Got a Hankerin' to Do Some Gold Panning?
You've come to the right place! Panning for gold is becoming more and more popular again - for several reasons. Not least of which is the price of gold these days!
Collect even an ounce of gold and sell it for $1295 (the current per ounce price as of publication) - that'll pay a lot of grocery bills during hard times or good!
Gold panning is also popular because it's so easy to started and doesn't require much in the way of financial investment or equipment.
If truth be told, all you really need is a pie pan and a stream. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to have some idea of how to go about it.
And that's where we come in! Having lived in and near Gold Country for most of our adult lives, it would be difficult not to have developed an appreciation for California Gold Rush history.
It would be equally difficult not to have picked up some tips and Insider Secrets on how to pan for gold! So, here's what we've learned and what we're happy to share with you.
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Panning for Gold
I Don't Know About You, But the Recession's Not Over for Us
Panning for gold is one of the methods used in placer mining - "the mining of alluvial deposits [river soil] for minerals." And, although it's hard work, gold panning has the advantages of being easy to learn and very inexpensive. Anyone can do it!
Today, what with the economy in a slump, people losing their jobs and still unemployed, and gold prices being at all-time highs - $1295 per ounce at press time - more and more people are turning to the rivers and stream beds of Northern California and panning for gold!
And this year (2014), California is suffering from a severe drought and all our waterways are at record lows. How does that help? River bottoms and stream bottoms where gold may have been deposited in the past, and that are normally covered in water, are now accessible to the casual panner.
What used to be called recreational panning is taking on a more serious slant! It's said that, in spite of all the gold that was discovered and extracted during the California Gold Rush, as much as 80 percent of the gold that existed in California remains in the ground.
And there's the rub... most of it is underground. However, what's
underground often gets brought to the surface by heavy Winter and
Spring storms. So gold panning in California is still a worthwhile
Panning for Gold
Do You Know How to Start?
Here's a demo video that shows how you, too, can pan for gold:
To recap the video's gold panning instructions:
Panning for Gold
Do You Know Where to Start?
Photo by Wolf Rosenberg
First of all, you want to find a stream or creek with a history of producing placer gold. It means that somewhere along it's course there are gold deposits. And that's important when you're panning for gold!
Your spot should be on public land where recreational prospecting is allowed, or you should have the owner's permission if the land is privately owned.
The area you want to dig and the place you choose for panning will most likely not be the same place, or even close to each other, so plan on getting a little exercise.
For digging, find a spot where the water has been forced to slow down - that's where the gold will have dropped to the bottom because of its weight. Try the inside of a bend, under and behind a large rock, or downstream of a fast-moving rapids where the water has slowed back down.
For your panning operation, choose an area of your waterway with deep enough water that you can submerge your pan completely. You'll also want the water to flow enough to move the silty stuff downstream, but not so fast as to make panning difficult.
That's all there is to it! If a spot you've chosen doesn't seem to be panning out (now you know where terms like "it didn't pan out" come from), try somewhere different next time. That's what the 49ers did!
Panning for Gold
Real vs Fool's
© Jane A. Sawyer
Ever wonder if you would recognize real gold if you saw it? Me too! I was also afraid I'd throw out what I thought was Fool's Gold only to have it be the real thing!
James Marshall and John Sutter tested the gold found by Marshall by various means such as pounding it with a hammer, boiling it in lye, and dunking it in aqua fortis (nitric acid). Apparently they weren't anymore sure how to identify gold than you or I!
These more modern tips should help you distinguish between the real glitter and the faux glitter when you're panning for gold:
Probably the easiest way to tell these two minerals apart is what I like to call the "Streak Test" (No, you don't have to streak across the room with no clothes on...)
Interested in the history of the California Gold Rush? Here you are!
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