Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

12.6 Panning for Gold


12.6: Panning for gold

See suggestions provided in 12.4 on how to locate gold fields nearest you to arrange a panning trip with your club‘s juniors. You might need to go outside your own state and venture further into your general region, thus making for a longer, more ambitious two-, three-, or even four-day field trip adventure. A reminder: always obtain permission from landowners before undertaking any field trip, especially when prospecting for a valuable resource like gold, and check to make sure the spot you’re panning or prospecting is not under a claim.

However, no matter how hard you look for a good local gold-panning locality, the unfortunate reality is that not every state is rich in gold resources. If the search for a gold-panning site within reasonable proximity for your kids comes up dry, a good alternative is to set up tubs of water on a backyard patio and pour in bags of gold concentrate. You can order these from many places through the web. In a search engine, just enter 'gold panning concentrate' and a host of commercial sites pop up, many from California and Alaska. Prices ranges from 'practice' bags at 2 pounds for around $15.00 to super-deluxe 20-pound bags at over $400. (I recommend the practice bags…) Here are just a few examples of the many sources you can find on the web to purchase gold panning concentrate, along with gold pans and other equipment:

Mineral Information Institute. They sell a 'Gold Panning Kit' with gold concentrate, pan, instructions, etc., as well as individual pans and individual bags of concentrate at reasonable prices.

The Lifestyle Store. You can get a practice supply of drywasher concentrate from the California Mojave Desert.

Felix Paydirt‘s Gourmet Gold. From the Fairbanks, Alaska, mining district, you can get bags ranging from 2 to 51 pounds.

Gold Fever Prospecting. Get a variety of equipment, books, and concentrates from the California Motherlode.

Some companies selling concentrate also sell equipment or provide a beginner‘s package with concentrate, a pan, and brief instructions. Basic gold-panning equipment includes a gold pan, hand lens, magnet, eyedropper (for picking up tiny gold flecks), vial, and a long screwdriver or other rod to dig out sediment in crevices. Basically, gold panning involves combining sand and gravel with water in a gold pan and swirling and shaking so that the heavier grains of gold settle to the bottom while lighter sand and gravel is removed from the pan.

Here are just a few of the many good resource books about gold panning and prospecting:

Angier, Looking for Gold: The Modern Prospector’s Handbook

Butler, Recreation Gold Prospecting for Fun and Profit

Lagal, The New Gold Panning is Easy 

Von Lusch, Gold Prospecting

Note: Kids who go into the field to pan can use this activity toward satisfying requirements for their Field Trip badge simultaneously (Activity 8.3), as well as the Collecting badge (Activity 5.1).