Panning For Gold

I wrote a little while ago about my desire to dig for diamonds and mentioned that I would also like to pan for gold. I convinced my dad to take me to the foothills in California and we decided to try our luck at panning for gold.

I can tell you without reservation that this is not how I would want to make my living. I was sore for the next three days after our adventure. Although we did find a small bit of gold, it was nothing compared to the amount of work we put in.

We started out simply panning for gold. While this wasn’t too strenuous, it also got pretty boring rather quickly when we weren’t finding any gold. We decided to move up to a sluice box. Instead of picking up a couple of handfuls of sand from the river bottom, this entailed taking out shovels and digging into the river bed.

dad panning for gold

The first challenge was to even be able to dig in the river bed since it was quite rocky. With much effort (and what would make me sore for the next few days) we placed shovel fulls of rocks and sand into a wire grate over a wheelbarrow. The grate had small holes so small stones and sand could get through, but the larger rocks couldn’t. We then washed the small stuff through and threw the larger rocks to the side.

wheelbarrow and grate

After about an hour of digging and sifting, we had a good amount of material in the wheelbarrow. We then took this material and let it run through the sluice box. The box then separated out the gold from most of the other material, but not all of it. While there were a few gold pieces that we could pick from the first part of the sluice box, the inside parts of the sluice box had to be placed into another bucket and washed. This released the sand, small pebbles and gold that the sluice box had trapped. Then we took this material and panned it to find the gold.

sluicing for gold

After about 2 hours we managed to find a small amount of gold which undoubtedly wasn’t worth the amount we paid to rent the panning and sluicing equipment. It was, however, a great day spent with dad playing in a river and joking around. Although I have no plans to do it again, I can now say that I have been panning and sluicing for gold – another one of the things I wanted to do in my lifetime scratched off the list.

small amounts of gold found

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7 Responses to Panning For Gold

  1. SteveL says:

    I remember going into my basement and seeing my dads huge gold panning machine. His plan was to do gold panning vacations and pay for the vacation with the gold he found.

    Didn’t quite work.

  2. ethan says:

    Looks like you did great for an hour’s digging! It’s hard work, but can you believe some of us do it for the pure fun of it? I’ll be spending the next two days solid digging, panning and sluicing. Will I get rich? Nope, but I’ll spend two days away from phones, computers, etc. To me that’s priceless.

  3. The Critic says:

    Just having the ability to walk, talk, see and be outside where one can enjoy the combination of history, nature and a short term education on how it use to be done is surely worth more than money can buy….Priceless

  4. Rick Pugh says:

    Every time I vacation I combine camping with prospecting. I gives me alot to do during the day. Some of the places I visit are commercial but you meet some great people. But there is not only gold prospecting, there are crystals on Micheal’s Mountain in Arkansas as well as The Crater of Diamonds. There are the ruby mines in the Smokies,Turquoise in New Mexico. I plan a trip to Coffeeville, Alabama for guaranteed finds of sea fossils. We’ll see but it will still be an adventure.

  5. FlourGold says:

    I have good memories prospecting with my dad, too. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to prospect together for over thirty years. They are some of my most cherished memories.

    Thanks for sharing the story. I really hope you have a chance to go again. It really is a great way to find yourself. Plus, while you’re there, you might just find some gold.

  6. white phire says:

    nobody ever finds very much on their first outing. If it only took you an hour to find that much it seems like you’re in a pretty rich area. You just need some more experience to hone in on the pay streak. California is loaded with gold if you know where to look. Read up on “the new 49’ers” they are a gold panning club that owns a bunch of pretty good claims and all the members have full access.

  7. ryan says:

    That’s a nice story and pretty typical for most gold panning excursions. I think the amount of effort put into finding a few flecks of gold is rarely worth it financially, but the time spent bonding with friends and family makes it a great hobby.

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