Gold Panning Tips -
Discover How To Pan For Gold in
Northern California's Gold Country

Looking for gold panning tips?

You've said you wanted to try your hand at panning for gold, but have never been. 

Well before starting out… here's a couple of things to know before setting out on your trip.


1. What tools do you need to take - go to gold panning places if you need help with that

2. And… if you're lucky enough find some of that shiny stuff… how do you tell the difference between real gold and fool's gold

So... before we get started... let's talk about how to know if you've found real gold or pyrite - otherwise known as fool's gold.

How do you tell the difference between real gold and fool's gold…

Gold and fool's gold - also known as pyrite - are very different minerals. But because their colors are similar to each other… it's easy to get excited and think you've found the real thing.

One of the major differences between the two is that pyrite - fool's gold - has hard edges and gold has softer edges.

When you're first starting out, you might want to bring along a magnifying glass with you.

fool's gold
real gold nuggets

Here are 3 ways to distinguish fool's gold from real gold…

SHINE: When you’re looking at fool’s gold with your natural eyes, it will glisten, not shine.

Gold has a golden color.

But pyrite appears to have a more brassy and shiny coloration. It has shiny surfaces that catch the reflection of the sun. The edges look sharp and it may separate in layers.

If you move your gold pan in a circular motion in the sunlight, gold will maintain a consistent color, while pyrite will flash in the sunlight.

Gold shines at any angle… not just when the “light is right”.

HARDNESS: Fool's gold - pyrite - is much harder. If you smash it with the tip of your pocket knife it will shatter into several pieces.

Gold on the other hand is a very soft and malleable metal. It can be flattened without breaking apart.

Most gold nuggets and flakes found in rivers and creeks are polished and worn fairly smooth.

EDGES: Fool's gold has sharp edges. Its shape is a lot more angular. Real gold has softer rounded looking edges.

The most obvious way to tell the difference between them is the specific gravity - how heavy they feel.

When panning out material - swirling everything around… gold will settle and concentrate in the bottom of the pan… but pyrite will move freely in the pan.

You see… gold is 18 times heavier than water.

Also… most gold nuggets and flakes found in rivers and creeks are polished and worn fairly smooth.

The truth is that once you have figured out the difference and have seen real gold, you will never confuse it with anything else.

Now... here's more gold panning tips to help you with your adventure...

Now once you're out... look for a gravel bar

What’s a gravel bar you ask?

It’s an accumulation of debris and silty sediment in what was once known as the deep end of the pool behind the downstream dam.

The debris ranges from pebbles to softball sized stones to boulders bigger than babies.

Using these gold panning tips, you’ll find gravel bars in areas like...

  • in the middle of the rivers or streams
  • around heavy water runoff
  • on the downstream side of large boulders or
  • tree roots in streams
  • in cracks above the water-line
  • along the edge of the stream
  • in streaks of gravel that settle above stream beds and follow the bottom of stream channels

Now a real helpful tip is to place your pan under the water and keep it under the water at all times.

Fill the pan nearly full.

Throw away the large stones and break up the clumps of mud and clay.

Hold the pan level with both hands and rotate the pan with swirling motions.

As you rotate the pan the heavier gold loosens from the sand and gravel and settles to the bottom.

Tilt the pan downward to let the dirty water, sand, and gravel wash over the edge of the pan.

Continue to raise and lower the lip of the pan so the water will flow over it and remove more of the lighter material.

Continue this process until nothing but gold and heavier minerals are left in the pan.

Carefully inspect the black sand for nuggets or tiny specks of gold or other precious minerals.

Here’s a short video to show you some more helpful tips...

Want another point of view for gold panning tips. Check out this site.

Okay... now use these tips and go have some fun...

We hope you'll use these nuggets of information to take with you as you and your family make a day to go panning for gold.

Have fun!

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