What would you do if you found gold?
First, you’d probably wonder “where can I sell gold?”. Then if you’re anything like the tens of thousands of 49ers of the early days of the rush or the modern prospectors who did hit the Pay Dirt, you’d catch the Gold Fever, too.
Gold Fever has been raging for a long time and it still induces people to try their luck in finding the ultimate riches.
People have been hunting and panning for gold for hundreds of years in rivers, streams, mountains, mines, and wherever else they saw signs of those little shiny gold nuggets.
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Where Can I Go Gold Panning?
If you are one of those affected by the “Fever”, here are some of the best places you can still pan for gold in the U.S….
1. Alta Ranch, MT
- Official site: Alta-ranch.com
The Alta Ranch is a beautiful place about 4 hours south of Glacier National Park. It is the ultimate place for gold prospecting.
According to the site, around the turn of the last century, Alta was a thriving little gold mining town with about 500 residents.
Although the town doesn’t officially exist anymore, you can still hunt for gold in the active placer gold mine a few miles upstream of the Alta Ranch.
You can rent a cabin if you like to stay a few days. And besides gold panning, there are also lots of other activities you can do.
Here are some of the activities you can enjoy, according to the site:
- Horseback trail riding
- Scenic float or white-water rafting
- Mountain biking
- Guided ATV riding
- Canoeing and Rowboating
- Downhill skiing at nearby Lost Trail Powder Mountain
- Cross-country skiing
- Soaking in Horse Creek Hot Springs
- Rock hounding–dig for sapphires, amethysts, and smoky quartz crystals.
- And much more.
This makes for an excellent family vacation.
And who knows, maybe you’ll find enough gold to pay for your whole vacation.
2. Colorado Gold Adventures, CO
- Official site: GoldStrikeAdventures.com
Aside from skiing, Colorado is also a good place for finding something of value.
Goldstrike Colorado Gold Adventures offers planned guided field trips with all the trimmings. These trips guarantee that you can find something during your adventure.
There are quite a number of scenic, historic locations for your trip which will allow you to keep what you’ll find.
These guided tours can cost $100 per day for adults, $75 for half a day visits for adults, $50 for children below 14 years of age. You can book trips all year round.
3. Big Thunder Gold Mine, SD
- Official site: Bigthundermine.com
Wanna see Mount Rushmore and pan for gold at the same time?
Then you wanna go to South Dakota!
Although the gold rush of South Dakota’s Black Hills started in 1876 when deposits were discovered in Deadwood creek, the Big Thunder gold mine was discovered about 19 years later in 1892.
The two men credited with discovering it were W.B. Krupp and J.A. Engle., two German immigrant miners, who originally named it Gold Hill Lode.
Most parts of the Black Hills are covered as public land, and panning in this area is open to anyone who wants to explore its waters.
How much will it cost?
Well, it depends on where you want to go panning.
You can either rent or bring your own panning equipment.
You can find out more by visiting their official website.
4. Crow Creek, AK
- Official site: Crowcreekmine.com
Aside from looking at unbelievable scenery and wildlife when in Alaska, you might also want to take a shot at panning for gold.
And the Crow Creek Gold Mine makes this extremely easy and fun.
They were even featured in an episode of the “America’s Toughest Jobs” show.
They offer different packets for families, individuals, groups, etc.
The rate varies.
For example, if you want to pan the creek, it costs $10 for children aged seven and under, $15 for seniors, and all others will need to pay $20 per day.
5. Reed Gold Mine, NC
- Official site: Historicsites.nc.gov
While walking along Little Meadow Creek in 1799, Conrad Reed saw something gleaming in the water.
It was a shiny, gold substance which turned out to be a 17-pound gold nugget.
This event was recorded as the first authentic gold claim in the United States.
And you know the best part?
You can still find gold there!
There is no admission fee, however, you do have to pay to pan for gold.
The fee for panning is $3 plus taxes per person. They do offer group rates as well.
Gold panning is permitted from 9 am to 4 pm.
And according to the site, the gold panning season starts on April 1st and end on October 31.
The mine is about 20 miles outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.
6. Alabama Gold Camp, AL
- Official site: Alabamagoldcamp.com
If you like to find other valuable materials while hunting for gold, the Alabama Gold Camp is one of the best places for camping and finding gold.
You pay a flat fee of $5 (children under 11 get for free), and that allows you to pan and sluice for gold.
Prospectors have reported finding garnet, citrine, and even fossils besides gold.
They also offer “camping” packages.
Camping rates start with $5 a day for “primitive” camping and go all the way to $30 per day for RV hookups.
7. Jamestown, CA
- Official site: Goldprospecting.com
Choosing where to pan for gold in California is a common problem. The place is just brimming with gold mining history and extraordinary finds.
Sutter’s claim is more known, but you may want to consider going south to Jamestown, CA. which isn’t that far from Yosemite National Park.
They offer a few different guided panning tours. And as you can imagine, prices differ.
A 5-hour excursion costs $25 or $50 if you are to include the rent of equipment.
For an inexperienced family, instruction, equipment along with a 5-hour excursion will cost $160.
8. Consolidated Gold Mine, GA
- Official site: Consolidatedgoldmine.com
The Appalachian region of North Georgia was the site of an American gold rush back in 1928.
Hunting for gold on this land have been going on for almost 200 years already.
The good news is there is still gold to be found there.
One of best places to do that is the Consolidated Gold Mine.
They offer two different rates:
- $9: which allows you to hunt for gold in sections with “Grade A” materials.
- $14: which allows you to hunt for gold in sections with “Grade AA” materials (they have a higher concentration of ore – higher chance of finding gold.)
Where Can I Pan for Gold for Free?
Believe it or not, there are places where you can pan for gold and other valuable minerals for free.
These are usually public parks and designated lands as well as old and abandoned mines.
There are free gold mining places in almost every state in the United States as well as many other countries.
To find a list of free places to pan for gold (both in America and a few other countries) check out the Public Mining Sites List on DetectorProspector.com. Keep in mind that their list also contains places that aren’t free but you can find out by visiting the sites they linked to.
Panning for gold in a land not owned by you is a serious business and it has a lot of rules and regulations you need to abide by.
I recommend reading Prospecting for Gold in the United State, a publication by the US Geological Survey. It gives you an overall view and history of gold panning in the U.S. and some of the rules governing it.
The good old age of gold rush as we come to know it through Hollywood may be over, but there is still gold to be found out there.
But you will never find any unless you take a trip down to some of these places and start panning!