Spotlight on gold panning. Important information you need to know.

Gold panning can be an enjoyable and potentially rewarding hobby, but the success of your prospecting largely depends on choosing the right location and having the appropriate equipment.

gold panning

Here are some popular places for gold panning, essential equipment you should take as a prospector and the panning processes needed for success in finding gold.


Gold Rush Historic Sites: Many areas in the United States that experienced gold rushes in the 19th century still have gold today.

Some famous locations include:

California (e.g., the American River, the Merced River)

Colorado (e.g., Clear Creek)

Alaska (e.g., the Klondike region)

Western Streams and Rivers: Gold can be found in various rivers and streams across the western United States, such as in Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon.

North Georgia: North Georgia, particularly around Dahlonega, is known for its gold-bearing creeks and rivers.

Western Canada: British Columbia and the Yukon Territory in Canada have gold-bearing rivers and creeks.

gold panning


To be properly prepared for any gold prospecting trip that involves gold panning you need to take the right equipment with you. The following items are your essential needs which can be readily purchased from Amazon and any retailers that specialize in selling gold prospecting equipment. Click on the links to get full details of the items, customer reviews and current prices.

Gold Pan: A gold pan is the most basic and essential tool for gold panning. It’s typically a shallow, wide-bottomed pan with ridges to help trap gold particles.

Classifier: A classifier or sieve is used to screen out larger rocks and debris from your material before panning. This makes the panning process more efficient.

Trowel or Shovel: You’ll need a small trowel or shovel to dig material from the streambed or riverbank.

Snuffer Bottle: This is a small suction bottle with a narrow tip used to suck up fine gold flakes and particles.

Magnifying Glass or Loupe: These tools can help you closely examine small particles to confirm if they are gold.

Vials or Containers: You’ll need containers to store any gold you find safely.

Waterproof Boots: Sturdy, waterproof boots are essential for staying comfortable while working in or near water.

Gloves: Protective gloves can keep your hands safe from sharp rocks and provide insulation in cold water.

Bucket: A bucket is useful for transporting material from the stream or river to your panning area.

Apron or Bib: Some prospectors use a waterproof apron or bib to keep water and dirt off their clothing.

Optional: Gold Prospecting Kit: Some kits are available that include several of the basic tools mentioned above. These kits can be convenient for beginners.


Always prioritize safety when gold panning. Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re near fast-moving water or in steep terrain.

Check the weather conditions before you go, and dress appropriately for the environment.

Respect private property and obtain any necessary permits for public lands.

Be environmentally conscious. Minimize your impact on the natural habitat and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Stay hydrated and bring snacks for longer outings.


Panning for gold is a traditional method of gold prospecting that has been used for centuries. It involves using a simple tool called a gold pan to separate gold from other sediments and materials in a riverbed or stream. Here are the detailed steps that gold prospectors follow when panning for gold:

gold panning

  1. Selecting a Prospecting Location:
    • Gold prospectors typically choose a location with a history of gold discoveries or areas known for gold deposits. They may also research geological maps, local mining reports, or consult with experienced prospectors to identify promising spots.
  2. Gathering Equipment:
    • The primary tool for gold panning is a gold pan, which is typically made of metal or plastic. Prospectors may also use other equipment such as a classifier (a sieve-like device to filter out larger debris), a snuffer bottle (for collecting fine gold), and a small shovel or trowel.
  3. Finding a Suitable Site:
    • Once at the chosen location, prospectors look for areas along the stream or river where gold is likely to accumulate. This could include inside bends, behind large rocks, or in gravel bars.
  4. Preparing the Gold Pan:
    • Before starting, the prospector should make sure the gold pan is clean and dry. This ensures that the gold won’t be contaminated with other materials.
  5. Digging Material:
    • Using the small shovel or trowel, the prospector digs up a small amount of sediment, sand, and gravel from the riverbed. This material is then placed in the gold pan.
  6. Classifying the Material:
    • Some prospectors use a classifier or sieve to remove larger rocks and debris from the material. This helps make the panning process more efficient.
  7. Washing the Material:
    • The prospector then submerges the gold pan in the water and gently shakes it back and forth to wash away the lighter materials (such as sand and silt). This process is called “panning down.”
  8. Tilting and Swirling:
    • While holding the gold pan at a slight angle, the prospector agitates the material by swirling it in a circular motion. This causes the heavier gold particles to settle to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Rinsing and Repeating:
    • Periodically, the prospector will stop swirling and add more water to the pan to help wash away the lighter materials. They may also tilt the pan slightly more to allow the water to carry away more of the material, leaving the gold behind.
  10. Collecting the Gold:
    • As the panning process continues, the prospector will start to see black sand and hopefully gold flakes or nuggets at the bottom of the pan. Carefully, they use a snuffer bottle to suck up the gold particles and transfer them into a vial or container for safekeeping.
  11. Inspecting and Cleaning the Pan:
    • After removing the gold, the prospector inspects the pan for any remaining gold particles. The pan is carefully cleaned, and the process is repeated with more material if necessary.
  12. Recording Data:
    • Serious prospectors may keep records of their findings, including the location, the amount of gold recovered, and other relevant information for future reference.
  13. Respecting Environmental Regulations:
    • It’s important for gold prospectors to follow local environmental regulations and obtain any necessary permits for prospecting activities.


Panning for gold can be a slow and painstaking process, but it can also be rewarding when gold is found. It requires patience, practice, and a keen eye for spotting those elusive gold flakes or nuggets in the pan.

Gold panning can also be a relaxing and rewarding hobby, but it’s essential to manage your expectations. Not all locations will yield significant amounts of gold, and it may take time and practice to become proficient at finding and extracting it. Patience and persistence are key to successful gold panning.

12 thoughts on “Spotlight on gold panning. Important information you need to know.

  1. Panning for gold is such an old practice that was commonly used during the gold rush. I was not aware that one can still do gold panning in the USA and Canada, as I thought that all precious metals belonged to the company that has the prospecting rights to the land.

    Anybody wanting to do gold panning, will find this is a very helpful guide. It tells one the equipment that is required, as well as locations where gold might still be found in rivers in Canada and the USA. 

  2. Hi, Gold panning can be a super fun outdoor adventure, but before you jump in, there are a few things to keep in mind. Start by checking out the local rules and regulations in your area. You might need permits, especially if you plan to pan on public or protected land.

     Also, invest in the right gear like a good gold pan and maybe a sluice box. Learning the right techniques is key, and you can find some handy resources online or even connect with local clubs. 

    Oh, and don’t forget to be a responsible panner by following Leave No Trace principles to protect the environment. Just remember, while it’s exciting, gold panning often gives you a taste of adventure more than a treasure trove, so enjoy the journey!

  3. Hey there,

    Thanks for this article. I read with eagerness as I would love to do something like this.

    Alas in the UK I don’t believe panning for gold is a thing, but your article gave so much info and details on how, what tools and kit are required etc, and tips on how to go about it. Excellent read.

    As you’ve detailed with gold’s current market price, this is likely to be popular in areas where gold reserves are still being found. Really appreciated this article. Now i need to find somewhere i can try this out!

    Cheers again,

    Cherie :o)

  4. How fascinating!

    I’ve never actually panned for gold, but I met somebody once who was really into it.  We were planning on a trip to do it.  It never happened, but I’ll always remember one thing he said.  He said if you follow dry creek beds downstream and look under big rocks and boulders on the upstream side, that you may find some gold accumulated there from when the water was running.  

    That really inspired me.  I love geology and the thought of finding gold in the process of exploring geological formations was too cool.  I regret never having gotten to go. 

  5. Wow, I never knew that panning for gold was quite this simple. It is long and laborious certainly, but I thought it was a little more complicated. This could potentially be a very relaxing hobby if you don’t set your expectations too high.

    I know in South Africa that it is illegal to mine or pan and take the gold. Is it different in the States?

    • Hi Michel and thanks for those comments. In the USA it is generally OK to pan for gold in rivers and streams everywhere except those in National parks but be sure to obtain owners permission if doing so on private property. Jim

  6. I love this article I so badly want to try this out unfortunately there are no experiences like this near me but its definitely in the cards for me in the future! One interesting point made in the article is regarding the historical significance of gold panning during the California Gold Rush era. It highlights how this discovery led to a massive influx of people from all over the world, shaping not only regional but also national economies. This historical context adds depth to our understanding of gold panning beyond just being a leisure activity.

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