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I have always been interested by gold prospecting and it sounds like a fun hobby to pursue on campouts.

When panning, most pages just say to scope some dirt from a stream out and put in the pan. They also say to get some at the bend of the stream or after rapids.

How far do you need to dig to get the dirt to pan? It makes sense that to find heavier objects you would dig down a ways?!? Do you dig a hole, panning as you go? Or do you just skim the top? I am just confused on exactly what "dirt" I want to get to try in the pan.

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Wow! Your question, if answered thoughtfully, would take about a lifetime!! Just kidding, albeit many lifetimes of experience have gone into the development of gold exploration since well before the Egyptian dynasties. A quick comment to your question is the "pages" you reference assume you already have found a gold producing spot. If you still are in the process of finding a spot, then first try scalping off the upper material (the overburden) such as loose sand, pebbles and cobbles. Once you get down to clay-like, more compact stuff, then screen some out and into your gold pan through a common kitchen strainer which you can pick up for 50 cents at any thrift store. Then practice panning like the "pages" say. Sooner or later you may notice some shiny gold-colored metallic pieces that are in the final residue remaining in your pan. Bingo!!!

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First let's start with where you're generally located, are you in an area know for past gold recovery, if so is the area known for natural gold deposits or is it known for glacial gold deposits, what kind of streams/rivers are in your area, are there any dams on these streams?

Once we get a little more info on where you going to try and do some panning we can give you more specific info. for your area and types of gold deposits.

That all being said and asked, the first thing on your agenda is to learn to pan properly until you have confidence in your ability to recover the heavier materials that you will encounter, e.g. lead, magnetite, hematite, garnets, etc. the last 3 items are what most of the heavy sand that will be left in the pan at the last part of your panning before you see any gold, practice with several different sizes of pieces of lead, the smaller the pieces better, flatten some of them out with a hammer and leave some chunky, you can even paint them so you can see them better, count the number of piece and then try to keep them all in your pan until you have nothing but blacksand, garnet sand, etc. in your pan, the lead should be under these sands if you not losing them, always use a catch/safety pan in case you lose a little gold/lead while panning, there are many how to pan videos on Youtube to help with the learning curve.

Here's a couple of diagrams that will show where gold tends to drop out of the flow in a normal stream/river during flood stage (which is when most gold is eroded out of the deposits/veins and deposited into a stream) that doesn't have a dam upstream, when a dam is introduced into a stream all of the hydraulics change, e.g, there's no flood stage to speak of.

After studying these diagram, going and do some sampling in the stream of your choice in the areas depicted in the diagrams, sample every few feet and until find the highest concentration of gold and then DIG!!!.

All of this will give you something to learn from and after you answer the questions above we can maybe add to this advice for your specific area, and give some more general advice.



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A gold pan is simply a sampling and a finishing tool for concentrates from another piece of equipment. Work cracks,crevices and loose crumbly BEDROCK almost exclusively as 90% of the concentration work has already been done for you by flowing water,wind and rain. Work smarter and NOT harder. Join a small local yokel club and take years off them painful costly newbie years and learn much more faster, meet some righteous goldnutz, club outings and plenty of great retired folks with claims and plenty of equipment to share-John

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Being in Missouri, I hope you're in the northern portion of the state, the glaciers only hit the upper reaches of Missouri, so those areas would be the places to hunt for the gold that was brought down from Canada, most of which would be ground down to fine gold by the tremendous weight of the glaciers.

There is some fine gold to be found in the northern parts of Missouri, the key word here is "fine" gold, I have seen some small "pickers" found in Missouri, but mostly you will find fine flour gold, do this as a hobby, you'll not get rich on any gold found in Missouri, so don't get your expectations to high.

That being said there are 3 GPAA Chapters in Missouri and I would suggest that you join the one closest to you, usually you will not have to join the GPAA national organisation to be a member of many GPAA local Chapters in the USA, but that depends on the Chapter so contact the Chapter to find out how to join, meeting and going out with prospectors in your area would be the best thing to help you learn where and how to pan for gold.

Here's a link to the GPAA's Missouri Chapters page, it includes the contact info for each Chapter...


I would also suggest that if you choose to go at it alone or even joining up with one of the GPAA Chapters is to do a web search on "gold prospecting in Missouri", "Gold Panning in Missouri" along with other similar key phrases and read all you can about finding gold in Missouri.

You can still use the diagrams posted above along with the advice of Hoser John (very experienced he is :old: so listen to him) in rivers and streams that have drainage from the glacial moraines of northern Missouri.

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Like John says, the pan is for sampling, or,...."prospecting".

Use it to find a streak or deposit and come back in with a


Use the pan again to concentrate the sluice clean out/clean up.

IMHO, "speed panning" is B. S.! :nutty:

Take your time, what's the hurry anyway? :idunno:

It takes time and patients to do a good thorough job.

Every one has a little dif idea of how it's to be done.

Just figure out what works best for you. :brows:

Most of all, have fun with it! :4chsmu1:

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