Where You Can Free Pan Gold at State of California Park in Coloma, CA
My most recent short trip outside of Arizona was for 3 days in August, 2011. The intention of the trip was to celebrate my father-in-law's 90th birthday in the Central Valley of California. But what else might I do with my time? The answer came pretty quickly since this is an area in which the quest for gold opened up the west in 1848. In fact, this was the first place! While building a saw mill, James W. Marshall found gold in the Coloma-Lotus Valley. His partner John Sutter is also well-known for starting Sutter's Fort in 1839. The fort was built in the same location as the state capitol, Sacramento.
As we traveled north, we climbed many rolling grass-covered hills peppered with oak trees. The area is referred to as the Sierra Foothills. The landscape is truly beautiful. There was little traffic as the spots to see up the road probably attract visitors with an interest in history or camping. I don't think you can beat this area if searching for a laid back, cool place to camp. Most of the little towns we passed were popular among the mid 19th century prospectors who took part in the gold rush. These include names like: Mariposa, Coulterville, Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp, and then Sutter Creek, Placerville, and Coloma.
Having prospected for gold in Arizona for 2 years, I am always curious about where gold might be found when on a vacation. I believe gold can be found in all of the U.S. states, so where might an individual be able to pan for gold without violating federal, state, or local law? It turns out that there is a wonderful spot where people can enjoy nature and pan for gold for free. The place is the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park in Coloma, Ca. We drove up Interstate 5 from Southern California north to U.S. 50 to Ca-193 North which meets Ca-49.
As you approach the park from the south the major streets form an L. Cold Springs Road intersects 49. Just a little farther up 49 and you are in the park.On both sides of 49 there are lots of things to visit. You can see the gold discovery museum, mill site, and Marshall's cabin. Fourth graders annually are transported to this park to learn about an important part of California history and history of the United States. They have a chance to look for courios at Beakeart's Gun Shop, while trough mining and gold pans can be rented there also. Students get to see the Sutter's sawmill replica a little further up the road.
The visitor center is next to the Gun Shop with plenty of parking. But we were interested in gold panning! The ranger at the visitor center told us we could drive, basically, across the street to the Mt. Murphy Road bridge. Across that bridge (solid concrete and looks just as strong as it was when built in 1911) panning is allowed just on the northeast shore of the American River. You may only use your hands and the pan to dig. NO OTHER TOOLS ARE ALLOWED. We displayed our cashier's receipt ($7 for seniors 62 or over) on the dash of our truck and parked just beyond the bridge on the side of the road. Six spaces are available if you want to get close to the panning. The walk from the visitor's center is short, so if the spaces are full, not to worry.
There is a marked trail that goes from the side of the road down to the shore. There you can walk until you find a nice spot to pan. We headed for an area with some tall grass and vegetation. Here you can see large rocks that had been swept up on shore by the strong current. I decided to get some material up the bank a way instead of panning material under the water. At a spot where the water seemed to have slowed down near a small bend, I began to pan.
I panned for about 30 - 45 minute intervals. My wife and I took breaks behind a screen of vegetation, and we were visited by a duck and her young. These critters were very friendly and allowed themselves to be fed by hand. Then it was back to the bank. After about 2 hours, I made a discovery.
On the downward side of a big rock on the bank, I dug some material and went to the river to pan. There, as I got through a little black sand (there isn't much), I saw a yellow sparkle that you couldn't miss. I have provided a photo to show that there is some gold in the American River. I didn't get much, just a little flake and a tiny piece of quartz with a tiny flake attached, but it was worth the effort. We had enjoyed the outdoors where it was cool near the river, and we enjoyed the lure of the hunt. Most amateur prospectors aren't in it for the money anyway. We were there a little less than 5 hours and only encountered one other family group.
Marshall Monument, which is on the southwest side of the park, was a delightful spot. You can hear the river very clearly from there, as you view the river and the opposite bank. See photo. Moving along High Street east and north you encounter Marshall Cabin, the Jail Ruins, and much more. For a detailed map of all to see, try
- Graphic - Historic Coloma (55k)
Of Note at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
We made this a 2 day trip; it's a great get-away on a budget. The price of gasoline notwithstanding, prices in the area were reasonable - we had a room at a hotel for $59.
Most of the sites to see extend on either side of the road for a bit over one mile. If panning for gold is a secondary concern, and you are looking for a relaxing place to vacation, the area in and around Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is a fun place to be. If you want to take a vacation and gold panning is your primary concern, you might want to pass this up. But then again, you never know where those big nuggets lie!!
This map actually details the sites to see at the Sutter Mill. I cannot emphasize how beautiful and peaceful this place is.
- Find Gold Bearing Placer Deposits, Gold in Quartz, Veins of Gold, A Gold Piedmont, and Minerals Foun
Finding gold in the wild is hard. Where to to pan for gold is paramount. Whether placer gold deposits or hard rock gold, you need an edge. Gold claims can be purchased, but what if you want to find gold on land heretofore never prospected? Gold quart
- A Treasure of Free Homemade Gold Prospecting Equipment Plans and Commentary
Think the cost of gold prospecting equipment is a bit pricey? Here is a site with a world of plans for making your own, FREE. Reference all kinds of thing you can build for your next trip to the claim. May all your nuggets be gold.
- Making Arizona Placer Gold Flake Mining Easier: A Piece of Desert Equipment, the Dry Washer
Gold supplies (those items gold prospectors need) are essential not only for the largest mining companies, but also the recreational gold miner. Dry washers are a brand of equipment useful in the dry southwest, particularly Arizona. Portability is i
How interested in gold prospecting are you?
- Where to Pan for Gold: Tips for the Amateur Prospector From a “Pro”
Every river in the world contains gold. However, some rivers contain so little gold that one could pan and sieve for years and not find even one small flake. The amateur prospector will not be able to determine whether gold is contained within an..
Great Tips on Finding Gold
- Metal Detector: Unusual Places and Things; Use, Detect and Earn Money
Hunting for treasure with a metal detector is rapidly becoming popular. The gold market sees per ounce gold prices soaring. A good beginner metal detector is certainly fine enough for metal detecting for coins, gold nugget detecting, and gold and ste
- Gold Rush
I had my friends and family laughing so hard, they were crying. I'm not an outdoor kind of girl. I love the city life, and live well in a small apartment overlooking a beautiful view of Lake Michigan in Chicago. My life
John Wilsdon - Sixty-three year old interested in photography, books, treasure hunting, and fishing. - I am retired. I fish, prospect for gold, garden, read, and hunt for rocks for jewelry making. - Superior, Arizona - My biggest passion is gold pros
- Is the Value in American Silver Eagle One Dollar Coins Going Up Much?
Throughout the world the American Silver Eagle one dollar coin is considered the most beautiful. It is the preferred 0.999 silver coin for bullion and, also, simply for numismatic coin collection. Among the reasons for holding silver eagles is to pos
© 2011 John R Wilsdon