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How to Pan for Gold in the USA

2012-05-14   Views:2

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During the gold rush of 1849, early prospectors panned for gold in the rivers and streams of California. Today, you can still pan for gold throughout much of the United States. Panning for gold is the process of using a specialised metal or plastic p

How to Pan for Gold in the USA

During the gold rush of 1849, early prospectors panned for gold in the rivers and streams of California. Today, you can still pan for gold throughout much of the United States. Panning for gold is the process of using a specialised metal or plastic pan to sort river sediment from gold. Gold is heavy, so it stays behind when you wash the dirt out of the pan. Much of the country's public federal and state lands are open to gold panning, and gold panning is allowed even on some federal lands that have commercial mining claims.

Skill level:Easy

Instructions

1 Locate a stream in the United States that may have gold. Historical gold mining areas such as parts of California, Alaska and Oregon are the most likely bet, because over time new gold has been washed into the streams in the wake of prospectors. A stream that didn't have gold during the rush, however, is unlikely to have any now. See the Resources for a link to a list of possible gold-panning locations in different states.

2 Plan your trip and get supplies. If you're going to pan on public land where camping is possible, camping out overnight may be a fun way to relive the experience of a prospector. In the United States, most public land is open to gold panning unless there's a commercial mining claim on it.

3 Buy a gold pan online. Plastic and metal pans are available. If you're using a plastic pan you can use a magnet to help you separate the gold from the soil.

4 Find a spot in the stream where gold is likely to settle. Gold is much heavier than sediment, so it tends to collect in areas of slow water. Try the inside edge of a bend, areas where streams have overflowed and the downstream side of obstructions like boulders.

5 Fill the pan about three-quarters of the way with dirt and gravel from the stream bottom.

6 Submerge the pan so that the surface is just underwater. Shake the pan to loosen the material, but not enough to wash anything out.

7 Switch from shaking the pan to gently swirling it so that the water and materials in the pan begin to revolve. Most of the dirt and clay will wash out of the pan. Pluck out any moss or rocks.

8 Tilt the pan slightly away from you, still holding it underwater. Swirl it gently from side to side, with a slight forward "tossing" motion. The lighter sand will be washed out over the edge of the pan, and you will be left with the heavier black sand, called the "concentrate."

9 Take the pan out of the water. Leave about an inch of water in the pan, along with the concentrate. Again swirl the pan with a slight forward toss, washing out the dirt. Be careful not to accidentally wash out any gold. Gold is heavier than sand, so it should separate from the sand and stay behind when the sand is washed out. If you're using a plastic pan you can hold a magnet to the underside of the pan to attract and collect the gold.

10 Pluck out the gold with tweezers as you swirl the pan, and set the gold (if any) aside in another container.

Tips and warnings

If you're using a steel pan, burn off any oils on the pan before you use it. Oil will cause the gold to float and wash away. Set the pan in the campfire until it glows dully, and then dunk it in the stream to cool it. Use fireplace tongs to handle the hot pan, and be careful.

Adding a few drops of dish detergent to the water in the pan while washing out the black sand will break the surface tension of the water and make your job easier.

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