Choosing a Location To Pan For Gold
One of the most important steps in gold panning is finding a suitable location. You can be the most experienced prospector around, but unless there's gold in the ground or flowing down the stream, you simply aren't going to have any luck. On the other hand, even a beginner can walk away with a nice chunk of valuable gold if they're in the right place at the right time, which is one of the keys to having a successful gold panning trip. Before you go tossing your pan into just any stream or river, you should do a little research to ensure that it's not only a place where there *might* be gold, but also that it's completely legal for you to pan there.
Don't Break The Law!
Common sense should tell you that the best place to pan for gold is where scientific evidence has proven there to be an abundance of gold. With that said, you first have to consider the legality of any location you're thinking of panning for gold at. Unless you have legal rights to access, prospect and keep the gold at a certain location, you simply can't can't pan for gold there. Even if you come away with some gold, you run the risk of legal prosecution in addition to forfeiting any gold you've found there. The bottom line is that ignorance is no excuse for the law, so make sure you're abiding by local and federal laws when panning for gold.
How To Determine if Gold Panning is Legal
Unfortunately, determining the legality of a specific location is oftentimes difficult, if not impossible. The laws governing whether or gold panning is acceptable will vary depending on the owner. Some state or federal government-owned land may allow individuals to come in and pan for gold certain locations, while other government land may prohibit it all together. The only way you're going to find out whether or not panning is allowed on a stretch of land is to contact the owner or entity in charge of the land. If you're thinking of panning for gold at a national park, do a little research online to try and find a contact phone number for them. The two minutes it takes to give them a call may reveal whether or not gold panning is allowed.
Something else that you'll have to be aware of when searching for a location to pan for gold is if it's already been claimed. People and businesses can purchase gold placer claims on land that entitle them to any and all gold found within the ground. Essentially, these are used to "protect" someone's find once they've discovered gold. For instance, if you're out panning for gold and stumble upon a rich stream that's just filled with it, you may be able to purchase a claim for that land giving you exclusive rights to prospect it. Anyone else who tries to pan for gold here would be breaking the law since you're the one with a claim.
Of course there are also hundreds of locations across the country that charge anywhere between $5 to $20 bucks for people to come out and pan for gold on their site. Dahlonega, GA has several great sites such as these for beginners to come out and get a taste of the gold panning hobby. If you're serious about gold panning, though, you'll want to find your own site where hundreds of tourists aren't flocking to.
Streams and Rivers
Would you believe me if I told you that gold can be found in every stream and river in the world? Yep, it's a fact that gold is everywhere around us, but the problem is that most streams and rivers have such a small amount of it that panning any sizable amount would take quite a long time. Don't let that stop you from tossing your pan into some nearby streams and rivers, though, as you might find a nice little honey hole that pays off nicely.
Some of the more experienced gold panners may spend hours digging through the local libraries to find out what types of geological excavations and projects have occurred on on a river or stream. While this can certainly yield some valuable information in regards to how much gold is there, it's usually not worth the extra time and energy, especially for beginners. The several hours it takes to research a stream or river is time that could be spent panning for gold, which will give you information that's more accurate than any local records or permits logged in the library.
When you're just starting out, I recommend choosing a stream or river that meets the following criteria:
- It's completely legal for you to pan for gold.
- In close proximity to your home or location where you're staying.
- Easily accessible and doesn't require a mile-long hike through dense brush.
- Not flooded with other gold panners or people in general. Once other people see your success gold panning, chances are they'll give it a try.
- Contains both fast and slow moving water.
If you're able to find an area that meets the criteria listed above, then you've found a good place to start panning for gold. Of course this still doesn't guarantee success when panning for gold. Take your time and stay on one area of a river or stream before moving on to the next. With a lot of patience and a little bit of luck, you'll start pulling out gold nuggets in no time!