How to Use a Gold Pan

Pay dirt!

How to use a gold pan

I sometimes attend the yearly gold shows and marvel at all the fine new equipment designed to separate placer gold from the rocks, sand, mud and trash normally found in the streambeds where placer gold is found. While all the dredges, sluices, rocker boxes, and various other high production gadgets work very well, in the end, the concentrates must still be panned to recover the gold, and the lowly $10 pan is still the best recovery tool of all.

There are two types of gold deposits. One is the hard rock mine, where the gold is still captured in rock, sometimes in veins and sometimes in tiny particles embedded inside rocks. The other type is the one we'll talk about here...the placer deposit. Placers are simply collections of free gold that were eroded out of the parent rock, washed down into streambeds over the eons, and finally concentrated in places where the stream slows down, such as the inside of a bend or where the streambed levels out.

The old saying is, “Gold is where you find it’, which is part of the fun. Prospectors sample the places I mentioned, like the inside of a bend, or the downstream side of boulders, and the best place of all…a crack in bedrock where bonanzas are sometimes found.

To understand how the gold pan works, we have to understand the nature of the gold we seek. Gold is one of the heaviest of all substances, with a specific gravity of over 19. Simply put, that means that gold is19 times heavier than water, volume for volume. To put that into perspective, lead has a specific gravity of right at 11. That means that gold is almost twice as heavy as lead, and we all know how heavy lead is. In fact, wherever we find gold in a stream, we usually also find lead and sometimes free mercury, which is also quite heavy with a specific gravity of over 13. All of them tend to settle in the same spots because they are so heavy. I have panned out lead bullets that are over a hundred years old.

The gold pan very effectively employs the great weight of gold by creating a situation where the gold can easily find its way to the bottom of the pan and stay there while the rocks, sand, and mud are gradually washed away. Let’s grab our pans and go find some gold! It’s great fun and excellent exercise.

Find a spot in the stream where the water is fairly quiet and where you can sit so your poor old back can last the day. Until you’ve had some practice, it’s best to only fill your pan about half full. It’s also much easier on hands and arms that are not used to handling a heavy gold pan.

The deeper you dig, the more likely you are to find gold. Remember, gold is extremely heavy, so it will always work its way down until it can’t go any farther, and the only thing that will permanently stop it is bedrock. If your first sample is negative, dig deeper. If you hit bedrock, that’s where you’ll most likely find the heaviest concentrations of gold.

Sample on the inside of a bend or on the downstream side of a boulder. Warning! Do not dig under or very close to a boulder because they have been known to suddenly roll into such holes, and I don’t want to lose a reader!

Once you have a sample in your pan, place it completely under water and use your fingers to break up the dirt, rocks, and sand. You might want to allow the stream to move the muddy water downstream first so you can see what you are doing. Later, when you have more experience, you won’t need to see because you’ll know what your pan is doing.

The trick is to get all the rocks, sand, trash, and hopefully, gold, into suspension in the water. Think of it as a rock and sand soup, with everything suspended in the water and nothing lying still on the bottom. While all that lighter stuff is suspended, the extremely heavy gold will almost immediately fall straight down to the bottom of the pan! The way you accomplish that is to move your pan in a swirling, back and forth motion while keeping it completely underwater. It takes a little practice, but once you see all that stuff moving freely in your pan, you’ll know you’re doing it right. Keep it swirling and in suspension for about 30 seconds and then move to the next step.

Now that you have moved the heavy minerals (gold, black sands, lead, etc.) much lower in your pan, you can remove the lighter materials that have moved to the top. The larger rocks can just be tossed out by hand. Once that has been done, you can use the water to gently wash off the top layer of light minerals. Holding the pan completely under water again, gently move the pan back and forth while tilting it forward a few degrees and watch the water float the light stuff right out of your pan!

Now all you need to do is repeat those steps…swirl everything, making sure it’s all in suspension, and then tilt the pan forward a few degrees and use the water to wash off the top layer of light stuff. Always keep your pan underwater. Keep going until there’s nothing left in your pan but a small pocket of black sand and hopefully gold.

(Don’t worry that you are washing gold out of your pan along with the light stuff! If you have seen the material in your pan in suspension, then you know that heavy gold is safely stored in the very bottom of your pan.)

Now for the fun part! You should have a couple of tablespoons or so of black sand and other heavy elements left in your pan. If there’s any gold, it will be safely deposited along the front ridge at the bottom of your pan. Carefully pour out all the water except a couple of tablespoons and then gently swirl the water around, moving the black sands out of the way, and look for that yellow flash in the pan! And yes, gold looks just like the gold around your finger! It’s unmistakably gold and as soon as you see your first tiny flake (maybe even a nugget!), you’ll be hooked for life.

I prefer the green pans with riffles built in to one side. The riffles are great for trapping gold when you first start with a full pan, but they become a nuisance as the pan empties, so when that happens, just rotate the pan and use the smooth side. The green color makes the yellow gold stand out far better than the black pans, in my humble opinion.

Good luck and happy panning!

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Comments 102 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I would love to try this. Do you think there is any gold in New Jersey! Voted up and useful.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Can't find any deposits in New Jersey

You may have to come visit us in Phoenix!


I am DB Cooper profile image

I am DB Cooper 5 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

Very interesting. I wish there was some gold deposits in my neck of the woods!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks for reading!

Where's your neck of the woods? There are deposits in many states.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I don't think I'll be doing any panning. I think I did see a demonstration once when I was on a trip to California. I am contemplating a story that might involve gold so this information might be useful to add some believability to it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I've panned out old bullets many times, and they are treasures to me because they came from the days of the old west. Who knows how they came to be in the mud of a remote creek?

People have also panned out gemstones, because they too are heavy.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Many years ago in my "outlaw" days, I and a friend invested in a dredge and gold pan and planted ourselves on the shore of the Feather River in California. We worked and played and then one day I couldn't believe my eyes but there was a nugget. I wasn't tricked by fool's gold anymore and knew it was the real thing. What a rush.

We later found more in that river but not enough to continue the lifestyle. Thanks for bringing back great memories.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Suzie

Making a living off gold prospecting requires a lot of hard work and even more luck. We just do it for the fun and exercise.

Thanks for the comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

I would like to try it at least once. Finding a few nice gold nuggets sounds great. Interesting hub.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Pamela


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Will, I belong to a prospecting club that has several claims down here in the Tucson area. I can honestly say that in all the times I have been out, I have not yet found enough gold to pay for my gold pan. The flakes I have found though are "My Gold", and that makes them very special. The thing is though, that right around that bend, under that boulder, behind that log, may just be my first big nugget. That is what keep us old prospectors going. It is great fun, and I just enjoy being out there looking for gold. Perhaps one day we can go dig some dirt and do a little panning together. Great hub as usual my friend.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I'd love to go play in the mud with you OP!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

A few years ago when we had the big flood down off the recently burned Catalina Mountains, the stream through our claim moved boulders. The smart guys that got up there right after the water went down found quite a bit of gold. It is still out there waiting for that lucky prospector so we should go get some of it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Some estimate that 90+% of the gold is yet to be recovered!

Thanks OP!


Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

Wow a interesting article. Not sure there is gold in sunny Florida. Sounds like fun. Good luck. Hope you hit your gold mine. Don't forget about your friends LOL. Great hub WILL.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Rhonda.

No gold placer deposits in Florida that I know of, but there are plenty of historical artifacts to be found and lost jewelry on the beaches for metal detector enthusiasts.


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hiya Will, oh I definitely want to pan for gold! How exciting is that! I won't definitely find any gold here in Toronto.. so I better hold off buying a Gold Pan. It will be exciting to go on a gold panning trip though. Will you arrange for one?

Have a nice day,

Rosie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

"It will be exciting to go on a gold panning trip though. Will you arrange for one?"

Absolutely! Let me know when you are coming to Arizona and we'll try our luck in one of the many gold bearing creeks. I love to teach panning and I love it when someones sees their first speck of gold. They always get excited!


2uesday profile image

2uesday 5 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

This was a good read, brought back memories of when we attempted this at a 'museum' at a former mine. They had set up an area for folk who were visiting to have a go at panning for 'gold' (although the museum was at a former lead mine). I must say I found it more difficult to do than the way it looks in the movies. Maybe I would have been better at panning for gold if I had read this first and understood how it works and the technique needed.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Now you'll have to try it again!

Thanks for stopping by.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Will, great article on technique, over the years I keep putting flakes and small pieces into a test tube with a cork and I don't really know how much it weighs or is worth, don't really care. I just like to look at it with friends and all want to know where it came from, I can't tell them cuz I've panned a thousand places and added a bit at a time. thanks, 50


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hey Dusty

You put that very well...the real draw for most of us is the discovery and the memories, not the money. I know guys who have found nice nuggets that would probably bring a thousand dollars or more, but they'd rather keep them to show to guests.

It's important for new panners to remember that every piece of gold you find in your pan has never been seen by human eyes before.


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 5 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Will, my husband and I love to pan. We also metal detect. When we retire we are going to AZ.

Great hub


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Granny!

Look me up when you get here and we'll all go play in the mud. :-)


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Thanks for a very interesting hub on an unusual topic. As we live in southern England there is probably not much hope of us finding gold in the local streams, but it does sound good exercise for the upper arms.

No idea that it was best to keep the pan under the water - that really would require muscle power!


AnnieRoseVA 5 years ago

You've done a great job of explaining the art of panning for gold. I've gone panning in mountain streams in the Sierra Nevada range. All I found there was "fool's gold" which is misleading and cause for disappointment.

But, I am excited to tell you that I found a somewhat large piece of pink quartz with a vein of gold running through it way up in the Sierra's in a mountain stream above Lake Tahoe. It is my prize - displayed with all my Western books that now reside on shelves in Pennsylvania - just to prove to all the Easterners that I was a Western girl for awhile!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

A specimen piece like that is quite valuable, and it probably hadn't traveled far from its hard rock source. A visible vein indicates a very rich find. You may have located a bonanza!

Thanks AnnieRoseVA


AnnieRoseVA 5 years ago

Cool! And how appropriate because the stream was right next to the Bonanza property - The Ponderosa Ranch property. Well, all readers in that area, have fun looking for the find that I missed. One day, I'll go back and look too.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks AnnieRose


kims3003 5 years ago

I love this! Great idea for a subject to write about and to teach others. Well explained and very well written. Nice writing style too!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Kim!


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Interesting hub. God Bless You.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you stars.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Very cool Hub! I have never seen a green one - fascinating and you are a great writer. Thank yoU! Job well done.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Goldie!

(My cousins in Iowa had a Grandma Goldie who always had a big jar full of the best cookies I've ever tasted. She was one of the sweetest women God ever gave us. Sadly, no one ever thought to get her recipe for those cookies and the secret died with her.)

Thank you for your kind comments, and now I'll go see why you're such a big hit around here!

Will


AskAshlie3433 profile image

AskAshlie3433 5 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

I always wanted to go search for gold. I use to live in Casa Grande and I never got the chance to go. Wish I would of went. I never knew there was gold in Arizona. Where does everyone go? Cool hub, voted awesome.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks AskAshlie3433

There are many places in Arizona where gold can still be found. The state is rich in ores,


Ghost32 5 years ago

Will, I've never (YET) panned for gold, though I did have half a dozen marriages that didn't pan out--until, of course, finally coming up with Pam, the greatest find any man could want.

But I certainly grew up in gold-capable country, chasing girls at the country dances at Gold Creek, Montana. So, maybe someday, back to my roots....

And when I do that, I'll be printing off a copy of your hub to take with me, preserve in big plastic baggie, taped around a chunk of cardboard so I can read the steps without opening the seal. No way I'd get every step right without cheating like that, and you've written the best gold panning cheat sheet I've ever seen.

I, too, would be just about as happy turning up old bullets. Maybe some points from an unknown ancient tribe that used lead arrowheads, or....

Now, to start thinking about just where I might dig into that underwater crack in the bedrock plumb loaded with the yaller stuff....

Voted Up and a Bunch.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

We're Arizona neighbors, and crusty old guys cut from the same cloth, so I'm open to to a demonstration sometime.


Brenda Durham 5 years ago

Wow, great hub!

I was watching a show on tv the other night (I forget what it's called) about digging for gold; the team of guys used heavy equipment and all that; very interesting.

I've got a brother who says he has actually found some gold in some creekbeds here in Indiana.....maybe I should get me one of those pans and start lookin'...


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Brenda and thank you!


Brenda Durham 5 years ago

Hey, I forgot to mention this---I saw on tv the other day (I think it was on that same show) that the average cell phone contains, I think it was, about $1.24's worth of gold! So, don't throw away your old cell phones! I say collect everyone else's too that they don't want and start tearin' out that gold! haha. Hey, maybe that's why some companies buy up old cell phones.....


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 5 years ago from Texas, USA

I grew up watching the old cowboy shows such as Gunsmoke and Bonanza with my dad. I was always fascinated with the gold panning process.Interesting article enjoyed reading it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Coolmon

If you liked the old cowboy shows, most of my short stories are about the old west. Try 'Hired On'.

Will


Tom T profile image

Tom T 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

I've tried a couple times to pan for gold and come up empty. Didn't really know what I was doing but I'm bookmarking this for reference next time I go. Thanks for the share on the boulder tip...I'd be the one who did something silly like that!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Tom T

Good luck!


dearabbysmom profile image

dearabbysmom 5 years ago from Indiana

Great hub! So interesting and well-written. When I was a kid my favorite family trip involved panning for rubies near an old Appalacian mine. I was a rockhound nerd kid and that trip was a bit of heaven to me. Your directions are very thorough yet would be easy to follow. Think I need to put this back on the bucket list!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you dearabbysmom.

Yes, some precious gems are quite heavy and can be panned!


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Very Handy Tool. We Could Sure Use Some Gold Around The House. God Bless You Precious Friend.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Stars!


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

Will: I love this hub.. You taught me how to dig which is a dream of mine. I go to Nevada City CA often and I love the history of digging for gold...Have you ever been there? Anyway I found your hub to be informative, educational and fascinating... Thanks


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mrs. J. B.!

Panning for gold is the ultimate fun in playing in the mud!


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada

Great hub! I live on the edge of the Truckee River. Unfortunately, east of rather than west of the Sierra Nevada. Anyhow its a short drive over the hill. Should I try this one day, perhaps on the Yuba River, or Feather Creek I will have your hub in hand.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, David, and have fun!


ChristineVianello profile image

ChristineVianello 5 years ago from Philadelphia

I would love to do this! Where can you go, I live in Philadelphia, anywhere near by me?


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Christine!

Yes, there are placer deposits in Pennsylvania!

http://goldminingandprospecting.blogspot.com/2011/...


skellie profile image

skellie 5 years ago from Adelaide

That is great Will! I had a go when I was quite young but had no luck at the time lol. Would love to do it again and what great tips you have. Loved the bit about, not losing a reader lol.

Awesome and up

Cheers skellie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Skellie,

The land of Oz is loaded with gold, so good luck!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Thanks for the tips. A small creek runs through my property but most of the gold I've seen has been fools gold. now I'm off to buy a gold pan.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Iron pyrites (fools gold) have some value, so don't toss them. Shiny, glittery flakes that lie on top sand and gravel are mica, so don't be fooled.

Gold is one of the heaviest elements, so it will quickly find its way to the bottom of your pan. If it lies on top, it ain't gold!

Thanks for the comment, and good luck!


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

I have always wanted to go to one of those places that give you a bucket of dirt to look for gold! lol

I am a real treasure hunter and years ago I use to borrow someone's metal detector and I found a penny or two.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hii Pollyannalana,

The first time you see a flake of gold after panning away the dirt and sand, you are hooked for life. It's not about the riches (although that can happen!) so much as the adventure. You have found something of great value that no other human has ever seen before.


rembrandz profile image

rembrandz 5 years ago from Dubai Media City

So very insightful! I really enjoyed reading about panning! Was very educational for me. I am sure to come back to your hub and ask some questions if I do holiday to USA sometime. Alas! I wish I could try it out in my part of the world. Guess not! :(


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi rembrandz, and thanks for reading!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Will Starr, this hub takes me back to Downieville, California where there are 3 rivers which intersect in two places at either end of a small, Sierra County, town named after the founder, Major William Downie. Here, any time I visited, I'd see numerous people panning for gold...some more successful than others. I wonder if those who found more gleaming nuggets knew your 'secret to success?' A had a home there...actually, Major Downie's original residence, for 12 years....and lived right across from the Downie River (Yuba and Marys are the other two)....and there were always intrepid souls seeking their fortune. Very interesting and useful, awesome hub, Will Starr.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Lucky Cats!

I stayed in Coloma Ca. for a year and panned all around that area. It was great fun! Found a little, too.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Having lived in California for most of my wild life, I have enjoyed panning for gold several times. Only thing missing was this great, informative hub on How to Use a Gold Pan. Next time, I will have better results...thanks to you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Coach!

The only thing more fun than panning for gold is doing it right!


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 5 years ago from West Virginia

Voted up Will. I wish I would have went panning while I lived in Arizona, but I didn't. I am hoping to visit next year so perhaps I can spend a day or few hours looking. When I worked at CCA, the guards would talk about searching and I believe they were talking about somewhere in Arizona. This was in Florence, so I am not sure though. 1,600+ an ounce sure sounds good to me. Very useful hub Will and well written. I was watching something on the history channel and they said we have only mined about 5% of the gold in America. In the late 1880's or 90's, a man in Northern West Virginia found some gold. It seems it is scattered everywhere. I heard Washington is the place to go. Interesting subject Will. Take care friend.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Small world. I have family in Florence who worked for the prison system.

The best gold in Arizona is in the Bradshaw mountain drainage area, on the east and south slopes.

It's true that most of the gold is still not recovered, and estimates are in the 90% range.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 5 years ago from West Virginia

I sure would like to go one day. I worked at that detention center CADC. Staff of course. I always like how you had green to the east, snow up North, dessert out west, and on the border of Mexico it was cool and green. I went to Mexico once through Nogales, might be spelled wrong. Place is crazy. They try to sell American people pills out of their shacks. It was crazy. Yeah, I wish I would have went though. I miss it in the winter. I loved Arizona in the winter. Cotton almost looks like snow! I saw snow once a few years back, maybe 2007 I believe.


lisa42 profile image

lisa42 5 years ago from Sacramento

Sounds like fun. I'd love to give it a try sometime.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, lisa42,

It is fun, and the first time you find a little flake of gold in your pan (and you'll know instantly that it's real gold!), you are hooked for life.


samanthamsmith profile image

samanthamsmith 5 years ago from Small Town USA

I am ready to get to work.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Samantha!

Have fun!


PhoenixV profile image

PhoenixV 5 years ago from USA

I have never panned for gold but would love to give it a try.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, PhoenixV,

It takes a couple of pans to get the hang of it, but once you see gold in the bottom, you're hooked!

Hint: Load your pan lightly until you get the feel of it.


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

I panned for gold in Lynx Creek out of Prescott last summer. Had lots of fun, got beautiful pictures, and a couple tiny flakes of gold! Dropped them in the creek and didn't get to bring any home to 'prove it'. But have fun memories and am going to do it again!

Thanks for your tips. All I had was a pie pan, duh. And I didn't keep the pan under the water. Bookmarking. :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Lynx is a fine location, and there's still plenty of gold! Thanks for commenting!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Want to come panning with me?? Up in the CA foothills?? I've never done it, but I want to now--


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Audrey, and I'd love to go with you!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

My mom has gone several times--and loved it!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

This sounds like a pretty serious past-time but one that would prove worthwhile. Don't think I would find any gold in South Florida but I have found some treasures on the beach. Enjoyed reading through this hub article.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

It's great fun, and inexpensive! All you need is a gold bearing area, a pan, something to dig with, and some water.


Lilleyth profile image

Lilleyth 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

Gold Rush and Bering Sea Gold are two of my favorite shows. I used to live in South Carolina and never panned for gold while I was there, which I now regret.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Lilleyth!

I too used to live in SC! Where do you live today? Maybe it has gold!


Lilleyth profile image

Lilleyth 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

Hey Will, I lived in Easley in Burdine Spring, a subdivision just outside town. In our backyard was a stream which flowed down from a hillside. The bottom of the stream will filled with black sand...magnetic sand, just like what is in an etch-a-sketch...I did not know there was gold in South Carolina, was in my early 30s, raising to toddlers...but knowing what I know now, I would have panned for gold there for sure. Pickens County, South Carolina had a gold mine in the area.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Lilleyth,

Black sand, like gold, is heavy, so they tend to settle in the same places. But, finding black sand does not mean there's also gold! You have to run some sample pans.

Check with your state geologists for gold bearing stream maps.


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

I met a woman in Colorado Springs who told me that she got rich while working at a Goodwill store. She bought a gold detector (or whatever it is called), bought all of the jewelry that came in, and found a fortune. I have known people who had valuables, but their impatient relatives came to clear their homes after their deaths and did not feel moved to check carefully. Some of these things go to thrift stores, garage sales, and some become garbage. I believe that a landfill could be a great place to prospect for gold, maybe.

Panning for gold seems interesting, but I would want to do some serious prospecting, not recreational. I wonder if it is truly possible.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Levertis Steele,

I don't understand what the woman meant, because metal detectors can't tell the diference between gold and any other metal. That's why you have to dig every hit to know what it is.

Thanks for the super comment!


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

I am probably wrong about what she had, but it was used to detect gold. Maybe it was some kind of kit. I do not know of such things.


MrMaranatha profile image

MrMaranatha 4 years ago from Somewhere in the third world.

I used to drive long haul... kept a "Prospectors tool Kit" in my jockey box and even a green plastic sluice and wooden rocker box that I made and kept strapped behind the sleeper with the load locks... only found a little bit of tiny dots of Gold here and there.. but it was sure fun to look for. Stop on the road side turnouts next to some creek that I knew was down stream from the old Gold mines... have a few extra hours to kill... need to satisfy my log book... go prospecting for a few hours of leisure time:-) I usually worked awhile and just brought it all down to a concentrate... worked that way as long as I could... and when it was time to go I rinse dumped all concentrate into a sealed Tub for later on down the line... when I had nothing to do... and plenty of time... I would sit at that tub and pan for hours... Just keep re-panning it... :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, MrMaranatha!

We used to camp out for days on a known gold bearing stream, and sink a hole. The deeper we got, the more we found! It's about the excitement and sheer pleasure more than it's about the gold!


MrMaranatha profile image

MrMaranatha 4 years ago from Somewhere in the third world.

Oh yeah... For me it was not something I could invest allot of time all at once in... too bad... I really loved that Hobby. built my own dredge... just for the fun of it... never used a commercially made one although I would have liked to. It can be an expensive hobby when you get all the stuff invested on going to find it... The real money has always been in selling the equipment to the miners... and another true saying... that Gold is where you find it.. Gold is in the prettiest country you will ever see... But sadly most people are too focused on the glowing yellow dots in the pan to see the sunset over the hills...


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Great points, and thank you!


GlstngRosePetals profile image

GlstngRosePetals 4 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

Loved the hub. this is just how the hubby pans as a hobby. We go out get dirt and bring it back to the house and pan in the garage just to pass the time. Voted up!!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

We usually pan it down to the heavy concentrates, pour that in a bucket, and then fine pan it at home.

But it's all fun!


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 3 years ago from California

I recently bought a pan, and spent a day at the American River trying to learn the fine art of panning. I took a lesson on how to pan and spent a couple of hours hunched over and rocking and swishing. Every time I was getting down to the black sand, so my technique was right, however, I did not come home with any gold. Any further tips on where to look? I want to continue, but I'm a little discouraged. I know it will take a lot of time and patience to get good at it. For now, I'm keeping my chin up, and may try a new spot next week.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Availiasvision, and I'm sorry that I missed this, but sometimes, HubPages doesn't notify me!

Sounds like your technique is just fine. Now you have to learn to read the river. Look for places where the water slows down, like the inside of a bend, downstream from a boulder, inside cracks in the bedrock, (including that part that is only underwater during floods), and where a river suddenly widens. Mossy rocks can also trap gold, so tear the moss off a rock, wash it out in your pan, and then pan it out.

Keep at it and you will learn where to find gold!


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 3 years ago from California

No worries at all. Thank you for all of the tips. I now will be a student of the river.


aerospacefan profile image

aerospacefan 2 years ago from Chicago

Very informative article. I always wondered how this actually worked. Now I know!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, aerospacefan!

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