Define the perfect family vacation.
Could it be soaking in scenic landscapes from America’s streams and rivers? Maybe it’s learning about a historic piece of the American experience? Certainly, striking it rich and pulling out a 17-pound chunk of gold worth millions would be an enticing option!
For centuries, Americans have taken to rivers and streams in search of the ultimate riches. At many historic places, you still can — all by panning for gold.
6 Places in America That Let You Pan for Gold
1. Reed Gold Mine, N.C.
The Reed Gold Mine is the place that started it all.
In 1799, Conrad Reed was walking along Little Meadow Creek when he noticed a shiny, gold substance gleaming in the water. That glint was found to be a 17-pound gold nugget. The event is documented as the first authentic gold claim in the United States, and you can still pull gold out of the water to this day.
The Reed Gold Mine is about 20 miles outside of Charlotte, N.C. The site offers free admission and tours of the gold mines. Visitors can pan from April 1 through October 31. Panning is only $3 per person; groups of 10 or more who make a reservation a month in advance pay $2 per pan.
2. Big Thunder Gold Mine, S.D.
Mount Rushmore, Black Hills Forest and gold panning; these are the things worth doing while in South Dakota.
In 1876, the gold rush swept across the Black Hills of South Dakota after deposits were found in Deadwood Creek. People have been panning for gold ever since.
Big Thunder Gold Mine is one spot to try it — they’ll teach you proper technique in about 20 minutes and charge $11.95 per pan. The cost drops down to $9.95 when you also take a tour of the mine.
3. Jamestown, Calif.
The problem with gold panning in California is deciding on where to do it. The state is rich with gold mining history and remarkable finds. Although Sutter’s Mill is the more well known, consider heading south to Jamestown, Calif.
The town isn’t far from Yosemite National Park. Plus, there are numerous panning tours available. You can adventure out on your own, buying gold pans in town, or you can hire a professional guide.
California Gold Panning offers groups of up to two adults and three children a one-hour panning tour for $120 (longer tours are also available). Gold Prospecting Adventures offers prospecting courses, as well as group adventures of three to five hours (prices unavailable).
4. Dahlonega, Ga.
Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills.” It comes from a famous advertisement for gold mining in Georgia.
Although people have been hunting for gold in North Georgia’s Appalachian region for nearly 200 hundred years, places like the Consolidated Gold Mine offer you a fair shot at finding your own fortune. Everyone who goes on the Underground Adventure at the mine gets a chance to try gold panning.
5. Crow Creek, Ark.
If you are in Alaska and want to look for more than incredible scenery and wildlife, you might want to try your hand at panning for gold.
Crow Creek Gold Mine offers demonstrations and private mining excursions. Children $12 and under pay $15, while people ages 13-63 pay $24. Seniors 64 and over, as well as military and Alaska residents pay $20 each.
6. Alabama Gold Camp, Ala.
Perhaps gold alone isn’t enough for you. If you’re looking to add the possibility of finding garnet, citrine or fossils into the mix, you should head to the Alabama Gold Camp.
For a mere $5 per person, you can get admission with panning and sluicing included. Children 11 and under are free with an adult. Camping is also available, for only $5/day for “primitive” camping or $30/day for RV hookups.
Americans have been searching for gold for centuries. Now you and your family can be part of the history. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get rich doing it, too.
Good luck Penny Hoarders!