How to be Successful Panning for Gold

By Francis Walsh
Successful gold panning, high-quality gold ore
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Manipulating gold ore in the bottom of a flat pan to separate gold from debris takes more than nimble fingers and wrists. There are techniques to use to be successful panning for gold. Making the decision to prospect is easy, but many new prospectors find that panning for gold is harder than they thought. Panning for gold correctly will yield more gold in the bottom of your pan when you know how to get rid of the debris quickly and effectively.

Locate a gold-rich area to be successful panning for gold on maps obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Find locations on the maps that are adjacent to active mining operations on public land. Know where the highest concentrations of gold is before you attempt to pan for gold effectively.

Prepare a mining site where you can pan for gold near a waterway or have enough water to fill the pan and to collect loose debris while panning. Panning done in the waterway or over a large container filled with water can remove the non-gold material quicker.

Classify gold ore by separating the different-sized material. You need the finest material for fast, efficient panning. Shovel the classified gold ore into the pan. Fill it with about 5 pounds of loose dirt without large rocks. Leave room in the pan for water. Position the pan and gold ore over a catch container filled with water or over a natural waterway. Tip the pan forward and let water fill up the pan without spilling the gold ore inside the pan.

Place the pan on the ground and use your hands to mix the material in the pan. Break up all the large clumps of dirt. You want to break up everything that is compacted together to loose any gold in the sediments. Bring the pan back to water once the gold ore is broken down and cleaned with water in the pan.

Tip the front of the pan forward and allow the largest stones and rocks to fall out of the pan when the water escapes. Refill the pan with water and hold it flat, suspended over the water. Shake the pan, gold ore and water to vibrate the sediments inside the watery gold pan. You want the heavier, smaller material to sink to the bottom. Shaking the pan from side to side speeds up the process. Now tip the pan forward again and let the largest of the debris fall out of the pan. As the heavy materials sink to the bottom during shaking, the largest materials will stay on top. Lose the biggest material, fill the pan with water and agitate it again.

Hold the pan at a 45-degree angle to the water with the front tip of the pan sitting just under the surface when the material is down to the finest particles. Collect water with just the tip of the pan by lifting it up out of the water and then drop the tip back down to let the fine sands separate from the heavy black sands (iron sand) and gold material, which will be located at the bottom of the pan after successfully panning for gold. Suck up gold nuggets, gold flakes and gold dust left at the bottom of the pan using a gold snifter or your fingers. A plastic tube partially filled with a liquid (snifter) will suck up gold after panning for gold.

About the Author

Francis Walsh has been working as a freelance writer since 2003. He has contributed to websites such as Shave, Autogeek and Torque & Chromeas, as well as provided content for private clients. Walsh has worked as a performance part-packer and classic car show promoter, now serving as crew chief for Nitrousfitz Racing.