Where to pan for gold

Gold Panning In The United States

American history is full of prospectors who moved out west to strike it rich with nothing more than a nice river and a pan to sift through the sand.  You can also find the legends of thousands of men and women who really did make a mint by panning for gold.

Much of the gold carried downstream by the rivers of the western and Appalachian states has already been panned away by our Wild West ancestors.  However, there is still enough gold and riches to be found among the sand and silt to attract a sizable group of devoted followers.

Where To Pan For Gold Panning Opportunities

Old wisdom professes that the best place to look for gold is where it’s already been found.  Following that advice, the best places to look for gold are the following states, listed from north to south and west to east:

  • Washington – Gold has been found to pan out in the northern half of the state.
  • Oregon – The best places to look for gold is Oregon is along the borders of western California and Idaho.
  • California – The eastern half of the California is particularly rich with gold.
  • Montana – A good place to pan for gold in Montana is the along the borders Idaho in the southwest corner of the state.
  • Idaho – Idaho is one of the few states where gold has been panned regularly throughout the state.
  • Nevada – Nevada is particularly rich with gold, especially in the western half of the state.
  • Utah – Utah is not especially rich with gold for panning, but there are still several good places in the northwestern corner of the state.
  • Arizona – There are a few places in the southern portion of the state with great gold panning opportunities.
  • Wyoming – Wyoming has a handful of good gold panning sites, mostly along the northern and western borders.
  • Colorado – Colorado is historically very rich in gold for panning, and great pay dirt can be found throughout the state.
  • New Mexico – Arizona has a few rich sights for gold panning, especially in the northern quarter of the state.
  • South Dakota – Gold has been panned in a handful of sites near the Wyoming border.
  • Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas – Each of these states have wonderful gold panning sites in and along the Appalachian Mountain range.

Other than the states listed above, there are a few places in the continental United States where gold has been panned, but these are relatively few and far between.

Narrowing Down Your Search For Gold Panning Sites

Obviously, gold can only be panned out of running water sources such as rivers, creeks, and streams.  But even after narrowing your search that much, there are still thousands of miles worth of running water in just the gold-rich states.

To help narrow this down further, look for places where gold naturally gathers:

  • Bends – The outer edges of bends in creeks and rivers collect gold deposits nicely because the water pushes it against the banks, then carries much of the lighter silt and sand away.
  • Sandbars – For much the same reason that gold collects along river bends, it collects along the banks of sandbars, especially along the edge that catches the current.
  • Logs and debris – Debris like logs wedged against river banks are an excellent place to pan for gold, as they act like a natural gold pan and follow the same basic principles.

Other Things To Keep In Mind

Panning for gold is a for-profit pastime, and as we all know there are many rules and regulations to follow wherever money is concerned.  Be certain that you make yourself aware of the laws governing gold panning in the state you choose to gold pan in, and acquire the appropriate licensing and / or permits if it is required.

Also, ensure that you do not pan on private property.  Not only is this a trespassing issue, but in most areas, anything you pan out of a private stream or creek can be seized by the owner.  If you have permission to pan on private property, make sure you have a notarized copy of the agreement in case you strike big on the property.

The best way to take care of most of the legal issues at once is to join a gold panning club or association.  These will have resources readily available to protect you against potential legal problems, and may even be able to get some expert advice on where to pan for gold in the area you’ve chosen.

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