Gold Panning

There’s Gold in Dem Thar Hills!!!

Staycations California has discovered a new pastime or a bucket list event for you… Gold Panning.

Long past the Gold Rush of 1849, prospectors are still searching and finding those shinny gold nuggets in California some 160 years later. While most of it is flakes, on a lucky day you can find a few small nuggets worth cashing in. With gold at about $1,200 an ounce, even a small amount can be worth some cash.

However, you don’t just pick up a pan and go; there is more to it than that.  You must have the following basic knowledge:

  • A knowledge of where gold has been found in the past
  • A knowledge of where one can legally prospect
  • A knowledge of prospecting laws and regulations
  • A knowledge of gold deposits and geology
  • A knowledge of prospecting methods
  • That is why it is important to be a part of an organization that gives you this knowledge or organizes trips where a bunch of people can join together to work on an owned claim.

    Staycationer JoJo  attended  The Treasury Seekers of San Diego meeting and then a few days later, went out to a claim site to see what all the fuss was about.

    Ray pour sand

    For more information about The Treasure Seekers of San Diego County’s, check out their official newsletter called Finders Keepers which is published monthly.  It contains information about the organization, interesting articles, as well as good information about Gold Prospecting & Treasure Hunting.

    Meetings are on the 1st Wednesday of the Month from 6pm-9pm.  The meetings feature interesting speakers with tons of information plus a raffle that offers up some great prizes.

    Meetings also give them the opportunity to announce the upcoming events for gem finding, metal detecting and  gold claim outings.

    As mentioned, JoJo was lucky to be able to go out to a claim and experience gold panning firsthand.

    Here is a little excerpt from that experience:

    On a warm Saturday in March, a few of us took the trek out to Twentynine Palms which is located in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree. The two-hour drive took us out to a claim organized by the Treasure Seekers and American Prospector Treasure Seeker.

    Gold panning feels like an outdoor gambling experience, minus the casino and minus sitting with hundreds of your closest friends in a smoke filled room.  The thrill of hitting a jackpot in the form of gold is still there but this time you are outdoors in the fresh air!

    Ray Panning

    Digging the dirt and panning, gives you new appreciation for the hard work and patience that our early settlers endured while trying to make a buck.   Equipped with just the basic tools, the early prospectors really had to work hard for their bounty.

    JoJo shoveling

    Flash forward to today and we are still using pans to sift through the dirt and rock but  this time it is just to see if there is gold or gold flakes  in the area.  Once established that there could be gold in that area, the digging begins and the fancy equipment starts. Machines separate the rocks and eventually the gold!

    The tools
    A good eye and instinct aren’t bad traits either and learning where the gold is most likely to settle is part of the fun too.  Certain plants, rocks and riverbeds are all good indications and all part of learning about this ever growing activity.


    The experience itself takes you outdoors to enjoy the warm breezes, nature, and, in our case…DIRT.  Yes, dirt.  However, you are away from cell phones, obligations, and responsibilities.  All your worries are left behind and that in itself makes for a good day.  Freedom to play in the dirt with the flakes of gold dangling in your sights is relaxing in its own way.    I will tell you, that at the end of the day, you will feel like you have worked hard but it is rewarding and satisfying.

    Even after the day is over, you can take home with you more dirt to sift through later, making this an ongoing experience.

    Ray pour sand

    It may not be glamorous, but it is still a lot of fun getting out in the open and back to our heritage of the Gold Rush in California. There may not be gold in dem thar hills but there may be gold in dem thar dirt!!!

    Stay tuned to see if we found anything.


    Story: Debbie Colwell and Jolan “JoJo” Schmidt

    Photos: Janice Davies and JoJo Schmidt



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