Gold panning is the activity of using a pan in streams, lakes and ravines to separate gold from other materials and minerals. Anyone can find a heavy gold nugget, making the activity as exciting as it is laborious. All you need is a gold pan, a shovel and a lot of luck and you just might strike it rich. When gold panning, it's best to find a location where the water is not too deep and flows just fast enough for you to sift through your finds.
Washington state is home to rivers and streams located in historic mining districts. Places along the Mountain Loop Highway by Granite Falls and Darrington, the regions of Blewitt Pass-Swauk Creek and Entiat-Chelan, the Lake Wenatchee area and Okanogan are locations where gold seekers can pan for gold. According to the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," gold is usually found in spots such as the inside of river bends and in the slack pools near boulders and large rocks, especially during floods.
The Golden Coast of California has multiple sites where you can enjoy gold panning such as the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park in North Bloomfield, South Yuba River in Bridgeport, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma and Columbia State Historic Park. Visit Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where James W. Marshall found gold on the American River in 1848. This historical discovery ignited the population growth of the West. Gold panning is permitted on the east side of the river; no mining gear but hands and pans only are allowed.
Visit the Commonwealth of Virginia and test your gold-searching skills at the Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania. Before the California gold rush, Virginia was the third leading gold producer in the United States. From April to October, the Lake Anna State Park offers weekend programs on the history and methods of gold panning. Boat excursions of the 13,000-acre lake are also offered where visitors can stop and pan for gold and then tour the19th century Goodwin Gold mine's remnants.
Visit the Peach State and pan for gold in the cities of Dahlonega and Cleveland. Crimson Gold Mine (crissongoldmine.com) and Gold n Gem Grubbin (goldngem.com) offer daily gold panning where visitors pay by the bucket. Crisson Gold Mine was established in 1847 as an open-pit gold mine, making it the oldest gold-mining establishment in the northern Georgia region. The mine sells ore by 5-gallon buckets; you can pan at the gold mine or take the ore home with you. The mine also provides trommel machines so you can separate gold from the sand faster.