Gold Panning for Beginners

Is Gold Panning for you? In this post, I will show you how Gold Panning for Beginners may be the best way to spend some time exploring rivers and streams on your next excursion into the wilderness. With the price of gold hovering at $2401.55 Canadian Dollars today, June 25, 2020, is it any wonder that interest in Gold Panning is at an all-time high.

Who can Pan for Gold in British Columbia?

In British Columbia, Canada, where I live, anyone can pan for gold, in any stream, if you use ONLY a shovel and a gold pan. This is ONLY if you are not on or in a …

  • a claim/lease,
  • park, protected area/reserve or heritage site
  • private property,
  • or First Nations land.

… without permission.

This is the easiest and best place to begin your quest for Gold in British Columbia. In addition to this, and for your information, the government’s Mineral Titles Online (MTO) SYSTEM to make maps that show you where there are claims, parks, private property and First Nations Lands is where to focus your first efforts.

Some things to know and understand before you go panning for Gold.

Panning for gold using a shovel and a gold pan in a creek or stream or creek is called placer mining. This is to differentiate it from hard rock mining which is mining in solid rock. Placer mining is finding and mining gold that has been deposited by moving water.

How to Pan for Gold

Gold Panning is based on the theory that Gold, the element, is very heavy and dense. In fact, it is approximately 70% heavier than Lead. Gold nuggets and flakes, because of their weight and the flowing action of water, tend to work their way down through the lighter sand and pebbles.

Here are the basics to get you started panning for gold. Don’t forget to bring an old prospector’s hat. The older and the rugged they are the more you’ll look like a gold miner, and don’t forget to bring along lots of patience. Finding big gold nuggets and getting rich, can take a while. If you do find the Eldorado, don’t yell and scream too loud, or start shooting your revolvers in the air to attract attention. You’ll have to make your way back to town, on your mule, and you don’t want him to all flustered and hornery.

1. Shovel some paydirt into your gold pan, about half a pan full.

2. Add water to your pan, by gently and carefully lowering it into calm water.

3. Wash and remove the larger pieces of gravel and clay. This is done by hand and you can break down the bigger pieces like this as well. Break the small clumps by hand.

4. Shake the pan from side to side easily to get everything swirling. With practice, you’ll develop a technique of swirling and shaking to break down the material in the pan.

5. As the water gets dirty, carefully tip your pan to the side a bit to get rid of the dirty water.

6. Get some clean water in again, being careful not to lose any flakes. More shaking and swirling. More patience. Now’s the time to go slow. The gold will settle at the bottom because of its heavier weight. Don’t be too rough or stuff will fall out of your pan.

7. This technique will get the flakes and nuggets to the bottom of your pan.

8. After all, this effort will bring you down to black sand, gold flakes, and perhaps a small nugget.

Where to Pan for Gold

You already know that you can’t pan for gold on anyone’s claim, on private property, in parks, and on First Nations Land. If you’re still interested, my best recommendation is to seriously find out where you can pan, and go give a “shake and swirl”. There may be some creeks and rivers where you hike in the backcountry.

The key to finding placer gold is in its density and weight.

  • It tends to settle in places where the water slows down
  • around the inside bends of a river or stream
  • on and behind gravel bars
  • behind boulders, bedrock, and any type of obstruction

Stay out of trouble

Gold Panning for Beginners is intended to get you out on a creek or river to enjoy Nature’s wonder and beauty. Make sure you’re not panning on someone’s claim or property. Miners take this very seriously, and you don’t want to turn a fun weekend into “a running to save your life adventure”.

In the Old Days, claim jumpers, were shot. That’s not a nice way to get you out on a stream panning for gold, but what I want to emphasize, is that you can’t go panning for gold anywhere you like. Having said, Gold Panning for Beginners can be a lot of fun, and a great way to spend time in the outdoors.

To get started you will need a basic kit, which includes a few pans, a scoop, and a snuffer bottle to pick up the small flakes. Your best starting point is to locate a placer miner in your area and give him a call. Many of these miners purchase small claims that they work part-time or full time. Like most human beings, most placer miners are friendly chaps that love to talk about Gold!

What is a Free Miner?

In British Columbia, you need a Free Miner’s Certificate to buy and sell mining claims, and most miners, prospectors, and industry professionals have a Free Miner’s Certificate. Being a Free Miner dates back to Medieval  Europe where being a free miner brought status and freedom when freedom was reserved to the select few.

Mining Law in British Columbia dates back to before the province even existed. The modern history of British Columbia begins with the first explorers and the fur trade, but it wasn’t until word that gold had been discovered in what was then called New Caledonia that things really got started.

The Mining Law of British Columbia was modeled from regulations in other British Colonies. These underlying principles date back to Medieval Europe and all the way back to the Roman Empire.

Mining during Greek and Roman times was primarily conducted by prisoners and slaves. The first Gold coins were probably produced in Lydia, more than 2000 years ago, during the 6th Century BC. When the Romans began producing gold and silver coins to be used for currency, it was quickly realized that these precious metals could not be produced by traditional means. With increased demand and supplies running out, it was obvious that more knowledge and specialized mining skills would be needed.

The Romans realized that these prisoners and slaves possessed excellent mining and prospecting skills so they gave them the freedom to explore for these precious metals. They then created the right to ownership based on discovery, whereby, if a man discovered a mineral deposit he could claim ownership of it. He was then required to pay a royalty or tribute to the Emperor. From this process, a miner ceased to be a serf and became a free man.

The incentive of freedom drove these men to all corners of the Roman Empire in search of metals, but perhaps more importantly, in search of their own freedom.

Similarly, the Gold Rushes of the 1800s in North America were driven by the same desires, which were finding wealth and freedom on their own terms. The right of discovery has always been one of the core tenets of the free miner society.

Historical Thoughts

History is the collective activities of our ancestors. What began as a demand for precious metals for the production of coins, eventually led to the liberation of serfs and peasants. Given the opportunity, free citizens can provide for themselves, in a more stable and concrete way that the state can. From the Greeks, Democracy was born, and the Romans continued to move the ball forward.

Comments, Questions, or Suggestions

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I would love to hear from you. You can Contact Me by clicking on this link. I look forward to your tales of adventure in the gold fields.


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