Where to Pan for Gold: Tips for the Amateur Prospector From a “Pro”

Updated on October 15, 2019
Dr Annie Rassios profile image

Dr. Annie Ewing Rassios has been geologizing in Greece for over 35 years.

Where to Pan for Gold: Tips for the Amateur Prospector From a “Pro”
Where to Pan for Gold: Tips for the Amateur Prospector From a “Pro” | Source

Every river in the world contains gold. However, some rivers contain so little gold that one could pan and sieve for years and not find even one small flake. The amateur prospector will not be able to determine whether gold is contained within an outcrop of rocks.

Most deposits contain such microscopic grains of gold that they are invisible to the naked eye. After rigorous chemical analyses, rocks that are found to contain gold in levels where only one part in one million is gold can be professionally mined. Imagine if ten people in all of, say, Southern California were “gold”—then the entire population could be mined for a profit.

Panning in the "right" place can bring far greater rewards, though just as much fun, as trying out some less promising rivers.
Panning in the "right" place can bring far greater rewards, though just as much fun, as trying out some less promising rivers. | Source

Where to Pan for Gold in the Geologic World

It takes some geological knowledge to predict which rivers may have enough gold that it could be located by an amateur in just a few days of panning. Rivers that pass through regions containing granite, granodiorite, basalt, and metamorphic rocks are the best targets for locating small amounts of gold.

Often these host rocks include the sites of ancient hot springs that carried small amounts of gold from their parent rock and deposited them in richer amounts in veins and sulfide deposits. When a region is covered by limestone, marbles, and sandstones it has a low potential for providing gold to river sands.

Some of the best streams for gold panning pass through rocks such as these.
Some of the best streams for gold panning pass through rocks such as these. | Source
You could waste your weekend panning for gold in streams that pass through rocks like these.
You could waste your weekend panning for gold in streams that pass through rocks like these. | Source

Where to Pan for Gold in a River

The currents of a river vary throughout the year. This is helpful to the prospector as the raging floods of spring carry away lighter minerals while leaving heavier minerals behind. Panning within rapids, though, is not the best place to find potentially gold-bearing sediments. Panning in river beds that have previously been exploited for gravel deposits is also not recommended, as heavy minerals are mixed with lighter minerals during excavations.

Small streams are as good as larger rivers as long as heavy sediment “traps” occur within them or along their margins. For practical (and safety!) reasons, panning in depths greater than knee-deep is not usually successful. Look for streams with lots of cobbles and sands in then.

A promising stream for panning
A promising stream for panning | Source
The optimal position and depth for panning.
The optimal position and depth for panning. | Source

The best panning traps are found along a river where the water runs rapidly, then calms after passing over a small rapid or waterfall. The water of a river running through a narrow canyon will calm as it enters a larger valley, and when this happens, the heavy minerals will be the first to settle out. Small calm pools with heavy mineral concentrations are often found below minor rapids, and these are the best place to start prospecting.

Learning to spot the "traps" in a stream
Learning to spot the "traps" in a stream | Source
Looking for the best sands to try for a successful gold pan.
Looking for the best sands to try for a successful gold pan. | Source

Where Is It Legal and Safe to Pan for Gold?

The legalities of gold panning vary across the globe and within the United States. Generally, panning is not legal in national parks, and it is definitely not legal to pan on someone else’s mineral claim. The best place to find out where it’s okay to start panning is to contact a local rock hound club, and the best place to find one of them is to ask in a rock shop or local geology department. Internationally, beware—though it is legal to pan for gold in the rivers of (for example) Greece except for National Parks and Archeologic Preservers, there are “prospectors” who use this as an excuse to illegally search for ancient artifacts.

Where it is safe to pan for gold is another matter: it’s always best to go in a group. Observe the normal rules of the outdoors, watching out for dangerous critters like bears, snakes and ticks. Don’t pan in white water rapids, or along rivers that may be prone to flash floods. Again, contact local groups to get started and learn the safety rules of what can be a great hobby.

Beginner's Luck Improves With Tips From a Pro

Just like fishing, no matter how much you know about the sport, sometimes you catch something and sometimes—it gets away from you. Some rivers are just as hard for the "pro" as for the amateur when it comes to locating color. Getting that "eye" for where to pan is a big help, but if there isn't much gold around, then—at least have a picnic and nice day outdoors. Whether you locate any color in your gold pan as a beginner, remember, the first rule for the successful amateur prospector is . . . patience. As a matter of fact, so is the second rule, the third rule, the forth rule and . . . good luck in the real world!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      4 months ago

      Very interesting I learned alot ....Thanks

    • profile image

      Peter C 

      12 months ago

      Very interesting and useful info, spoiled by repetitive ads nothing to do with gold prospecting

    • profile image

      Bill Ballaro 

      12 months ago

      I totally agree with John Wilson. It’s about the journey. As a very young man, I was blessed with being able to spend an entire week exclusively with my father on our annual hunting trip. We were both pretty bad hunters but didn’t care. It was ALWAYS about the journey. I dearly miss him.

    • profile image

      Imran ansari 

      17 months ago

      Good information friend.

      And how find gold nagget.

    • profile image

      Malik Aitezaz 

      23 months ago

      Help me to write an article

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      FIFA 19: 9 New Rumours You Need To Know

    • profile image

      Redirecting...About Sun & Fun Media - Sun Fun Media, Inc. 

      2 years ago

      My Capital One Account

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      3 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      This hub has great advice.

      Your illustration of the flakes of gold above was heartening. It was so good to see a person with geological experience giving the real story. Gold is hard to find - that is why it is so valuable.

      Your info about the weekends in Greece and the lone flake in the picture can be viewed as positive rather than negative. Yes, it was a lot of hard work to recover one flake amid lots of "junk". But that flake came from somewhere.

      To all who have found one flake after a lot of hard work, I would say, move upstream! That flake came from somewhere.

      I have prospected in Arizona (USA) for a bit, and the lure of the hunt for color is such that joy ensues whether the color is found or not. I have learned so much about my home from trying to find color, that lack of gold matters not. And yet, after 5 years, I have pulled almost one ounce of gold from the washes of Southern Arizona. Take into account the scenery, the exercise, the hunt, and the photographs - oh, and the gold, and I am sure that amateur gold prospecting will be around for a long time!

      I rate this hub an A++

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Your best bet for panning in Wales is north Wales..there has been gold found in the river cothi but only small amounts.finding somewhere to pan there is hard.there is an old Roman gold mine there as well.so the best gold is to be found in dolgellau.

    • profile image

      jon boy 

      6 years ago

      i live in mid wales uk and want to try panning - is the upper severn and the river wye a good gold bearing place to start? i figure not that far from north wales gotta be somewhere local for me to start maybe??

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      8 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Great first Hub, Annie! My county once had a gold mine and sometimes I wonder if the stream running through the farm might have some. Alas, I am renting and so if it did, it would not be my gold;o)

    • Dr Annie Rassios profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Annie Rassios 

      8 years ago from Grevena, Greece

      Thank you, Sparrowlet! As my first hub, I was unsure to leave the photos large or not, but I think they show things more clear this way.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very interesting! Something I have never done, myself, but your tips are good ones. (Nice pics too!)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)