Steps to Gold Panning
Get all the material you need for panning. If you are going to be working in a stream you will need to dig down and get rid of the loose gravel until you are able to hit the firm bedrock or firm gravel. Although all streams are different, in general the gold accumulates on bedrock because it get trapped it in and cannot move anywhere else. However there are other occasions in which the gold is deposited in certain different sized layers of gravel and they become deposited during different times. The most common places to find gold though is on bedrock and behind or downstream from boulders. Just make sure to take care when you are taking the gravel out of the water. Water has a tendency of “panning” or sorting the gold when it is on the shovel and gold can be taken by the stream again if you are not careful.
One other important point to remember is to not load the pan too much.
Whether you are getting the material from a gravel bar or a dry bank, look for and try to find bedrock. This can be done by using a little digging tool or a screwdriver to work into the small crevices. You should keep on cleaning it out this way until you have filled your pan up around half ways or two thirds of the way.
If you find that you cannot reach the bedrock, try to look for the areas behind big boulders, you can try to look for a deposit in the gravel where it is evidently tighter. When you see a tighter area it can be an indication of a spot where the gold might have worked into when the gravel bar was initially deposited.
If you are able to see the top of the gravel bank, you will most likely see a lot of layers that have different colored sand and gravel. You should test each one of these layers because the age of each layer might be far apart from each other. There may be some that have gold in them and there may be others that don’t. Remember when prospecting that gold can be found anywhere, you just have to learn where to look for it. Gold can come from a decomposed ore pocket or a vein or it could have been dropped by an old glacier many, many years ago. If you have a good gold pan, it will not take you a long time to pan and you should try to check out any and every type of spot you think gold may be in.
If you do not have the possibility of going into gold country quite yet, but you still want to learn how to use your pan, you can still practice with it. One good way of practicing is by using small bbs; these will pose as the gold nuggets. Obviously the actual weight of a bb is not the same as the weight of a gold nugget, but they will still serve as good practice and you will get an idea of how to “save” them while you pan out the rest of the material. The rest of the material or “gravel” can be sand or actual gravel that looks like gravel that sits on a real creek. Place the bbs inside the material and mix it around (be careful with not overloading your pan). Pan so that the bb’s stay inside the rifles when everything else is eliminated, once you have mastered this, you will have successfully learned how to pan and you can go onto the next step.