ago.

Even the marine deposits off the shoreline are laced with gold, according to research vessels some years ago.

There are lots of resources available to anyone who wants to try his or her hand at panning for gold. The Internet is loaded with info, and there are books that target individual states. Here is a place where you can get these great books and also basic gold prospecting supplies (link below)

Finding Nuggets With Gold Metal Detectors

You might like to opt for another, less strenuous way to find gold. Special metal detectors are designed to find gold nuggets in the ground. Some are so sensitive that you may be able to find even little tiny nuggets inches down in the dirt or gravel.

These specialized metal detectors are a bit more expensive than coin shooter type detectors, but used in the right places, they can pay for themselves pretty fast. Take a look at the link below to read more about this and see some recommended mid-level gold detectors.

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Comments 27 comments

dgicre profile image

dgicre 6 years ago from USA

Good info, never thought about the beaches. Next time I head to Gold Beach plan on taking my gold pan along.

Edwin Brown 6 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Right on! It's always fun to add a little sparkle to your life.

By the way, the beaches at Whiskey Creek south of Coos Bay were extensively mined in years past. But every beach I have ever tested always had some gold. Some just more than others.

Gold Panning Maps 6 years ago

Thank you Ed, I enjoyed your articles. Quick question; are you guys still able to dredge in Oregon? I thought I read somewhere dredging was about to get banned in Oregon too. Thanks again. Rick

Edwin Brown 6 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Gold Panning Maps -- yes, we can still dredge in Oregon,

just pay the permit fee. But, we have a lot of greenies who would like nothing better than to shut down all mining, including recreational prospecting. The DEQ has been making noises that don't sound good. If gold panners/gold miners don't fight this, we could lose all our rights in this area.

Don Shepherd 6 years ago

I have never prospected for gold but always wanted to. my parents were bitten by the gold bug and spent many a summer panning and digging in Oregon. They didn't get rich but they had a lot of fun doing it. With gold going over $1400.00 i'm tempted to take a gold pan with me when i go camping this summer.

Edwin Brown 6 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Yeah, Don, it's kinda addictive. Every fresh pan full of gravel is a new surprise waiting to happen. The website I refer to in this hub has lots of good information about how to find gold and how to pan. You don't have to buy anything to enjoy the free information. Videos too.

Good luck in your panning adventures.

By the way, Gold Prospectors Association of America is a great club to join. With your membership, you get some gold panning stuff plus the chance to access many gold claims across the country, without charge for panning/sluicing/dredging there. It's a real nice deal, and there are claims in Oregon you can go to anytime you want.

wilderness profile image

wilderness 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Interesting hub - thanks. I grew up in Northeastern Oregon and there was a long stretch of the Grand Ronde river that is covered with old dredgings near my home town. I never heard of anyone panning there, but wouldn't be surprised if there isn't still gold in the area.

Edwin Brown 5 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Yeah, like fishing, kinda gets you hooked. I believe I have read that the Grand Ronde has some gold, for weekend panners. Last August, my wife and I went to a family reunion outside of Baker City. Found a few flakes (NOT the relatives), but the whole area has a rich mining history. Love to spend more time there.

moe 5 years ago

hi edwin i just moved to to the mountains or hills of tillamook oregon and im near a creek that runs down my porperty and the trask river is below do u think there would be gold in this area thanks.

Edwin Brown 5 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Hi Moe,

Well, you can't know until you try. I know for a fact that the black sand on just about every beach in Oregon will have fine gold flecks. Further inland from the beach, in some places there are old marine deposits that have gold in them.

For example, near Newport and also further down the coast, some of these deposits were worked about a hundred years ago for gold. Small creeks that flow through or past these old deposits can carry gold down to the nearest beach.

I haven't done much panning in the Tillamook area, but if I lived in your area, I'd try any creek/river I could get access to. Good luck, Moe

5 years ago


liquidgranite profile image

liquidgranite 5 years ago

Interesting topic. I give it one vote up.

GoldCoinNet profile image

GoldCoinNet 5 years ago from Utah

Wow at lest i know where I'm going on my next vacation! Very interesting hub!


shalinda 5 years ago

I live in triangle lake outside of eugene on hwy 36 about 30 miles from florence. Is there any gold hear?

Edwin Brown 5 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Yes, Shalinda, there is fine gold on most Oregon beaches.

You would do better by going south to the Coos Bay part of the coast. Since there are several creeks in that area and on down that have gold and dump into the Pacific, your odds are improved. You won't get rich, but you will have fun.

Scott 5 years ago

Have you hearfd of any streams or rivers in the tillammok forest to pan for golg?

Edwin Brown 5 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Hi Scott,

Funny you should ask. I was asked that question by Moe (see above) some time ago. Take a look. Good luck

Midland man 4 years ago

Do you have any info on gold in the Klamath county area



Edwin Brown 4 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

I don't have much information about the Klamath area, but the Klamath River, which comes out of the lake, has plenty of gold farther downstream. I have found nice gold in the Klamath in northern California.

I don't know how far down you have to go below the lake before you get into gold bearing gravel, but it couldn't hurt to check it out. And, of course, if you don't mind driving some, there is a lot of gold country around Medford - Jacksonville - Grants Pass areas.

Best of luck to you.

oldogyou 4 years ago

what about the santiam tributaries both north and south? is there any restrictions and or what are they?

Edwin Brown 4 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

There is gold in the North Santiam and in the Little North Fork. I have not done very well in these, but once. So try and see.

The upper Little North Fork above the Falls is closed to gold panning. As I understand it, that is claimed ground.

You can find gold in the main stem of the Santiam at Waterloo. There is a park there for easy access. You won't get rich, but sometimes you can find nice color.

Of course, any private land along the river requires permission for panning. You can also pan under bridges.

Amy 3 years ago

Hello, I have always been fascinated and wanting for so long to try some panning, I live in Scotts Mills and Butte Creek is about a 5 minute walk, is there Gold in that creek do you know?? I hear there is SILVER in the creek, how do you pan for that??? Thanks

Edwin Brown 3 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Hi Amy,

I used to live in Mt. Angel, and I have fished in Butte Creek many times, but I have never tried panning there. And I have never heard of anyone finding gold in Butte Creek.

I have read that there is a little bit of gold in the Molalla, so I tried it once and did find a few specks.

I have never tried panning for silver. It would be harder to do in a pan than for gold, because silver is not as heavy as gold. The reason the pan works to recover gold from sand and gravel is that gold is the densest thing, ordinarily, in a stream and so it has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the pan when you agitate the contents.

Maybe you should try the Molalla, at a city or county park. Good luck.

john000 profile image

john000 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

I'd love to come to Oregon to pan. I prospect in Arizona, but know the Klamath and other spots have quite a bit of gold. Are there any public areas that a guy can pan at without being a club member, owning a claim, or paying to visit private land? Good hub with lots of info.

Edwin Brown 2 years ago

There are a number of access points on the South Umpqua river, south and east of Myrtle Creek, Oregon. Some public campgrounds there also where you can pan. Good luck, John.

john000 profile image

john000 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

Thank you so much for the info. Good luck to you.

lewis 4 months ago

going to be in florence soon any local spots near . thanks

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