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RECREATIONAL GOLD PANNING

 

Because gold is heavier than most sediments and gravel in a stream, it and other heavy minerals called "black sands" (including pyrite, magnetite, ilmenite, chromite, and garnet) can be collected in a gold pan when the right panning techniques are used.

First, get a gold pan from a hardware or department store or a store that specialized in mining equipment. Gold pans are flat bottomed, usually about 2 or 3 inches deep, with the sides sloping at an angle of about 45, and should be at least 15 inches in diameter.

Take your pan to a likely-looking location along a stream in a known gold-bearing area. You are looking for a gold trap-a place along the stream where the current slows down enough for the gold to settle out. Good possibilities are the insides of curves of streams (called point bars), areas where streams have overflowed, and on the downstream sides of boulders or other obstructions in the water.

Historical mining information can also be found on the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries website www.oregongeology.org/sub/milo/ohmi.htm. For more mineral information, see the Department's Mineral Information Layer for Oregon.

 

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PANNING FOR GOLD - STEP BY STEP

Once you find a good place, follow these steps to pan for gold:

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Fill the pan about half or two-thirds full of soil, gravel, and small rocks from the stream channel.

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Put the pan under water, break up lumps of clay, and discard the stones.

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Still holding the pan level under water with your hands on opposite sides of it, rotate it halfway back and forth rapidly to wash out the clay and concentrate the heavy material at the bottom of the pan.

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Still holding the pan under water, tilt the pan forward, away from your body, and down slightly. Rotate and shake it to let the light gravel and sand dribble out the front. Push top material and large chunks of rock out with your thumbs. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 several times until a deposit of fine-grained dark material overlain by a smaller layer of light material remains at the bottom of the pan.

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Take the pan with the residue and some water out of the stream. Rotate the pan in a circular motion, and watch carefully what is happening. The water is separating lighter from heavier material-and gold, if it is present and you are doing the panning properly, is lagging behind the other material at the bottom of the pan.

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Stop the rotation. If you are lucky, you will see a few flecks of gold in the dark material that remains in the bottom of the pan. Carefully drain out water and let the black sand and gold dry. Lift out most of the black sand with a magnet, and separate that gold from the remainder of the sediment with tweezers.

 
   

WHERE TO PAN ON FEDERAL LAND

Gold panning is permitted on nearly all streams and rivers running through Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service (USFS) land in Oregon. Maps showing locations of public lands may be obtained from:

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Local BLM and USFS offices

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Nature of the Northwest Information Center

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Nature of the Northwest online store

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BLM Oregon State Office
PO Box 2965, 333 SW First
Portland, OR 97208
(503) 808-6002.

     
   

Where to pan for gold on Oregon federal lands
To find gold, you should go where gold has been found beforein northeast Oregon, southwest Oregon, and the Western Cascades. These areas have many streams and rivers that can be successfully panned for gold.

Mining claims on Federal land are not open for gold panning unless permission has been granted by the owner. However, areas have been set aside on Federal land in Oregon for recreational gold panning:

   

Area 1. Quartzville Recreational Corridor:
Located in the Western Cascades, Salem District, Bureau of Land Management (free site).
Salem District Office
1717 Fabry Road SE
Salem, OR 97306
(503) 375-5646.

   

Area 2. Butte Falls Recreational Area:
Located in southwestern Oregon, Medford District, Bureau of Land Management (free site).
3040 Biddle Road
Medford, OR 97504
(541) 618-2200.

   

In Oregon, areas below the vegetation line on navigable rivers and streams and ocean beaches belong to the State of Oregon and are therefore open for recreational gold panning.

 

GOLD VIEWING

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A large collection of gold is on display in the lobby of the Baker City Branch, US Bank, in Baker City in eastern Oregon. Included in the collection is the famous Armstrong nugget, weighing 80.4 ounces.

 

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

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All the shiny gold-colored material in you gold pan may not be gold. Pyrite, known as "fools gold," has fooled many before you. On close examination, however, pyrite does not really look like gold. Pyrite has a brassy color, is sometimes tarnished, and, because it occurs as crystals, changes shades as you rotate it in the sun. Gold is always gold colored, soft, and malleable or bendable. If you see gold-colored flecks that either float on the water or are so light in weight that they easily wash out of the pan, you probably have small pieces or "books" of mica, a mineral that because it is transparent and heat resistant was once used in doors of stoves so the fire could be seen. Mica has a tendency to break apart into flat sheets. It comes in several colors, and the the gold-colored variety is sometimes mistaken for gold by inexperiences gold panners.

If you are lucky enough to find gold in your pan, it can come in many shapes: small lumps or nuggets, wires, feather-shaped crystals, or flat flecks. Pieces can range in size from almost microscopic "colors" (very small pieces) up to fist-sized nuggets, but your chances of finding the latter are pretty remote. However, gold panners are optimistic, and you never know what the next pan will produce.

 

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GOLDEN RULES FOR RECREATIONAL GOLD PANNERS

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If you are unsure about land status, check with the nearest appropriate State, BLM, or USFS authorities.

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If you open a gate, close it.

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If you must cross private land, get permission first.

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If you make trash, take it home

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If you drive, stay on established roads.

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If it is growing, let it grow

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If you make trash, take it home

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If you drive, stay on established roads.

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If it is growing, let it grow

 
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