Alabama Gold Page

Panning/Sampling for gold


This will not be a complete guide on panning and sluicing, however, if you go with an old timer you will recall much of what I have placed here.  And will learn your own methods of doing this, I use what seems to work best for me, your method will be similar in some ways, and different in others.

What would be the need to learn to pan and sluice if you don't have gold in the area to start with?  You must do your home work, Gold prospecting magazines are a good place to start looking.  The OUTDOORS CHANNEL on satellite carries a program dedicated to nothing but gold prospecting.  It is loaded with helpful tips, as well as places to prospect.

Do you even live in a state where gold is present? 
(sounds dumb, but you can never tell)

If not, gold prospecting is going to be a vacation type deal to a gold camp, or visiting a relative in a gold producing state.

If you do live in a gold producing state, is it in your area??

No?  Find out where it is in the state and how to get to it.

Yes, GREAT!  We are ready to learn.


Location, Location, Location!!! 

This VERY important!  It is best to start off by looking in a stream that flows in a known gold producing area.  You will want to "sample the stream" first to see if it is worth your time and effort.  Talk to people, do your home work.  Local history books, local historians and county court houses are great places to look.  Old folks often know of areas to look.

To sample a stream or simply pan you will need:

A shovel, Classifier, and a pan  (and permission from the land owner if it is not public land)

1.   Pick a location on the stream where the stream dumps it sediment, such as the inside of  a bend or the head or tail of a gravel/sand bar.  The head is best, the stream will "drop" the heaviest objects here.  If the stream moves quick enough, it will often push large objects across the bar and drop them on the back side.

2.   Use the shovel to get a good load,  place the classifier pan over the gold pan.   Now dump the "material" into the classifier.

3.   Once you have placed the "material" in the classifier, hold it down in the water until the water is up to the top of the classifier.  Swirl the set around in the water until the mud, smaller stones and the gold have fell off into the gold pan.

4.  Set the pan to the side, examine the rocks that are left in the classifier.  You are looking for nuggets, don't laugh.  Many nuggets have been found just like this!  Once this is done toss any rocks off to the side, get ready to pan.

5.   Grasp the pan on each side firmly (if you are using a pan with riffles, point them away from you before you start) place it down in the water again.  Use the same swirling motion you used before.  As you swirl the pan shake it slightly, this will allow the contents to liquefy and the gold to settle to the bottom of the pan, remember that
gold is 19 times as heavy as water and several times as heavy as the rocks in the pan.  Rocks that are larger than the gold in the pan will "float" to the top.  You will see the larger rocks that made it through the classifier come to the top.  Pick them out, examine them.  If they still have clay and mud on them wash them off in the pan.  Any lumps of clay or dirt must be crushed in the pan to allow the gold to go free.

6.   Once you have the rocks out, you can start to pan in earnest.  Hold the lead edge in the water tilted slightly forward.  Gently swirl the pan in the water back and forth.  The idea is to remove the top layers of the "material" in the pan.  Look around the edges, if you see that you are loosing black sand gather some water in the pan tilt it level again. Swirl and shake the pan to allow the contents to resettle.  This allows the black sand and gold to fall back to the bottom. 

The contents in the pan will settle out by layers.  Larger rocks and gravel will rise to the top, sand and clay will be next, then black sand.  The gold will be at the very deepest part of the pan.  After several vigorous seconds of liquefying the contents the gold will work it's way to the bottom.  You no longer have to worry about losing the gold you may have collected.  You will do this back and forth until you get close to the bottom, when you have about 2-5 table spoons in the bottom you will be able to tell if it contains any gold.  With the "concentrates" use about a 1/2 cup of water, gather all the "concentrates in the front of the pan.  Gently swirl the water across the sand to pull if off of the gold.  If there is any in the pan it will be at the bottom.  The trick to this is to go slowly.  Some of the gold will be small specks if you are lucky it can be pieces large enough to pick up with your finger, these pieces are called "pickers".  It will be harder to move than the sand.  This is how panning is done.

Hint, you can practice with 3-6 heaping table spoons of sand and No. 7 bird shot. Flatten the bird shot slightly, so that it doesn't roll.  Gather it at the front, practice pulling the sand off with water.  Using a gentle sweeping motion with the water in the pan, when you get good at it, try adding some pea gravel into the mix.  This will be similar to what you will encounter on a creek bank.  This is how I learned           

Map of Ala.



Classifier in use