Gold panning is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. If you look upon it simply as a hobby, a way to have fun out in the fresh air of nature, you may get more out of it than simply pursuing it for money,
Yes, many weekend gold prospectors make money with their hobby, but usually at the cost of fancy equipment, like expensive dredges. And it takes work, hard work But, if your focus is just fun and some pretty flakes to show off later, then you can get by for a lot less money with simple equipment.
Heck, you can even build stuff like sluice boxes and rocker boxes.
But at a minimum, you will need a gold pan, a small trowel or shovel and a snuffer bottle to suck up the gold flakes and specks in the bottom of your pan.
If the idea of scratching out the contents of cracks and depressions in stream side bedrock appeals to you, you can throw in a few sniping tools like a crevice tool, a couple of spoons, brushes, screwdriver, maybe a rock hammer. And don’t forget, a five gallon bucket or two comes in handy for carrying material and tools.
Looking for gold in the outdoors is basically a treasure hunt, whether you find just flakes or you get a gold nugget or two. It is the thrill of the chase, a lot like hunting, as you learn to read a stream and figure out where the gold may be hiding. Gold has its own characteristics, like density, that help determine where it will settle out during high water times when much of the stream bed material may become mobile. As you get better at this, you have the pleasure of greater and greater success.
Some folks aren’t all that crazy about digging, so their weapon of choice is the metal detector designed to read the ground for the presence of gold. Some awfully nice nuggets have been found in the US and many other places in the world, with these wonderfully magic machines.
Gold panning is a nice way to introduce children to the outdoors. Some take to it easily, others grow bored, but all can learn to enjoy being away from the house and its TV and computer games. And in the warm seasons of the year, that river or creek can be wonderfully inviting for a swim and picnic.
The US has many places to go to find gold. Public land along gold bearing streams, gold prospecting set aside areas, even private lands with access for a fee. Much of the West, parts of the South, upper Midwest and New England are some likely places to research for gold.
Go out and get the gold!