Amateur miners who pan for gold (and actually end up seeing it in their lode deposits) say there are few things that match the thrills brought about by such an experience. The fact that the yellow metal fetches great amounts of money today is not the only incentive behind panning for gold: amateur/hobby miners claim that the great outdoors, the ease of availability of right tools, and the information pertaining to panning of gold have all made the activity an exciting as well as a recreational process.
Today, for example, it is very easy to have the know-how about all aspects of gold mining than was the case in the past. For example, we can easily turn to the Internet and find out where gold has been found in the past, the knowledge about where it is legally acceptable to mine as well as the prospecting tools and information that one needs to equip him/herself with before setting out on this activity.
Compared to any other country, the United States is ahead as far as number of amateurs prospecting for gold are concerned. The term Gold Rush has often always been used with the Wild West, mainly states like California etc. However, gold has also been prospected in the southern states including Georgia, North Carolina as well as in Alaska.
Today, California is facing one of its worst droughts in years. The streams are all drying and this is bringing in more gold prospectors in such areas than before. It is believed that the low river and stream levels are helping bring gold to the surface. However, before one goes off prospecting on river beds in the State, it is essential to ensure that the land one is prospecting upon is not owned either privately or by institutions or trusts. It is best to pan for gold only by seeking permission of the land owner beforehand. In many cities, information pertaining to where you can legally pan for gold is available online as well as in local town offices.
Tools you will need
Many different tools are needed when you go for gold prospecting. Important among these are rock picks and rock hammers. Geologists often use these while working on igneous and metamorphic rocks. You might also want to buy chiselled tip hammers that geologists use when chipping soft sedimentary rocks. You can get hand sledges or heavy rock hammers for the more heavy duty kind of work in certain areas. You can buy all this equipment online or in stores selling other heavy duty stuff like packaging hot melt equipment. Also buy a durable field bag to hold your tools, maps, specimens, books etc. Carry plenty of water bottles and snacks if you plan on spending the entire day in the field. You would also need Gold pans that come in diameters ranging from 10” to 16”. We also recommend leather holsters, cases and lanyards to hold your pencils, bottles, field books etc.
Perhaps the greatest cost you will have to shell out is on the sluice box-recommended especially to serious miners. Sluice boxes help process more material than gold pans but you should be prepared to shell out at least $1000 for each of them. Remember that this is an investment: if you strike gold this investment will likely pay for itself several times over.
Simplest method of panning gold
Simply fill in the river gravel into the sluice box or gold pan and add some water and swirl around. Water and light impurities will swirl to the side and the heavier material will remain in the pan. (The Mexicans have also developed better techniques and equipment called the batae-a flat dish that helps filter out the unwanted stuff, similar to gold pans.)
Today, entire families are rushing to river beds in drought torn California to include gold panning as part of their recreational activity for summer. Even if they do not find any gold, they feel it is a day well spent in the great outdoors.