Panning Gold: Where the Heck is
"Where You Find It" Located?
by Sally Taylor
Sure gold is "where you find it". Anyone even
thinking about taking up prospecting has heard that one. It's
probably the most frustrating answer any beginning prospector
ever hears when asking where to look for gold. Where the heck
exactly is "where you find it" located and why do people keep
telling you that?
While that answer is a bit frustrating for the
beginner there is a lot of truth in it. Gold can turn up in some
pretty unusual places. Sometimes it has been sprinkled through
areas by ancient glaciers or waterways. There are stories of
people finding gold and thinking they had found a place to stake
a claim, to discover later that they had only found the remnants
of some unfortunate prospector's lost cache. Trains and carts
being wrecked while hauling gold to smelters have spilled loads
of ore which might be found later in the streams downhill.
While you might run into bits of gold scattered
by such events, you might also appreciate a word of where you
might be more statistically inclined to make an actual strike of
some good concentrations of "color". It's really not as
mysterious as it has been made to sound.
When you get to a gold bearing region you must
choose a spot to hunt. Your main concern is that you are not
hunting on someone else's property or claim. There are places
you can still be shot for this, and some places where the claim
owners take this right very seriously, so always make sure you
know you are not "claim jumping" before you dig in.
The best place for the beginner to start is
where you know that there are mines or claims uphill and
upstream from your chosen location. Gold will wash downhill into
a stream over time. If you can find a spot where a stream
flowing downhill from known gold localities converges with the
stream you are going to hunt, this is a terrific place to start.
Gold is heavy. It can be carried by a rapid
current, but when the current slows down, the gold will drop to
the creek bed. Start by hunting down stream from a converging
creek or area of color uphill from you. Look for spots in the
creek where fast moving water is impeded or slows down. The base
of a small waterfall is always worth checking as are areas where
the current is diverted by large rocks. Bends of the creek where
water rushes in the middle but slows along the shore of the bend
are another good area. Don't be afraid to be creative. I know a
man that swept a year's living expense worth of gold from an old
corrugated pipe that ran under a road where a creek passed
through. The grooves of the pipe had served as a sluice to catch
the grains and nuggets.
When panning, you will want to dig a bit rather
than just scoop from the top dirt. You might find some traces of
color just scooping the top of the creek bed, but because of its
weight, gold will work it's way down until it eventually hits
something that prevents it from going any further. The smaller
the grain or the more recently it has been dropped, the closer
to the surface you might find it. The deeper you dig, the more
you will find if you are searching a good area. Cracks and
crevices in rock are also a great place to find grains of gold,
but you may need special suction equipment to get it out. There
are items you can buy very inexpensively that will help you do
Just as there are the right places to look for
gold, there are also the right times of year. You will want to
wait until late summer or early autumn which is when the streams
are at their lowest and slowest. A good plan is to go look the
creek over during it's high season and take notes of the
currents when the water is high. Returning later during the low
season, you will already have an idea of good places to look for
gold that has been spilled by the full spring currents.
Through practice you will soon become able to
size up good spots on a creek to pan. When you take your cache
and proudly show it off, if someone asks you where you got it,
you can just smile and say "it was right where I found it".
About the Author
©2006 Sally Taylor: Sal is an avid gem and
treasure hunter, adventurer, writer, and owner of