Panning for California Gold

close up of woman holding gold powder in hands
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

If you’ve ever wanted to pan for gold like the miners did during the 1840s, now is your chance!

The heavy rains in California’s Sierra Nevada this past winter have caused not only record snow fall, but also record snow melt. As the rivers begin to fill with excess water, the soil around once inaccessible gold deposits has been loosened and carried downstream.

More nuggets than usual have been reported as being found in areas such as Placerville in El Dorado County. Additionally, artifacts from miners such as gold rings and belt buckles have also been reported as being found.

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What you Need to Know

California heavily restricts panning for gold. State parks, for example, only allow people to use a pan and your hands. Recreational miners are not allowed to use any tools to break apart rocks. Up to 15 pounds per person per day may be removed from a streambed.

It’s likely that most of the gold you will discover will be small flakes. It can be tedious, but at the same time lots of fun.

The website Gold Rush Nuggets has put together a list of ten places a person can pan for gold free of charge (except day use fees in some cases) and without the need of a permit. The list can be found here.

Another option may be to try out one of the special gold panning companies, such as Kennedy Mine Tours or California Gold Panning, are specifically established for tourists. Experts can guide you through the process of how to pan for gold.