How to pan for gold in the Wild West

  1. Fill your pan

The traditional method for panning for gold is so simple it has rarely changed in the hundreds of years since its introduction. To start, take a large scoop of gravel and pour it into a shallow pan. Make sure you remove any large rocks and inspect them.


  1. Choose a spot

The next stage of the process is all about selecting the right location to begin your panning. The best place to pan is at a point on the shore of a river or flowing body of water that’s no more than 15cm (6in) deep. A mild current is ideal for this.


  1. Sifting through

Now submerge the contents of your pan and let the water wash away any dirt. Remember, mud will float up but gold will sit as it is so dense. Once the dirt has been separated, begin to shake the pan vigorously just under the surface of the water.


  1. Refine your haul

The shaking will filter bigger rocks to the top; discard these. Repeat the last two steps and remove the top rocks. Drain the water and repeat from the start. Keep removing the heavy materials (iron, minerals, etc) until you’re left with fine flecks of shiny gold – if you’re lucky.


Explore the reality of life in the Wild West in All About History issue 21.