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How to Pan for Gold

Whether you use a proper gold pan or just something out of your kitchen cupboard, you can become a gold prospector. Experience the thrill of seeing pure gold appear where there was just dirt!

Difficulty Level: easy

Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Find a pan - anything with sloping sides will work, or see a list of gold pan dealers below.
  2. Choose a likely location - see tips and links below for ideas.
  3. Fill your pan with sand and/or gravel.
  4. Dip your pan into the creek, or pour water into the pan.
  5. Shake the pan in a sideways, back-and-forth manner. The gold will now start to settle to the bottom of the pan.
  6. After a couple of minutes of shaking, pick out the bigger rocks that are getting separated (make sure than you don't throw away any nuggets!)
  7. Tilt your pan away from you a bit and start letting gravel fall out. Remember, the gold is rapidly settling to the bottom of the pan now.
  8. Add water as necessary to keep a good "soupy" gravel mixture - it helps the gold settle.
  9. Keep tilting the pan more and more, and letting the gravel on top fall over the side. The bottom of the pan should always be lower than the lip of the pan, though, or the gold will fall out.
  10. As you get to the last bit of sand in your pan, adding a circular motion to your shaking will make the gold separation more obvious - not more efective, but more fun to watch.
  11. The last bit of sand takes care, and is the slowest part - as long as you don't tip your pan too far, though, the gold will stay in the pan. The traditional declaration of success is "Bonanza!"
  12. Get a small glass container.
  13. Put your gold into the container - it will stick to your finger in the pan, then wash it off into the container.
  14. Display the container on your mantel to impress the neighbours!
  15. Repeat as needed.


  1. Don't use a teflon-coated pan - the gravel will wreck it, and you will lose a lot of your gold.
  2. You can try panning anywhere. The best places are along creeks, particularly behind boulders where eddies form.
  3. Although "black sand" (magnetite) is difficult to separate from the gold, it's a great indication that you're in the right spot.

Related Features:

Gold panning on the Fraser River near Spuzzum, B.C. - Robert Lundberg and Warren Schimpf.
Warren Schimpf and Robert Lundberg gold panning
on the Fraser River near Spuzzum, B.C.
Click to enlarge.