Are you the type of person who loves going on vacation? If not, what planet are you coming from? While vacations can be fantastic ways to unwind and spend some valuable time with your family, vacations often come with some financial stress.
But what if I told you your vacation could not only be a massive hole in your budget, but you can turn them into a very profitable avenue? And you can do this through a fun bonding activity you can enjoy with your family while sightseeing truly impressive historical landmarks.
While gold panning can seem like an old-timey, nostalgia-fueled madness, the practice of prospecting for gold can prove a very lucrative vacation strategy.
In my quest to find the best places to pan for gold in the USA for my next vacation, I stumbled over some exciting places that I could not keep for myself.
What Is Gold Panning?
Gold panning is one of the simplest and most widespread practices for extracting gold from sediment-rich areas. It presumes to separate gold fragments from the soil, gravel, and other minerals using a pan.
It is usually performed along with waterbeds, but panning can work just as well in abandoned mines. The technique is centuries old, but you can thank Isaac Humphrey for introducing gold panning at Coloma back in the 1800s.
Nonetheless, it is presumed that Mexicans have used this technique way before Humphrey, employing a flat dish called a batea.
But is it legal? Definitely. Gold prospecting is entirely allowed on public lands, although the location will always retain some agency. The flakes you found are all yours to keep – you don’t even have to tell a soul.
However, you will have to pay taxes on your profits if you decide to sell. Local dealers will buy in your flakes, and there are several gold-buying businesses next to common gold panning locations. If you have a bigger batch of flakes, you can also sell them to a refinery.
Is Gold Panning Profitable?
This depends on what you will consider profitable. Using performant mining equipment does not really qualify as gold prospecting, so many locations will not allow it.
And there’s only so much gold you can manually pan. Finding gold flakes is a widespread occurrence, especially if you’re in a sediment-rich region. But you will need to put in some time and elbow grease to find enough gold for a sizeable loot.
Generally, you will have no issues finding enough of the precious metal to buy a nice meal out if you’re on a day trip to one of these locations. However, if you’re a higher roller and you’d like an excellent profit out of your journey, you will probably need to schedule a few days of sustain effort.
9 Places To Pan For Gold In The USA
Gold can be found naturally in every state of America. A short gold panning adventure probably awaits you in a couple of hundred miles. However, there are several locations across the USA where a piece of history meets profitable looting.
Searching for gold in former productive mines or natural landmarks known for their gold abundance will dramatically increase your chances of taking home significant amounts of gold.
Here are some of the places I’ve found with a stellar reputation and many success stories in their Hall of Fames.
1. Eldorado Canyon, Nevada
I need to include the heart of the Gold Rush in this list. While Coloma might not be the richest gold district in the area, it will always hold a place in the heart of many Americans.
This is the place where the Gold Rush began, where Isaac Humphrey’s seemingly simple technique paved the way towards many fortunes (and a lot of ensuing chaos). You simply cannot be an avid gold panner and never visit this shiny page of American history.
2. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, California
Not only is this location a perfect avenue for gold prospecting due to the abundance of gold in the American River, but it is also the perfect hiking and sightseeing opportunity.
There are several places where tourists can take picnics, the scenery is pristine, and the park also features a museum, many historical buildings and even a fun team of costumed volunteers.
You can get daily gold panning lessons from professionals, where you will also learn a lot about the region’s rich history and the fascinating intricacies of geology.
3. Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona
The Queen Mine is Bisbee used to be one of the richest copper mines in history. It was opened to visitors in 1976, almost 100 years after it was initially opened.
You can take guided tours that will provide exquisite details about its history and insight into the world of precious metals. And, of course, anything you found in the mine is yours to keep, forever.
4. Feather River, California
Even though the richest reserves of the Feather River were already exploited for profits in the range of millions of dollars, there is still plenty of gold in the river. Panning along the banks will almost always produce some gold.
There are also many mining camps and small gold towns in its vicinity that are simply a delight to visit. Among the most famous gold towns is Ophir City, which was later suggestively renamed Oroville.
5. Pike’s Peak, Colorado
Pike’s Peak was the heart of a well-known gold frenzy, now referred to as the Colorado Gold Rush. An estimated 100,000 gold-seekers relocated here during the 1800s looking for their fortunes.
While industrial miners exploited the luxuriant shallow reserves for impressive bounties, you will still find gold in this area, granted you watch your step! With it being such an essential piece of history, there are several gold-themed attractions here that will spice up your journey.
Plus, the scenery will provide unique backdrops for amazing Instagram pictures!
6. Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills Badlands are the perfect way to scratch your itch for a western adventure. Several guided tours are available throughout the many historical buildings and many mine camps that made headlines with their generous yields.
Here you will find the Homestake Mine, which has produced over 20 million ounces of yellow metal. Entertaining, as seen on TV, gold prospecting tours are available, during which professionals will show you the best places to pan and assist you in finding the most gold you can.
7. Rogue River, Oregon
Southern Oregon is a well-known destination for gold prospects all around America. The gold-dense reserves keep surprising tourists and recreational panners with sizeable amounts of gold.
The richest area of the river was turned into the Hellgate Recreation Area, in which tourists are encouraged to pan for gold. There are, however, restrictions in place which stop panners from using any equipment except hand pans.
8. Dahlonega, Georgia
Recreational panning for gold in most streambeds is generally allowed here without the use of any special permission, permits or additional fees. However, if you were to use heavier equipment than a hand-held shovel and pan, you might need a mining permit.
In Dahlonega, you will also found the Gold Museum, one of Georgia’s oldest, that’s filled to the brink with fascinating pieces of history and impressive nuggets of various metals.
If you’re a gold mining enthusiast, you will love North Georgia since it is the home of the Crisson Gold Mine. This is the largest open-pit mine still open to the public in the region, and it certainly features some celebrated memorabilia.
9. Keysville Recreational Mining Area, California
This 400-acre recreational area is abundant in opportunities for the average gold prospector, and it features several attractions that will make your stay not only lucrative but also quite entertaining.
Refreshing walks through the area will have you discover various mining structures, a historic fort, and the famous Walker Cabin. You can also go fishing or water-rafting and set up a tent in the camping area overlooking the beautiful, natural setting. Souvenirs and other locally-made knick-knacks are available throughout the region.
Spending time in nature is never a bad idea. Getting paid for it will seldom be necessary. However, by planning your next hike in one of the above locations, you will benefit from a refreshing stroll through nature, which also comes with the possibility of some easy money.
It doesn’t get any better than that. With the help of the many tour guides, professional panners that reside in these areas, and the gold’s itch of being found and admired, you will always have a fruitful excursion.
And even if you’re not so much after the appealing metal, all of these regions are fascinating historical landmarks that tell a tale of a simpler time, which in its madness, helped shape America for what it is today.
Ready for your gold panning adventure, but you’ve still got some questions? Drop them in the comments, and I’ll be more than happy to share everything I’ve learned about this enticing hobby.