How to Pan for Gold in a Creek

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Panning for gold isn't easy but it can be fun if a prospector is in the right frame of mind. Understanding the basics of gold panning is simple. Perfecting the gold panning technique takes patience. Gold panning works because gold is a heavy metal and the material around gold, like dirt, is generally light. The object of gold panning is to separate the gold from the dirt as the pan moves in the water. The dirt floats out of the pan and the gold stays in. Be prepared. It could take hours to find the gold that you seek.

Clean the pan and classifier. There are a few brands of gold panning kits. Each brand is a little different, but should have at the very least a pan, a classifier, and a snuffer bottle. The pan and classifier will have oil in it from the manufacturing process. It is important to thoroughly clean the pan with dish detergent and a scouring pad before you get to the creek. Otherwise, the gold will float right out of the pan.

Dig for gold. Once you've located the best area to pan for gold, put on your rubber boots and rubber gloves. The boots will protect your feet from the water in the creek. The gloves will help keep your hands clean as you dig through dirt. Take a spade and dig in the dirt on the bank of the creek. Use the classifier or screen to remove big rocks from the dirt material and fill the pan about three-quarters full.

Immerse the pan in the water. As the water moves into the pan, the dirt will float out. Shake the pan from side to side while immersed in the water. Lift the pan out of the water, then slightly dip the pan in the water, tilting it so that the water washes over the dirt like a wave over sand. Continue to wash the dirt in this manner, immersing the pan, then washing the dirt. Make sure that as you get closer to the heavier material, you keep the dirt with gold in it in the pan.

Clean the gold. Keep panning until you have panned all the way down to the visible gold. Use the water to separate the gold from the dirt by tilting and moving the pan until the gold is on one end of the pan and the dirt is on the other.

Remove the gold from the pan. Fill the snuffer bottle, a plastic bottle with a tube at the top, half way with water. Use the snuffer bottle to suck up the gold that is in the pan. Pour gold out of the snuffer bottle and place it in a glass or clear plastic tube.

Things You'll Need

  • Gold panning kit
  • Rubber boots
  • Rubber gloves
  • Spade
  • Glass tube


  • Make sure that you are familiar with the gold panning laws in your state and that you have permission to pan at the location that you choose.


  • Creeks that contain gold are usually in remote areas like forests and may have snakes nearby.