How to Find Gold in a Creek

boulder creek image by Alan Pickersgill from

Gold prospecting is an interesting and potentially profitable pastime for many people. Those involved in gold prospecting often search in streams and creeks where gold, washed down from the surrounding hills, settles. According to the California Geological Survey, one of the simplest methods used to locate gold in a creek is panning. In panning, a prospector uses a shallow, metal or plastic pan to separate gold from other materials. This is a quick and effective method for identifying potential gold deposits within a creek.

Look for gold to settle and accumulate in certain areas in creeks. Check gravel and sediment beds on the upstream side of the inside of bends of the creek. Search behind large rocks and boulders, in exposed tree roots, and along crevices where gold will catch against obstructions.

Dig rocks, gravel, sand and sediment from the area you believe holds gold. Take this raw material to an area where the water is shallow to allow you to work comfortably and safely. Look for slow moving water that will help to wash away any sediment or cloudiness from the raw material.

Remove any large rocks or stones. Sometimes gold forms as an aggregate in quartz or other minerals, so inspect these rocks carefully. Place the remaining material in a gold pan. Add water to the pan and work the material back and forth quickly to rinse out any sediment or mud.

Work the remaining small stones and sand in a rocking action to help any heavier gold settle and separate from worthless material. Tip the pan, occasionally, to let the water wash the unwanted material from the pan. Continually examine the material for signs of gold. Because the gold may be very small flecks, scrutinize the material carefully.

Continue to work that area, if you find gold. Also, look in adjacent areas along the creek for other locations that may hold gold deposits.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Bucket
  • Prospecting pan


  • Consider looking for gold when creek levels subside after a strong rainfall or flooding. The rushing waters will often wash gold downstream from lode areas. Areas previously prospected may then hold new deposits of gold.


  • Ensure that you are on property you can legally prospect. To prospect on private property or on a filed claim, obtain the permission of the owner in writing before entering the property.