How to Pan for Gold

Looking for a new outdoor hobby, one that can be shared with children, wife, and dog? Find a river I will explain how to find gold anywhere.

I will go over the 5 Gold Panning Steps & signs you’re in a good spot.

Gold can be found in many forms, fully-fledged nuggets, “pickers” which are small lumps of gold, flat flakes of gold even crystal-shaped ore.

As long as you have the right equipment and love being outdoors.

Pick a river, get some material and start panning!

#1 Get Some Material to Pan

This is where a shovel comes in handy, especially if you are not at the river bank.

You don’t need an enormous shovel, a small sturdy steel one will do:

Just dig into where you think is best at first, you will accumulate experience by seeing the outcome of your panning and develop your own expertise.

I gave some pointers on where the best places can be found in my beginner’s guide, just in case you feel lost.

#2 Wash out Large Rocks

There are 2 ways to do this step. One by hand and one with a classifier.

By hand:

Fill your pan so it is ¾ full of material. Submerge it in the water so it is just below the surface of the water.

Use a gentle circular motion. The material will spin in a circle inside the pan. Doing this will make most of the dirt and clay wash out of the pan or dissolve.

Pick out the large rocks by hand and repeat the circular motion until no large rocks can be seen.

With a Classifier:

Put your 1/2 inch classifier on your gold pan so it is ¾ full of material. Submerge it in the water so it is just below the surface of the water.

Use a gentle circular motion until everything smaller than 1/2inch is in your pan and all the bigger rocks in your classifier.

#3 Wash Out Light Sand

This is where we use the ridges on the inside of your gold pan. These ridges, if panning correctly, will stop any heavy material from leaving the pan.

Submerge your pan so it’s just below the surface of the water.

Tilt the pan forward towards the ridges

Gently shake the pan from left to right and add in a slight forward movement to shake. Yes, this is where experience comes in and the more you do it the better you get.

Tip: The more material you have, the more tilt you can put whilst gently shaking.

This is going to filter out most of the material, repeat this step until you have about a cup left of heavy material.

#4 Wash Out Black Sand

This is where we get to see the goods! The most exciting moment in prospecting and one you will grow to love.

Raise your pan out of the water, but leave 1/2inch of water in the pan.

Tilt the pan towards you and do a slow circling motion with the water left in the pan. You are aiming to use this water to drag the black sand towards you and leave the gold at the top near the ridges.

#5 Gather the Gold!

Use the snuffer bottle that should be around your neck. Or at least mine always is.

The snuffer bottle works as a vacuum for the flakes of gold. Simply press on the bottle and then aim for the gold when you let go.

Signs you are in a good spot

There are different signs that you may be in a good spot for gold. And they are not all based on what is in your pan.

Rock & Soil changes around the area we gathered our material. Gold has a tendancy to form in places where two different types of geology meet.

Presence of Iron. Iron changes rocks to yellow, red, or purple, its presence is a great indicator that gold is in the area. Reddish soils are also a good place to gather material.

Iron stained rocks

Black sand. Having black sand accumulate at the bottom of the pan is a good sign. It’s magnetite, and where there is magnetite there is gold. A pain to sift threw but a good indicator nonetheless.

Quartz in the area. A good indication that there is mineralization in the area.

“Fools Gold”. Fool’s Gold or Chalcopyrite is often found near actual gold deposits and serves as a sign that real gold is close at hand.

Fool’s gold

In short

Learn to pick a good spot based on the geology around you and in your pan.

Sift first the large rocks, then the light sand, then the black sand. Gather flakes in a snuffer bottle.

Start gathering gold.

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