Gold Prospecting And Panning: The Hobby That Pays Back

A Gold Pan With Some Gold
A Gold Pan With Some Gold

In the winter of 1848, a man by the name of James Marshall found gold at a sawmill in Coloma, California. This place, known as Sutter's Mill, became the epicenter for the California Gold Rush, and spurred many thousands of people to come and try their luck at getting the gold. Many other gold rushes have taken place throughout American history, from Alaska to Georgia to Nevada, gold can be found in many different areas of the U.S.. Today, most people don't mine gold for a living, but there are many who prospect and pan for gold as a hobby. It takes very little to start looking, and in the end, you may find there are more benefits than just finding gold.

What You Need Before You Start Looking

There is a little bit of preparation work that must be done before you can go look for gold. The first thing you will need is something you don't even have to buy, it's an idea of where you want to look! The best way to find gold is to go to where it has been found before. If a creek or a river near you has a history of producing gold, then you may want to start there. Now, you can go and prospect any stream that you want, but chances are that most streams have been panned before at one time or another, and it's easier to find gold in an area that already has it.

Once you have found an area where you want to look for gold, the next thing you will need is a gold pan. These can be found in many specialty stores and online in places such as Amazon. The gold pan is the most widely recognized tool of the gold prospector, and it is also very easy to use. If you would like detailed instructions on how to use one, please look at the helpful links section at the end of the article.

A backpack is also very helpful if you have to hike a little ways to get to a creek. It also can carry some other useful things, like a small spade for putting dirt into your pan. You may also want to bring a light jacket or some hand warmers, you can get cold in the creek, which brings us to another important thing you should have.

Waterproof boots are important for a couple reasons. Getting water in your shoes isn't fun, and can lead to other complications. If you have to cross a creek, waterproof boots greatly decrease the chance that your feet will get wet should you accidentally step in. Also, if you need to get some samples from somewhere in the middle of a creek, it will be infinitely easier in boots that won't soak up water like a sponge. Proper clothing is a must if you plan to go out panning.

Two Early Gold Panners
Two Early Gold Panners

What To Look For

Once you have chosen the spot you want to prospect at, you have to pan some material to see if you have found any gold. Choosing a spot to take the material from can be difficult, some spots will have more gold than other places. Gold is much heavier than any of the other materials in the creek, and will settle out of the water in places where the current slows down. It will also settle in places where there are eddies behind objects, such as rocks. Another good place to look is in cracks that run along the bottom of some creeks.

Once it has settled, it will sink until it gets to something solid. The goal here is to identify the places that the gold may have settled, and take your material from there. Once you have done that, you can simply pan the material out and see what you have.

Once You've Found It

If you panned something and managed to find a little gold, then you can either choose to pan that area more, or you can set up something that can process more material, like a sluice box. A sluice box is simply a box with riffles that can catch the gold when it is passed through with the other material. The sluice box can go through much more material than any pan could, and it will make it much easier on you as well.

If you manage to find enough to sell, then there are many places that will buy the gold that you have collected. Gold like this is called placer gold, and you don't want to sell it to any cash for gold dealer, as they probably don't have enough experience working with it and they may give you less for it than it's worth. However, you most likely won't get the full market value in any case, since placer gold has some impurities in it.

What To Expect...

Now, you probably aren't going to find pounds and pounds of gold out there and become a millionare, but sometimes finding the gold isn't the only reason people go out and pan for it. It is always nice to be out in nature, and panning can be a relaxing activity. And finding a bit of gold puts a smile on anyone's face, and there are many people who find enough to sell. However, I find that panning gold is a lot like writing here on Hubpages, you may not get a whole lot of cash at first, but if you keep going at it, you are sure going to find something, and have fun at the same time.

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