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Roger Weller, geology instructor                     

Gold Panning
Anthony Kirkpatrick
Physical Geology
Spring 2009

                                          Gold Panning Like The 49’ers
 Panning for gold today is a recreation activity that can be fun and enjoyable for people of all ages.  It can still also be an extraordinary way for people to strike it rich if they happen to be fortunate enough. This art of hunting and searching for gold stated to get popular in California in 1848 when the gold rush started. With in four years California’s population expanded from 14,000 in 1884 to 223,000 in 1852. This was the start of west ward expansion in America; the cause for people to want to go out and populate the western United States. 

           Now, if you wanted to try your hand at gold panning for the first time you would first need to collect all of the proper tools you will need to be successful. Complete gold panning kits can be purchased on-line or the tools can be found at local hardware stores.


The tools needed are-
·         One pan about 10 inches long and a couple inches deep
·         A pair of suction tweezers to collect fine pieces of gold
A suction bottle to gather larger gold flakes
A shovel for digging up material for panning
      Small vials for holding small gold flakes and pieces

Plastic bags to hold any larger gold specimens. 


            Once you have gotten all of that you need to have for a successful gold panning experience, you need to find a place to go gold panning that will give you the greatest chances of finding some gold. The first thing to do is find a river or stream that others have found gold in previously so you know that there is gold in the river to be found. Once a river or stream is picked out you have to look for the places in the river where the gold might have settled. Look for places where the water slows down suddenly. These are places such as around bends in the river, or the shores, and at sand bars in the river. This is because when the water slows down it can no longer carry the heavy pieces of gold so the gold settles in the sand at the bottom or the river or stream. The gold also often gets stuck in cracks in the rocks or will get wedged into pieces of wood; these are also good places to search for gold.


          Once you have fond that perfect place you are now ready to start panning for gold.  The first step is to fill your pan up about 3/4ths of the way with dirt and sand to start the sorting process.  Next you need to sit in a place where the water is about 6 inches deep and the water is flowing at a gentle speed.  This is so when you are sorting the sand and dirt the water will carry away the lighter debris. You then put your pan under the water and break up the clods of dirt, clay, roots, and moss with your hands. While you do this some sand, dirt, and clay will float away while any gold in your pan will be sinking deeper.


          Now after you have broken everything up you shake the pan back and forth forcefully. This is so the material is broken up more and so the heavier stuff sinks to the bottom of the pan while allowing some of the lighter stuff to be taken way by the water.


          As you are shaking the pan you start to gently swipe away some of the lighter materials and you brush and pick out the rocks. Do not worry about the gold falling out from any of this shaking and sorting because gold is very heavy, around 19 times heaver than water and there for falls to the bottom of the pan. You continue the shaking, sorting removing the rocks and pebbles till you a left with the smaller sized materials.


At this point you till the pan on to its side and continue the same process of shaking, only now it must be more gentile so you do not let any of the gold that might be in the pan fall out. After repeating this step for a while you are left with a small amount of dark fine grained material.


Now you put a small amount of water in the pan and swirl it around so you can identify any gold and sort anything else out. If there is any gold in your pan you use tools such as the suction tweezers and take them out.


This is the final step you now you have your gold if there was any to be found.



Works Cited