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How To Pan For Gold, Tips and Tricks On Gold Prospecting and Panning

Updated on July 29, 2017

How to pan for gold, panning in rivers.

Panning for gold is one of the most rewarding hobbies in the world. Treat gold mining as a business and it will help individuals and families keep a track on finances.

As with any business, location is the key to success. An area can be panned for months with very little or no gold actually found. Whereas another area can produce profits within a few weeks and even produce a fair amount of gold on the first day.

Important: Before planning for gold, always ask permission from the landowner. For metal detecting, even on public land, you may need a local authority licence.

NB: Permission from landowners will only allow prospectors to dig down into the ground several inches. The land underneath may be owned by government departments or private institutions as well as some utility companies.

In the UK, to detect for gold on the beaches, every person is required to obtain a licence from the Crown Estate. This is free and obtained virtually instant through their website. Without this licence prospectors may be prosecuted.

Free Link: Top Places To Pan For Gold In The US.

Geological Maps

Research is invaluable prior to prospecting any area of land. Thousands of rivers contain no gold and will waste time and money to the novice gold panner.

Rivers which have produced gold in most eras of history are still the best areas for producing a certain amount of gold.

Constant rainfall and earth movement ensure a steady supply of gold dust, flakes and even nuggets are released into the worlds rivers. Although there may be limited gold in some areas, choosing the right location will help with optimal gold retraction.

Easily obtainable geological maps will help decide on an area to attempt to seek out gold. Cross reference these with locations of old gold mines and that will give an indication into which river may hold gold.


Gold is 20 times more dense than water. As gold flakes and dust are swept down river, it will find the lowest possible level to rest.

So any low point in a river may hold some gold. Gold flakes are so small that they will easily get underneath rocks and pebbles and even under sand. It is under these materials that gold prospecting should be started.

Clay river beds trap the gold particles within the clay. Once there, gold particles are usually stuck, and finding clay river beds may be an opportunity for a new gold rush.

Glory Holes are any sized hole which contains deposits of gold. A glory hole can be depression in the river bed caused by an ancient waterfall or simply a recess within the land itself.

Most major finds in the last century have been found in or near glory holes. This is because once the gold has been swept into the hole, there is not enough power in the rivers current to sweep it out again.

Panning for gold in these areas can be fun, exhilarating, and possibly financially rewarding.

Test Pan

How to pan for gold begins with the initial test pan. Once a prospective area had been discovered, a test pan should be carried out prior to any other mining.

Using the gold pan, a few panning trials in the area will provide enough information on gold deposits within the river bed.

If after several panning trials there is no gold in the pan, then another location should be sought. If one or two of the pans are showing a little 'color', then there may be sufficient gold in the vicinity to warrant prospecting.

Click on the smaller images to view gold prospecting equipment.

How to Use The Pan

The gold panning dish come with 2 or more ridges within the mould. These ridges are designed to hold the gold whilst releasing water and unwanted granules.

Use a trowel and collect some of the sediment from the bottom of the river where the test panning is to take place. Place the sediment into the gold pan.

Keep the pan constantly filled with river water. Gently and continuously swirl the pan around, allowing the water to begin washing some of the lighter sediment out.

Continue this process and tip the gold pan more and more to help eject the unwanted sediment, sand and stones. The gold is heavier and will stay in the gold pan within the rims.

If there is gold in the river bed, then there should be some color (gold) mixed in with the last of the sediment in the pan.

Gold can be fickle. There may be none in one spot, yet ten feet away there could be a good amount.

Always pan in several different locations within the specified area. if gold is found, then the whole area should be prospected.


Sluicing is a quicker and easier alternative to simply panning for gold. The sluice machine will also sift through much more material than panning in a shorter space of time.

A simple and portable sluice machine can be placed on the river bed and all the material to be sluiced can be placed in the top. The river water will wash the sediment over the filters and collect any gold in the mats.

Automated sluice machines are excellent and good fun. (See video) Simple set up the machine and use the hose to suck up sediment continuously. This will allow large amounts of river bed to be prospected in shorter amounts of time.

Extracting the Gold

Once prospecting has finished for the day, carefully remove the sluice mats and place fully into a bucket. Take to a safe and secluded area such as back at home.

Add water to the bucket and slowly rinse the mats. Any gold collected should now be in the bottom of the bucket along with fine sediment.

Use the gold pan carefully and pan the sediment which is in the bucket. Once the sediment has been separated, any gold needs to be dried in a clean pan before it can be weighed and then sold.

Free Link: Gold panning equipment for sale.

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How to pan for gold, tips and tricks on prospecting and panning for gold


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