Recreational panning for gold in the rivers, streams and creek beds of Trinity County is fun, and with luck can even be profitable. Each time you swirl water in your pan in search of that precious nugget, or at least a little “color,” you become a part of Gold Rush history, joining the long line of prospectors who moved west in search of riches more than a hundred years ago, and ended up settling California.
Although serious miners in the U.S. use expensive equipment to find their fortunes, all you’ll need is a pan and some information about where to look in order to have some serious fun. Gold is heavier than anything else you’re likely to find in a river bottom or riverbank, and will sink to the bottom of the pan as other materials float away.
Gold is still a big business in California, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re not poaching on someone’s claim, or trespassing on private land. Most BLM and forest service land is open to gold panning, but you should check with the local ranger or district office to make sure there are no restricted areas that you’ll need to avoid. Also talk to locals; you’ll find many that can offer friendly advice, including warning you away from areas that have been played out. For every grizzled old-timer who wants to keep his secret spots secret, you’ll find one busting with pride who can’t wait to tell you about the best places in the area for panning.
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