Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Good Luck!

Now you know the basics of amateur gold prospecting. Some time spent in local libraries or on gold mining websites will help you pick a site that might yield riches. After that, it’s a matter of getting out and panning along your chosen river or creek until you discover that one spot everyone else has missed.
But even if you don’t find a fortune, it’s still a rewarding experience. You spend the day enjoying the outdoors, and finding even a little gold in the bottom of your pan is great feeling.

Fossicking Areas and Permits

Generally, a mining permit from Crown Minerals, Ministry of Economic Development is required for panning or gold mining. However, certain areas in the South Island have been designated as “gold fossicking” areas where you can engage in recreational gold mining without a permit. A list of these areas can be found at: http://www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms/minerals/gold-fossicking

Where to Pan

So, now you know how to pan, what you need to know next is where to do it.
In New Zealand there are plenty of sites in both the north and south islands that offer fertile ground for the recreational gold prospector. The west coast of the South Island, though, provides the most consistent rewards. Historically, the area between Queenstown and Dunedin has seen the richest strikes - the Shotover River was once called “the richest river in the world”.
Wherever you choose to pan, look for features that might indicate gold-bearing material. Gravel banks on the inside bend of a river or on the downstream side of a bluff or rock outcrop are prime targets as they tend to trap gold dust as it is transported by the river.

How to Pan for Gold

Panning for gold is a simple process, but one that takes a little practice to master. It relies on the principle of specific gravity - the density of a substance relative to the density of water. The higher the specific gravity of a substance, the greater its propensity to sink to the bottom of a container of water. As gold has a very high specific gravity, this principle can be used to separate it from the material within which it is found.
You’ll need:
• A gold pan - a shallow bowl with sloping sides purpose-made for the task. These bowls were traditionally metal, about 30cms across. Today, lighter, plastic versions have become popular.
• A water source - generally this will be the river you’ve decided to prospect.
• Gold-bearing (hopefully!) riverbed material.
The Process:
• Find a stretch of river that is at least 25cms deep and where the water runs fast enough to wash debris from you pan.
• Fill your pan ¾ full of river gravel and hold it just below the surface of the water. Your aim is to wash away the mud, clay, gravel, sand etc. but retain whatever gold is mixed with this material.
• Shake the pan from side to side - this will raise any large rocks to the surface where they may be picked out with your fingers and thrown away (make sure they aren’t nuggets of gold!).
• After shaking, progress to gentle circular movement so that the material in your pan moves in a circular motion. As the material moves it is lifted from the base of the pan and is carried away by the flowing water. The gold, being far heavier, works its way to the bottom of the pan.
• Once the material in your pan has been reduced to lighter gravel and sand, tip the pan away from you slightly and continue your circular swirling to move this finer material out over the edge of the pan.
• A slight forward tossing motion may be added at this stage, but take care - you don’t want to wash away gold along with the debris.
• When you have only a couple of handfuls of material left in your pan, lift it out of the river. Keeping about 2cms of water in the pan, continue washing until you have removed all remaining debris. Now, if you’re lucky, the only thing left in your pan will be…gold!
Note: towards the end of the washing process you may notice that your pan contains material that looks like black sand. This is generally made up of magnetite - a metallic mineral which, like gold, has a high specific gravity. This can be very difficult to separate from fine gold, but as it very often accompanies gold it is a good indication that you’re panning in the right place.

There’s Still Some Left

Though it is generally accepted that the great deposits of placer gold were exhausted during the 1860s and 1870s there is still gold to be found in New Zealand rivers today. Usually, it occurs only in quantities sufficient to add a little excitement to a day’s recreational prospecting. But with gold now around US$900 per ounce you never know how much of the mortgage you might be able to take home if you stumble across some isolated and untapped stretch of river!

New Zealand Gold History

The first reports of New Zealand gold came in the 1830s when settlers near the entrance of Coromandel Harbour discovered the metal on Beesons Island. This discovery, though, attracted little interest and it was not until a larger discovery at Collingwood-Takaka in 1856, and then the Otago strike in 1861, that New Zealand truly found its place on the 19th Century gold mining map.
Although some New Zealand gold was located in hard rock and required significant processing, much of it, particularly in the South Island, was found in river gravel. This alluvial, or placer, gold was what individual gold miners flocked to the country for. All a man needed for a chance at fairytale wealth was a pick, a shovel and a gold pan.

Gold Prospecting and Gold Panning How-To

As if I needed yet another hobby, I got interested in gold prospecting several years ago. My travels around the West often took me to old mining towns and mine sites where the pioneers had made a living by pulling the yellow stuff out of the ground. Eventually I got the bug too. Gold fever is a terrible thing. There is no known cure. It leads you to work harder on your vacations than you do in your normal working life, and all you have to show for is a little dirty, yellow metal.
I started out in prospecting using a metal detector to hunt for gold nuggets. I never had much luck. Nuggets are rare but metallic trash is plentiful. All I ever got out of nugget hunting was a lot of bullets, shell casings, nails, tin cans, aluminum foil, barbed wire, sunburn and frustration. It wasn't until I started panning for gold in various places around the West that I actually began to collect some of the lovely yellow stuff. This page presents a brief introduction and How-To on the art and science of gold panning. 
The principal behind gold panning is really simple. Gold is heavy. Just about everything else is lighter. If you load a pie-pan shaped container with gold-bearing gravel and sand, proper agitation in water should cause the gold to sink to the bottom, while washing away the lighter stuff that rises to the top. Eventually, all that is left in your pan is the heaviest minerals, including (hopefully) some gold. It really is about that simple. Of course there is more to the story than that.
Equipment needed for gold panning First off, you are going to need some equipment. This photo (click on it to see a larger version) shows about the bare minimum of equipment you need to be a successful gold panner. Start with the water-proof boots. Gold panning is done in the water, usually icy cold mountain streams. You'll want to keep your feet dry. Some nice warm socks (maybe a couple of pairs) also helps to keep your feet warm in that cold water. The green thing is the gold pan. There are lots of different types of gold pans. They all work. so don't spend too much time obsessing over getting just the right kind of pan. Inside the gold pan is the sniffer bottle. It is used for sucking up little bits of gold out of your pan. More on that later. The purple thing is a classifier, also known as a sieve or strainer. It is really optional, but I find it to be a great help. I'll talk about why later. Next, you need some digging tools. A full-size pointed shovel will be real useful (remember what I said about this being hard work?). You'll also want a smaller spade and either an old screwdriver or some other skinny tool for cleaning out small cracks and crevasses in the rocks. The small white plastic pail is used for collecting concentrates. You can use just about any sort of container for that. More on why this is important later.
Big five gallon buckets come in handy for lots of things. You can pack a lot of the other equipment in them along with some water bottles and other supplies, and carry it all down to the creek. Once there, a bucket makes handy stool to sit on in the creek to do your panning and another serves to carry your paydirt from where you are digging it to where you are panning it. Since empty buckets will nest inside each other when stacked, several buckets don't take up much more cargo space in your truck than only one bucket would. I always take along at least a couple of them. Other nice to have accessories are gloves. A nice pair of rugged leather gloves to protect your hands from blisters while working the shovel and protect from cuts and scrapes while digging out cracks and crevasses with the smaller digging tools. Also a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands from the cold water while panning. Also, a pair of tweezers to pick the larger bits of gold "pickers" out of your gold pan, and a glass or plastic bottle to put them in will come in real handy. Naturally you'll want to take all the usual stuff you would take for any outdoor adventure in the wilderness. Things like a first aide kit, warm clothes, drinking water, mosquito repellant (if necessary), sunscreen, etc. I bought a lot of my equipment on Ebay. The rest came from the hardware store. None of it is difficult to find or terribly expensive.
A gold-bearing stream in Arizona The next thing you are going to need is a stream to pan in. You'll want to pick one that has a history of producing placer gold. You can strike out on your own and prospect streams that haven't been mined in the past, but odds are you won't find any undiscovered gold deposits. At one time or another, every stream, river, creek, and beach in North America has been test panned by prospectors. So odds are, you won't find anything new. Going where gold has been found in the past is your best bet. Besides, over time, more gold weathers out of the bedrock and gets carried down into the same creeks and streams that have been mined in the past. Every rainstorm deposits more gold in the stream beds. So don't worry that all the gold has been mined out.
If the stream isn't on public land, get permission from the owner first, or move on. Nobody likes trespassers. If the stream is on public land, make sure there isn't an active mining claim in the area where you want to do your panning. Also check with the agency that manages the land the stream is on. They may have restrictions on what sorts of activities are allowed there. If it is a designated wilderness area, then you probably aren't allowed to do any prospecting there. Even if prospecting and recreational mining activities are allowed on the land, there may be restrictions on where you can do it and what sort of equipment is allowed.
My secret gold panning spot This photo and the one above show my favorite little secret place to pan for gold. I'm not going to tell you where it is because I like the fact that it isn't very crowded. I will tell you what makes it such a good spot though. Not a lot of people know about it. It is on public land where recreational mining and prospecting is allowed. It has a history of producing lots of gold. It is not hard to get to. It is just far enough off the beaten path that most people miss it, even though the general area is overrun with people most weekends during the summer.
Once you've found your perfect stream, you need to find a place to pan and places to dig. They almost certainly won't be terribly close to each other (remember about the exercise I mentioned?). A good place to pan is an area of the stream where the water is deep enough to completely submerge your pan, and has enough water flow to keep the water clear so you can see what you are doing. If the current is too strong though, you will find it difficult to work the pan.
Where to dig? Gold is heavy. It is a lot heavier than most of the other rocks and minerals in the stream. It takes a lot of force from the moving water to keep gold suspended in the water and move it along the stream bed. So anywhere the water slows down is where the heaviest stuff suspended in the water is most likely to settle out. The inside of bends is one place. Water flowing down a stream moves slower on the inside of a bend and faster on the outside. So heavy material is more likely to settle out on the inside of bends. Also, anything that disrupts the flow of the stream, like a big rock, will create eddies behind it where heavy material will settle out. Dig behind and under big rocks. Also, any cracks or crevasses in the rocks are likely to catch gold. Gold will fall into the cracks but be too heavy for the current to wash it out again. Gold, being so heavy, tends to always sink as low as it can in the stream bed. So digging down in the stream bed to solid and impervious bedrock is often a good way to find the gold. Just keep these thoughts in mind as you hit the stream.
A full load of Pay Dirt in my sieve Once you've found a likely spot to dig your "pay dirt", go ahead and start digging. This photo shows my classifier sitting on top of my gold pan. I have filled the classifier with material dug out from behind a big rock in the stream bed. The classifier really just strains out the bigger rocks. Classifiers come in lots of different mesh sizes. This one is 1/2 inch mesh, meaning that it will screen out anything larger than 1/2 inch. It's not absolutely necessary to use a classifier, but it does help a lot by keeping big junk rocks out of your pan and just letting through the smaller material more likely to contain gold. I do my classifying under water. I submerge the pan and classifier in the stream and shake and rotate the classifier over the gold pan which allows all the smaller material to fall through into the pan. The big junk rocks are retained in the classifier and can be discarded.
Every source on panning I have ever seen has warned of the possibility of throwing away a big gold nugget with the rocks in your classifier. They all recommend sorting through and carefully examining the contents of the classifier rather than just tossing them away. I think the odds of tossing out a nugget too big to fit through my 1/2 inch classifier are astronomically low. So I don't waste a lot of time sorting through the junk that comes out of my classifier. I just pile it all up in a couple of spots and take the short-cut of running my metal detector over the piles at the end of the day, just to be sure. So far no big nuggets. But the day I don't double check will probably be the day one is there.
My gold pan after classifying This photo was taken after classifying. Now the gold pan only contains the smaller gravel and dirt. The big rocks are retained in the classifier. One way to make life easier is to take the 5 gallon bucket and classifier to where you are digging. This kind of classifier is designed to fit on top of a 5 gallon bucket. You can classify your material into the bucket as you dig it and only carry the classified material to where you are doing the panning. That way you don't have to waste a lot of effort hauling the big junk rocks over there. Then you can take a break from digging, sit down, and pan out your bucket load of "pay dirt". To make classifying into the bucket easier, fill the bucket to the top with water. Classifying is easier in water. Wet dirt is real heavy though. So don't over-fill the bucket and dump out the excess water before hauling it to your panning site, or you will tire out fast and be really sore the next day. When these photos were taken, I just happened to be digging an area right next to where I was panning, so I classified directly into my pan.
By the way, as I said earlier, classifiers come in lots of different mesh sizes. I use a 1/2 inch classifier just to sort out the bigger junk rocks and make life a little easier. That is the only classifier I use, just to minimize the amount of equipment I have to carry into the field. However, further classifying the material with finer mesh sizes would further reduce the amount of junk you have to pan through to get to the gold. A lot of experts recommend classifying down to much smaller mesh sizes in several stages, carefully examining what remains in each classifier for nuggets at each step of the way. You can do that if you have a lot of time and/or a lot of people to help, but I don't find it necessary or an efficient use of my time for recreational prospecting on my own. There are usually lots of classifiers for sale on Ebay . Or you can roll your own using various sizes of wire mesh from a hardware store.
I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about how to pan your "pay dirt" down to get to the gold. There are thousands of books, videos and web sites that cover how to work the pan. I studied many different sources, read books, watched videos and read web sites on the subject in hopes of learning how to do it. Problem was, all the experts on the subject had different ways of doing it, which just confused the hell out of me. I found that panning is something you really can only learn by doing. After I actually tried it for real, I developed my own way of doing it that was different from any of the sources I studied, but seems to work just as well. After you try it for a while, no doubt you will develop your own technique that works best for you. So I'm just going to give you some general advice and pointers. Once you start actually trying to pan, you will figure it out quite quickly on your own. This ain't rocket science, folks.
The basic idea is to agitate the material in the pan in water so as to stratify it with the heaviest stuff at the bottom and the lightest stuff at the top. Then you want to move the pan so that the water washes the lighter stuff on top out of the pan. Be careful not to pour material out of the pan, or you will lose gold. Periodically you will want to stop washing and re-stratify the material with more agitation. You want to make sure the gold is always at the bottom of the pan.
Concentrates after panning In the end, all you want left in the pan is heavy black sand and (hopefully) some gold. This photo shows the results of panning down a nearly full pan to just black sand and gold. If this is what you see in the bottom of your gold pan, then you are doing it right. The really tricky part of gold panning is separating the little bits and flakes of gold from the black sand. With a little practice, you will get the hang of swirling the black sand around the inside of the pan and concentrating the gold at the edge. If you are lucky, there will be a few bits of gold big enough to pick out with tweezers. I tweeze out these "pickers" and put them in my gold vial. The next photo shows a few "pickers" in my pan, along with a borderline nugget sized bit of gold. For the numerous smaller flakes of gold too tiny to pick out with tweezers, I use the sniffer bottle. Just suck up as many of the little shiny bits of gold as you can, while trying to get as little of the black sand as possible. Sometimes I use my finger to push the little bits of gold together into one spot, out of the bulk of the black sand mass, before sucking them up with the sniffer bottle.
Bits of gold in the bottom of my gold pan There is still gold in that black sand. So don't discard it. Further panning of the black sand to get rid of the bulk of it will reveal still more gold you didn't notice before, sometimes surprisingly big bits that somehow escaped your notice. I don't bother with panning the black sand while I'm on the creek. I dump my black sand "concentrates" into a little pail and bring them home with me. Since I only get to do prospecting while I'm on my vacations, (there's no gold here in Florida), and since vacations are short, I try to make best use of my time in the field. The best use of my time is finding still more gold. So I don't waste too much time trying to extract every last bit of gold from each pan full. I just save the black sands left over in each pan and bring it home with me. Then I can pan them out at my leasure at home and extract every last bit of gold, without any time pressure. It's good fun on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and a great way to relive memories of a great vacation.
Panning the concentrates back home This photo shows me panning out the black sands at home after returning home from Arizona. I pan them a few teaspoons at a time in a tub of water. I use a second pan in the bottom of the tub to catch the sand so I can pan through it several times and get out every bit of gold. My gold pan has riffles cast into one side of it which is very handy for this final stage of panning since they are really good at catching gold. They aren't absolutely necessary though. With care and practice, you could do it with any kind of pan. Once I get rid of the bulk of the black sand by careful panning, I use a powerful magnet inside a plastic bag to get the rest of the black sand out of the pan. Black sand is mostly magnetite, an iron mineral that is magnetic, so it will be attracted to a magnet. The magnet from a large speaker or from an old hard drive works well for this. Just remember to always use it wrapped in a plastic bag. Otherwise you will never be able to get the black sand unstuck from it. Once there is almost nothing but gold left in the pan, I suck it up with the sniffer bottle. Several times I have been surprised to find fairly large "pickers" in the pan that I somehow missed in the field. There will always be lots of little tiny bits of gold too. I always pan through the black sand several times until no more gold shows up. Panning into a second "safety pan" makes it easy to re-pan the concentrates as many times as you want to.
A glass vial containing my gold Once I have extracted all the gold I can, it's time to clean up the contents of my sniffer bottle. I clean out my pan and then dump the contents of the sniffer bottle into it. I then again use the magnet to separate out the black sand that got sucked up with the gold. Then I suck the now clean gold back into the sniffer bottle and transfer it to a storage vial. This photo shows one of my gold vials containing all the pickers, flakes and dust found from only one morning out on my secret little panning creek. Not bad for a morning's work. Ok, so I'm not getting rich, but I am having a lot of fun. It's also good exercise.
Give gold panning a try. I'll bet you'll have lots of fun too.
To see how to process more material than you can with a gold pan alone, visit my home-built recirculating sluice or highbanker page.
UPDATE 10/29/07
In October of 2007 I tried doing some gold panning in Tennessee and Georga. The area where Tennessee, Georga and North Carolina meet has a long history of gold production. It was the sight of America's first gold rush. I've always wanted to do some prospecting in that area. I finally got a chance when we took a vacation out there. The whole area has been in a terrible drought. Many of the places I wanted to pan for gold were as dry as a bone. You can't pan without water. So I had to resort to panning where I knew there was water, rather than where I suspected there was gold. I also resorted to buying some ore from one of the local gold mines and panning it. More on that below.
Panning forgold on the Tellico River in Tennessee Here is a photo of me panning in the Tellico River in Tennessee. We stopped at the ranger station on the road to Bald River Falls and asked the ranger where we could go prospecting in the National Forest. She was very helpful and provided us with maps and directions free of charge. However, she also warned me that due to the drought, most of the popular prospecting locations would be dry. She was right. Creek after creek was all dried up. So I tried my luck on the Tellico River. It isn't known for producing lots of gold, but at least it still had flowing water in it. I only found a tiny bit of gold, but at least I got a chance wet my pan. I really miss panning between vacations, and can't wait go do it again.
Gold we found panning gold ore in Georgia We moved South into Georga and stayed for a while in Dahlonega. Dahlonega was the center of a huge gold rush in the 1820s. There is still a lot of gold to be had in the Dahlonega area. We didn't have time on this trip to go prospecting out on the creeks. However, there are several active gold mines in the area, and some of them will sell you their crushed and concentrated ore (at fairly reasonable prices). They even provide troughs, pans and other equipment if you want to pan it on site. This vial represents only a couple of hours work panning out the ore. I was so happy with the amount of gold we were getting, I bought three more big sacks of ore to bring home and pan out later. There are 2 big nuggets and a whole lot of flakes in there.
A couple of weeks after we returned from our vacation, we threw a "Panning Party" at our house. We invited a lot of people over, I set up big tubs full of water out back, got out the sacks of ore I brought back from Georgia and gave people gold pans and taught them how to pan for gold and told them they could keep whatever they found. Some people thought it was a goofy idea for a party and only reluctantly participated. Once they started seeing gold in their pans though, all trace of reluctance disappeared. They all loved it. Some people got an instant and bad case of gold fever. I have a feeling a bunch of us may be going on a big group prospecting trip to Georgia in the future. After everyone left, I re-panned everything in the bottom of the tubs and recovered all the gold everyone missed. I must be a good teacher though, because there wasn't much in there. It was a great party.


The gold pan is most often used to find the richest gold bearing ground (sampling), so that heavier equipment such as dredges, high-bankers and even simple sluice boxes can be brought in to work only the most promising materials.
Tip: a most common error for novice prospectors to make is not doing enough sampling before setting up operations for the day. Take the time to find the best paying areas before lugging all your equipment in. You are going to be moving a lot of material so why not take a little time beforehand to make sure it is the good stuff. As little as 5 feet in one direction can mean the difference between 5 colors and 20 in each pan!
Panning for gold is actually very simple. In your pan you are trying to recreate on a very small scale what Mother Nature does herself in the riverbeds. You will be attempting to concentrate the heaviest materials (gold) into the bottom of your pan.
Basic Procedure:
Find a good spot to do your panning. It's best to choose a spot where the water is not too deep and moves just swiftly enough to keep the water clear from the panning. Clear vision is vital – you don’t want to wash away a big nugget! Don’t pan in fast moving water - this will cause the water action in your pan to be unpredictable and potentially cause you to lose some of your gold.
Tip: Pick a spot where you will be most comfortable. Wear rubber boots or hip waders so you can get further down to the water level and not wreck your back by stooping all day.
First use a screen, sieve, or classifier to size down the material to a manageable size – one that is as close to the size of the gold you expect to recover. Most of the classifiers are designed to fit over your 14” gold pan or 5 gallon buckets quite nicely. Remember, large nuggets are very rare so you will recover mostly fine gold with an occasional “picker” nugget. Use at least a quarter inch screen (4 mesh). While gold is heavy, very small flakes will have a difficult time displacing the larger rocks. Screening or classifying material down will make this much easier and speed your panning greatly. Pan the screened off rocks and gravel separately and look for the gold nuggets – nuggets of this size will be hard to miss.
Place a small amount of material in your pan – maybe 1/4 to 1/2 pan full at first. Submerge the pan just below the rim and shake side to side or around and around fairly vigorously. Be careful not to wash a lot of material out of your pan while doing this. The old and other heavy material (black sands) will work their way down to the bottom of your pan while the lighter and valueless materials will rise to the top. You will repeat the process often during your panning with the goal to keep the gold in your pan last. This method is often called “stratifying” the material.
Tip: don’t be shy about getting your hands in the wet material to break it up. You want to be sure to rinse off any large rocks and break up any clay balls or roots. Clay balls are gold robbers - break those up.
Next, raise your pan out of the water but keep the material in a semi-liquid state. Tilt your pan forward with the riffles or “traps” facing away from you. Start shaking slightly so that the gold has a chance to settle in the forward and bottom part of your pan but not enough to cause any material to wash over the side. Be sure your material is always in a semi-liquid condition – add more water if needed.

Now you should have your forward edge of the pan just in the water. Start moving your pan slowly up and down in the water so that the water itself is washing off the lighter sands and gravel. Don’t try to pour the material off – doing this will cause your material to “lock-up” and your gold will be lost. Keep the material semi-liquid and continue to use the action of the water to wash the lighter material out of the pan until you see the darker more heavy material coming to the surface. Sweep just a little material off each time – don’t get a huge tidal wave going in your pan or you are sure to lose your gold. When you feel it’s time to re-stratify the material go ahead and bring the pan back and shake it up again finishing with a slightly forward angle. Remember you can never do this too much – keep the gold in the bottom of your pan. Try to shake your pan for at least 10 seconds at first to be sure to get all the gold back down to the bottom. After shaking the pan again you should see the lighter material coming up. Continue sweeping this material out of your pan with water slowly.
Tip: Re-stratify more often than you think is necessary to make sure the gold stays put in the bottom of your pan. Heavier materials are often comprised of iron and are darker than the lighter weight blond sands making it easy to know when to re-shake. Re-stratify your pan whenever you see the dark material coming up. Go slow – you are outdoors so enjoy your time!

As you get further down in the material of your pan you will see the heavier material turn darker and darker and it will be increasingly more difficult wash this material out. Resist the urge to wash the water in harder. Continue sweeping the material out little by little until you have almost just black sand. Luckily gold stands out well against this dark background. If you start to see gold flakes in the heavy sands it’s time to re-shake your pan again.
Tip: most novice panners stop panning with far too much material in their pans. Work your material down to almost all black sand (a few tablespoons at most) before bringing the pan back to look for gold.

Back and forth, round and round, or side to side motion- it’s up to you! As you continue to prospect for gold you find as many methods to panning as there are gold panners. Whether you shake the pan from side to side, use a circular motion, or maybe a little nervous twitch it matters little – whatever you are comfortable doing. After a while you will find your muscles will develop a memory for your technique and you will sink into a habit which you can continue to perfect. Your panning will become swifter and your gold losses will become smaller.
Tip: whatever method you use try to keep it smooth and rhythmic. Trying to wash the water in and out at the same rate each time will help control the contents of your pan. Periodically bring your pan all the way back flat (level) and re-shake so your gold will not creep too far forward in your pan.

Use a magnet to quickly separate the gold from the black magnetic sand concentrates. Place the magnet to the bottom side of your plastic pan and move it in a small circular motion with the pan slightly tilted. This will quickly remove the gold from the magnetic black sands.
Final Tip: you can use a sniffer (snifter; snuffer bottle) to quickly suck up any gold you see. A snifter bottle is a small flexible clear plastic bottle with a small tube attached to its end. Squeezing the snifter bottle creates a vacuum inside, and submerged gold from the pan can be easily sucked up through the tube and saved by releasing the bottle and moving it around the edges of your pan showing gold. However, because time is often limited at the river, I recommend you use your time to actually dig, pan and find gold – use the time at home to finish the clean up and separate your fine gold from the black sands. Take your black sands home with you where you can pan in a controlled environment – go over each pan several times with a catch basin underneath to be sure you got all you can. Use a wetting agent like “jet-dry” or detergent to break the surface tension of the water and keep the very fine gold from floating.
We wish you much luck in your gold prospecting. We are always happy to help our customers in any way. Feel free to email us with any questions about gold prospecting or if you have an interest in buying natural gold nuggets we'll help you find some at a great price.


These live  metal detecting, metal detector, treasure hunting and treasure resources cover metal detecting for gold, metal detector manufacturers, treasure hunting and metal detecting clubs, treasure hunting locations, metal detecting and treasure hunting publications and metal detecting equipment suppliers. Enjoy!


Gold panning is a delightful outdoor recreation for young and old. Many happy families combine gold panning with a picnic by a beautiful stream. It is easy to learn how to pan for gold by following the proven step-by-step gold panning instructions printed on your gold map. You are sure to get "gold fever!"


Big Ten's gold maps for gold prospecting, gold panning, treasure hunting and rockhounding are large size and large scale. They are printed in color on both sides of the sheet. Sheet size is 25 inches by 38 inches. The gold maps are folded to 4 1/4 inches by 9 1/2 inches. The scale is 1 to 250,000 (one inch = about 4 miles). Each gold prospecting and panning map is a composite of portions of several U.S. Geological Survey Topographic Map bases. For your benefit, contour lines are omitted so that details stand out clearly. You will see creeks, branches, dams, dry washes, mountains, canyons, national forests, secondary roads, trails, power lines, and rural schools and churches. You can tell the direction of flow of every little creek and branch. Each gold prospecting and panning map gives step-by step gold panning instructions. The scope of each gold prospecting and panning map is described on the pages that follow.

Practice Gold Panning

If you are not in a known gold-producing location, but want to do some practice panning to acquire some skills before going out into the field, you can practice in your own backyard. Use a washtub to pan into and some diggings from your garden (or wherever) to simulate streambed materials. I recommend that you throw in some rocks and gravel along with the dirt so that it takes on an actual streambed consistency. Take some pieces of lead, buckshot or small lead fishing weights, cut them up into various sizes ranging from pellet-size down to pinhead-size, and pound some of them flat with a hammer. This puts the pieces of lead in the same form as the majority of gold found in a streambed-flake form. They will act in much the same way as will flakes and grains of gold. Leave a few of the pieces of lead shot so that gold nuggets can also be simulated.
When panning into the tub, place some of these pieces of lead into your pan, starting off with the larger-sized pieces first. Keep track of how many pieces of lead you use each time so that you can see how well you are doing when you get down to the bottom of the pan. Practice panning in this manner can be very revealing to a beginner, especially when he or she continues to put smaller pieces of lead into the pan as progress is made.
If you can pan small pieces of lead successfully, then you will not have much difficulty panning gold (higher specific gravity) out of a riverbed. And, who knows? You may end up with gold in your pan-right out of your own backyard! It wouldn't be the first time.
Bags of real panning material are also available from different sources within the industry. These bags usually contain some real gold along with the type of materials you would commonly encounter when panning out in the field. Practice panning with the “real thing” is the best way to get started!

Panning Down All The Way To Gold

It is possible to pan all the way down to the gold-with no black sands, lead or other foreign materials remaining in the pan. This is often done among prospectors when cleaning up a set of concentrates which have been taken from the recovery system of a larger piece of equipment-like a sluice box or suction dredge.
Panning all the way down to gold is really not very difficult once you get the hang of it. It is just a matter of a little practice and being a bit more careful. When doing so, most prospectors prefer to use the smooth surface of the gold pan, rather than using the cheater riffles. The key is to run the concentrates through several sizes of classification screens and pan each size-fraction separately. Use of a smaller-sized pan ("finishing pan") makes this process go easier.
When panning a set of concentrates all the way down to the gold-or nearly so, it is good to have a medium-sized funnel and a large-mouthed gold sample bottle on hand. This way, once you have finished panning, it is just a matter of pouring the gold from your pan into the sample bottle through the funnel. Pill bottles and baby food jars can make good gold sample bottles for field use, because they are usually made of thick glass and have wide mouth. Plastic bottles are even safer.
Another method is with the use of a gold snifter bottle. This is a small hand-sized flexible bottle with a small sucking tube attached to it. Squeezing the snifter bottle creates a vacuum inside. Submerged gold from the pan can consequently be sucked up through the tube.
If you do not have a snifter bottle or funnel, try wetting your finger with saliva and fingering the gold into a container, which should be filled with water. The saliva will cause the gold and concentrates to stick to your finger until it touches the water in the container. This works, but the funnel method is faster.

Gold Panning Procedure

Panning gold is basically simple, once you realize that you are doing the same thing that the river does when it causes gold to concentrate and deposit during flood storms.
The process basically consists of placing the material that you want to process into your pan and shaking it in a left to right motion underwater to cause the gold, which is heavy, to work its way down toward the bottom of your pan. At the same time, the lighter materials, which are worthless, are worked up to the surface of the gold pan where they can be swept away. The process of shaking and sweeping is repeated until only the heaviest of materials are left-namely the gold and heaviest black sand.
Once you are out in the field, you will notice that no two people pan gold exactly alike. After you have been at it awhile, you will develop your own little twists and shakes to accomplish the proper result.
Here follows a basic gold panning procedure to start off with which works well and is easy to learn:
STEP 1: Once you have located some gravel that you want to sample, place it in your gold pan-filling it about 3/4 of the way to the top. After you have been at it awhile, you can fill your pan to the top without losing any gold. While placing material in your pan, pick out the larger-sized rocks, so that you can get more of the smaller material and gold into the pan.

STEP 2: Choose a spot to do your panning. It is best to pick a location where the water is at least six inches deep and preferably flowing just enough to sweep away any silty water that may be washed from your pan. This way, you can see what you are doing better. You do not want the water moving so swiftly that it will upset your panning actions. A mild current will do, if available.
It is always best to find a spot where there’s a rock or log or stream-bank or something that you can sit down upon while panning. You can pan effectively while squatting, kneeling or bending over, but it does get tiresome. If you are planning to process more than just one or two pans, sitting down will make the activity much more pleasant.
STEP 3: Carry the pan over to your determined spot and submerge it underwater.
STEP 4: Use your fingers to knead the contents of the pan to break it up fully and cause all of the material to become saturated with water. This is the time to work apart all the clay, dirt, roots, moss and such with your fingers to ensure that all the materials are fully broken up and in a liquid state of suspension whithin the pan.
The pan should be underwater while doing this. Mud and silt will float up and out. Do not concern yourself about losing any gold when this happens. Remember: gold is heavy and will sink deeper in your pan while these lighter materials are floating out and away.

STEP 5: After the entire contents of the pan have been thoroughly broken up, take the pan in your hands (with cheater riffles on the far side of the pan) and shake it, using a vigorous left and right motion just under the surface of the water. This action will help to break up the contents of the pan even more and will also start to work the heavier materials downwards in the pan while the lighter materials will start to surface.
Be careful not to get so vigorous in your left and right shaking that you slosh material out of the pan during this step. Depending upon the consistency of the material that you are working, it may be necessary to alternate doing steps four and five over again a few times to get all of the pan’s contents into a liquid state of suspension. It is this same liquid state of suspension that allows the heavier materials to sink in the pan while the lighter materials emerge to the surface.
STEP 6: As the shaking action causes rocks to rise up to the surface, sweep them out of the pan using your fingers or the side of your hand. Just sweep off the top layer of rocks which have worked their way up to the pan’s surface.

Don’t worry about losing gold while doing this, because the same action which has brought the lighter rocks to the surface will have worked the gold deeper down toward the bottom of the pan.
When picking the larger rocks out of the pan, make sure that they are clean of clay and other particles before you toss them out. Clay sometimes contains pieces of gold and also has a tendency to grab onto the gold in your pan.
Note: Working the raw material through a classification screen into the gold pan during Step 1 or Step 3 will eliminate the need to sweep out larger rocks in Step 6. This will also allow you to pan a larger sample of the finer-sized material(which contains all the gold you will find in a pan sample).

STEP 7: Continue to do steps five and six, shaking the pan and sweeping out the rocks and pebbles(if present), until most of the medium-sized material is out of your pan.
STEP 8: Tilt the forward edge of your pan downward slightly to bring the forward-bottom edge of the pan to a lower position. With the pan tilted forward, shake it back and forth using the same left and right motion. Be careful not to tilt the pan forward so much that any material is spilled over the forward-edge while shaking.
This tilted shaking action causes the gold to start working its way down to the pan's forward-bottom edge, and continues to work the lighter materials to the surface where they will be more easily swept off.
STEP 9: Carefully, by using a forward and backward movement, or a slight circular motion just below the surface of the water, allow the water to sweep the top layer of worthless, lighter materials out of the pan. Only allow the water to sweep out a little at a time, while watching closely for the heavier materials to be uncovered as the lighter materials are swept out. It takes some judgment in this step to determine just how much material to sweep off before having to shake again so that no gold is lost. It will just take a little practice in panning gold before you will begin to see the difference between the lighter materials and the heavier materials in your pan. You will develop a feel for knowing how much material can be safely swept out before re-shaking is necessary. When you are first starting, it is best to re-shake as often as you feel that it is needed to prevent losing any gold. When in doubt, shake! There are a few factors which can be pointed out to help you with this. Heavier materials are usually
darker in color than the lighter materials. You will notice while shaking the pan that it is the lighter-colored materials that are vibrating on the surface. You will also notice that as the lighter materials are swept out of the pan, the darker-colored materials are uncovered.

Materials tend to get darker (and heavier) as you work your way down toward the bottom of the pan, where the darkest and heaviest materials will be found, they being the purple and black sands, which are usually minerals of the iron family. The exception to this is gold, which is heaviest of all. Gold usually is of a bright and shiny metallic color and shows out well in contrast to the other heavier materials at the bottom of the gold pan.
One other factor to keep in mind is that the lighter materials sweep out of your pan more easily than do the heavier materials. As the heavier materials are uncovered, they are increasingly more resistant to being swept out of the pan, and will give you an indication of when it is time to re-shake.
As you work your way down through your pan, sometimes gold particles will show themselves as you get down to the heavier materials. When you see gold, you know it is time to re-shake your pan.

There is another popular method of sweeping the lighter materials out of the top of your pan which you might prefer to use. It is done by dipping your pan under the water and lifting it up, while allowing the water to run off the forward edge of the pan, taking the top layer of material along with it.
STEP 10: Once the top layer of lighter material is washed out of your pan, re-shake to bring more lighter materials to the top. By "lighter materials," I mean in comparison to the other materials. If you continue to shake the lighter materials to the top and sweep them off, eventually you will be left with the heaviest material of all, which is the gold. It does not take much shaking to bring a new layer of lighter material to the surface. Maybe 5 or 6 seconds of shaking will do it, maybe less. It all depends upon the consistency of the material and how much gold is present.
Continue to pluck out the larger-sized rocks and pebbles as they show themselves during the process.
STEP 11: Every few cycles of sweeping and re-shaking, tilt your pan back to the level position and re-shake. This keeps any gold from being allowed to work its way up the forward-edge of your pan.
STEP 12:Continue the above steps of sweeping and re-shaking until you are down to the heaviest materials in your pan. These usually consist of old pieces of lead and other metal, coins, BB's, old bullets, buckshot, nails, garnets, small purple and black iron rocks, and the heavy black sand concentrates. Black sands consist mainly or in part of the following: magnetite (magnetic black sands), hematite (non-magnetic black sands), titanium, zircon, rhodolite, monazite, tungsten materials, and sometimes pyrites (fool's gold), plus any other items which might be present in that location which have a high specific gravity-like gold and platinum.
Once down to the heaviest black sands in your pan, you can get a quick look at the concentrates to see how much gold is present by allowing about a half-cup of water into the pan, tilting the pan forward as before, and shaking from left to right to place the concentrates in the forward-bottom section of your pan. Then, level the pan off and swirl the water around in slow circles. This action will gradually uncover the concentrates, and you can get a look at any gold that is present. The amount of gold in your pan will give you an idea how rich the raw material is that you are sampling.

A magnet can be used to help remove the magnetic black sands from the gold pan. Take care when doing this. While gold is not magnetic, sometimes particles of gold will become trapped in the magnetic net of iron particles which clump together and attach to the magnet. I prefer to drop the magnetic sands into a second plastic gold pan, swish them around, and then pick them up once again with the magnet. Depending upon how much gold this leaves behind, I might do this several times before finally discarding the magnetic sands.
Many beginners like to stop panning at this point and pick out all the pieces of gold (colors) with tweezers. This is one way of recovering the gold from your pan, but it is a pretty slow method.
Most prospectors who have been at it for awhile will pan down through the black sands as far as they feel that they can go without losing any gold. Then they check the pan for any colors by swirling it, and pick out any of the larger-sized flakes and nuggets to place them in a gold sample bottle. Then the remaining concentrates are poured into a small coffee can or bucket and allowed to accumulate there until the end of the day, or week, or whenever enough concentrates have been collected to make it worthwhile further process them. This is really the better method if you are interested in recovering more gold, because it allows you to get on with the job of panning and sampling without getting deeply involved with a pair of tweezers. Otherwise, you can end up spending 25% of your time panning and up to 75% of your time picking out small colors from the pan!

The Gold Pan as a Production Tool

The main thing to remember about the use of a gold pan is that while it is very effective as a gold-catching device, it can only process a limited volume of streambed material. For this reason, the gold pan is normally not used as a production tool in commercial use, other than in the most remote locations where it would be very difficult to haul large pieces of equipment, and where there is only a small amount of streambed material present -- which is paying well enough to make the panning worthwhile.
The gold pan is most commonly used to locate a richer paying area by sampling, so that larger production equipment can be brought into that location to work the ground to recover more gold.
There are stories in the old mining records about the ground being so rich during the 1849 gold rush that as much as 96 ounces of gold were recovered from a single pan. That is $100,000+ at today’s rate of exchange, and must have been some very rich ground indeed!
Stories like that are rare and pay-dirt like that is not run across very often. However, it is not too uncommon to hear of prospectors today who are able to consistently produce better than an ounce of gold per week with a gold pan in the high country, and have the gold to show for it. Some do better, but these prospectors have usually been at it for awhile and have located hot spots. I personally know of two guys who support themselves with a gold pan, and one of them lives pretty well. As mentioned earlier, the gold pan gives you unlimited accessibility, and these prospectors look around to find the pockets in the exposed bedrock along the edges of the creek-beds in their areas, picking up a few pieces here, a few there, and a little pocket of gold once in awhile. It adds up, and to them it is better than punching a time clock.
There is still plenty of rich ground to be found in gold country if you are willing to do the work involved in finding it.