Panning in placer deposit areas is the least expensive gold prospecting method.
In gold prospecting, preparation is the key element to success. New geological research methods and technological developments have made gold prospecting more feasible than in the past. However, new complications concerning state-mandated regulations and private land ownership also warrant consideration when prospecting. Gold can be found in certain regions charted on geological survey maps where conditions for gold formation exist. Gold is most often found in two primary deposits: lode deposits, such as mines, quartz veins and mine dumps, and placer deposits, such as streams, creeks and riverbeds. Preparation, including research of mining records, gathering the necessary equipment and obtaining sufficient funds, will greatly increase the odds of a good find.
1. Research the geological survey maps, gold mining records and the geological process of gold formation to gain a clearer perspective on where to prospect. Geological survey maps are usually color coded based on established concentrations of gold finds. Decide whether you plan to prospect in a lode deposit or placer deposit area.
2. Contact the Federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of the Interior Offices respective to your chosen prospecting area to find out about land ownership, state laws and local regulations. Ensure that your chosen prospecting area isn’t off limits to mineral entry. If your chosen area lies on private property, obtain written permission prior to prospecting. Claims, or land ownership rights, can be purchased online; however, as long as a plot of land has no existing claims or legal restrictions, you may search for gold there.
3. Gather all necessary equipment for gold prospecting according to the type of area that you chose. For example, if you plan to prospect in a lode deposit, bring pick axes, rock hammers and a metal detector. For placer prospecting, bring a gold pan and a waterproof container to keep trace amounts of gold. Be sure to include your geological survey map for either type of area.
4. Travel to your chosen destination after purchasing a legitimate claim for clearing your chosen area for seasonal gold prospecting. Ensure that your vehicle can handle rugged off-road environments.
5. Search for gold in lode deposits by using a pick axe, rock hammer or chisel to excavate gold from mine walls or quartz veins. You may also locate lode gold by breaking rocks found in mine dumps. A metal detector might also be helpful, but not entirely reliable in locating gold or gold ore in lode deposits.
6. Locate gold in placer deposits by scooping up gold-bearing sand or gravel and water with a gold pan from a stream or bank. Shift the sand around in the water, gradually disposing larger grains, pebbles and sand until fine gold flakes or nuggets appear.