As I mentioned in my post, Beach Day Treasure Hunt, I have very fond childhood memories of camping trips hunting for gold in the wild Australian outback. While we never stuck it rich, the memories that we created along the way have become a real-valued treasure.
A couple of weeks back, my mom visited from Australia, and we set out on a road trip with the kids in tow, across the state of California, and into the Nevada desert. Hitting up creeks, ghost towns, lakes and more in search of the Mother Lode. If was a fun-filled trip, full of outdoor exploration, we learned about rocks, minerals, fossils, and volcanic matter. But most of all, it was an experience that I know my kids will treasure just like I have in the past.
You don’t have to go to ‘gold country’ to go panning (though that does make it more exciting), hit up your local creek beds, lakes and waterways and see what you can find!
Rock Book (to identify your findings)
Hat, Water, Backpack
Gold Pan Kit: $37.95
Get your kit together. This Gold Panning kit was awesome! It is complete with sieves, shovels, gold dust extractions, and small little vials to put your samples in. Don’t forget to pack a rock book to identify your collection on rocks.
Find a location. The best place to pan is in a slow-moving creek with pebbles and rocks. Some lands have private ‘claims’ on the ground, which means you are unable to mine that area as the rights to it are already owned by someone else and be careful not to wander onto private land. These mistakes can not only cost you your findings but also fines and penalties. If you are unsure if you are allowed to pan an area check with the Bureau of Land Management, the local State Park Authorities and/or the park ranger.
Once you’ve found a creek bed to pan, follow these steps to get into the rhythm and get your first pan-full of gold.
- Use your shovel to scoop gravel, sand, and silt out of the river and into your pan. Be sure that everything you scoop out is nice and wet.
- Gold is heavier than other minerals and materials in the river, so roughly shake and swirl the pan around to help the gold settle at the bottom of the pan.
- Using a very shallow angle, tip your pan into the water and let the current of the water carry the first layer of silt and sand away and out of the pan. Slowly move the pan back and forth in the current to help loosen up the first layer, and make sure you don’t let too much of the material get away.
- Repeat the second step, shaking down your gold, continue this process until you are left with a few tablespoons of blackish sand.
- Begin to gently swirl your pan to help the gold flakes settle further, and pick them out as you spot them. Make sure you put them away safely!