Gold panning is an awesome outdoor activity that can be fun for people of all ages and health. If you are able to walk slightly off the beaten path, you can pan for gold. Also the equipment needed is very limited, affordable and light weight.
The quest for gold and gold panning is not a new thing. We all know of the gold rush and have heard stories about the vast amounts of gold that were found. While large deposits of gold are not as easy to find now, the total amount of gold available has not decreased significantly.
It is estimated that only about 15% of the gold available was found during the gold rush. At any time there is approximately 1 billion ounces of gold flowing through the streams in North America.
These facts fuel the gold bug.
What Do You Need To Know To Start?
One of the nice things about gold panning is that there really isn’t much that you need to know in order to regularly find gold. The necessary information to get started is fairly basic and any good prospecting shop will have the answers for you.
Find out about the local laws on gold panning and claim staking. Typically, it is legal for a person to pan gold anywhere that they like, as long as they are only using a gold pan. Some exceptions include native reserves and wild life reserves. Landowners usually do not own streams that may pass through their land, but it is wise to seek permission in case of dogs or other dangers. As a hobbyist you can gold pan on a staked claim, but the owner of the claim may become agitated and possibly ruin your day or worse.
Research the geology and history of the area where you are going by talking to a prospecting store. If there is no gold in that area, then there is no point in trying. However there may be other valuables there, such as silver, platinum, or precious stones that can be recovered.
Learn how gold flows through a stream. For example, gold often stops moving when it encounters slow moving water. Because of its density, it quickly sinks down to the bottom of any dirt and rock. This means that gold is usually found behind a rock in a stream as the water eddies.
Get some basic training on how to gold pan. Gold panning isn’t hard, but proper technique can mean the difference between finding lots or just a little.
Learn to identify gold in your pan. Once you’ve seen it, there is no mistaking it. Most prospecting stores have placer gold flakes on hand and if you ask nicely enough, they may allow you to put a flake in your pan along with some water and fine gravel.
How Much Gold Can I Expect To Find?
The definitive answer is — it depends. There are many variables. The amount of gold recovered varies tremendously. You may find a few small nuggets every few pans, while your friend 10 feet away will find nothing but gold dust.
The hardest lesson to learn is where gold is. The path of water, amount of gold moving, types of rocks and speed of the water over the life of the stream, all affect gold and where it settles. This means that you may find decent flakes at a specific spot, but never find anything else there again.
There is no good way to tell how much gold may be found. If you go to the same area each time, you will be able to get a feel for the amount that you typically recover.
Personally, on a 4-hour hike along a stream mostly visiting with friends, I will typically find 1/8th of a gram of gold. Not much, but enough to make it fun and be visible. If I am not being lazy and decide to work specific spots, a lot more can consistently be found and occasionally a nugget too.
What Is It Worth?
That is another variable question. The biggest variable affecting the value of gold is the purity. In some places gold can be 24 karat and other places it will be very coarse and only be 14 karat or less. 24 karat gold is worth about $10 a gram and may be worth even more as an art piece.
To put the size into perspective, a piece of gold the size of a grain of rice can weight a gram. It doesn’t take a lot of flakes in the bottom of a vial to add up to a gram or two.
Even if you do not have much gold and it isn’t pure, it has another value, sentimental. There is something almost magical about having a vial of gold that you found. Inside that vial is the story of the look on your face the first time you found a decent sized flake or nugget, perhaps the memory of a good visit with a old friend or how the stresses of the week melted away after finding some color. Perhaps your vial will become a legacy that you pass to your children as a reminder of the many fond memories from taking them panning and hoping they do the same with their children.
This potentially life long hobby is fun, great exercise and is applicable to anywhere in the world. Once you start finding gold you may find yourself counting the seconds until you can go back and turn over the rock just to the left of where you had been digging.