How to Pan for Gold in Your Backyard

Panning for gold can be fun.
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Finding gold in your backyard is unlikely unless you live in an area known for gold production, but it is worth a try. Whether or not you find gold, learning the basics of panning for gold can be done whether or not gold is found. Learning the proper way to pan for gold in your backyard is easier than traveling to a gold stream. Once you have mastered the technique in the backyard, you can use your new skills in other areas. Plus, it is always possible to find gold in your own backyard, so grab your pan and get ready to look for gold.

    You will need to choose where in your yard to look for gold. Gold is an extremely dense element and will most generally be found on bedrock or in stream beds where it was deposited by the current. If your yard has no exposed bedrock, you will probably have to dig down to it. Another tip to find gold is to look for quartz. Quartz is often found near gold, and the presence of quartz in a location is a good indicator.

    Once you have chosen where to take your sample, use your shovel or trowel to fill your gold pan to about two-thirds full. Do not in any way sort the soil; that is the work of the water.

    Submerge the gold pan into water and gently make a circular motion to get the sample moving in the pan. During this process dirt will immediately mix with water and the muddy water will start to float out of the pan. Wash off any large rocks into the pan and remove them.

    As the sample begins moving in the pan, lift the pan from the water and continue to make the circular motion allowing floating material to be washed out of the pan. The goal is to remove lighter material from the pan.

    Continue this process until only a small amount of the material is left in the pan. You will probably need to go through three cycles in most locations. Once only a small amount remains, carefully examine your pan for gold.

    Things You'll Need

    • Gold pan (a pie pan or similar object can be used)
    • Soil from your yard, preferably from a stream
    • Shovel or trowel
    • Water (preferably a stream)


    • Did you or did you not find gold? One test is that gold will be bright even in the shade. If that shiny particle in you pan goes dull when shaded by your hand, it is probably not gold. Pyrite, or "fool's gold," will commonly fool novice gold prospectors. The simplest test to determine whether it is gold or pyrite is to test malleability. Gold will bend or flatten when hit with a hammer, pyrite will break.

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