How to Pan for Gold in Oregon

Recreational gold panning is a popular pastime in the state of Oregon because of the rich gold-mining history and many promising waterways in which to pan for gold. Though there is no guarantee of finding gold, and the likelihood of striking it rich is very low, panning for gold in Oregon can be a fun activity. Prepare yourself by purchasing appropriate equipment, and by locating a legal panning site. The information that follows is a guide to helping you be successful at gold panning, or at least getting to a gold panning location. Finding gold will require a good eye and some good luck as well!

Things You'll Need

  • Gold pan(s)
  • Small magnet
  • Tweezers
  • Waterproof boots or shoe covers
  • Glass vials for storage
  • Map of gold panning areas or Oregon map
  • Emergency supply kit


  1. How to Pan For Gold in Oregon

    • 1

      Purchase gold panning equipment. There are many places to purchase equipment, such as sporting goods stores as well as businesses that specialize in mining equipment sales. Stores and equipment choices will vary by location, but the basic pieces of equipment you should look for include: at least one gold pan, tweezers, a small magnet, glass vials, either waterproof boots or boot covers for wading, and an emergency supply kit. Emergency supply kits should include at a minimum the following: first aid supplies, candles, waterproof matches, non-perishable food, water purifying tablets, a multi-function tool (such as a Swiss Army knife), flares or a mirror for signaling, and a warming blanket.

    • 2
      Map of Oregon Public Lands

      Locate a panning spot, and make sure the area you choose is a legal panning area. It is generally legal to pan for gold in any stream or river that you will find within campground boundaries. This applies to lands that are regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as well as the USDA Forest Service. Such areas include Hellgate (Rogue River), Little Applegate, Tunnel Ridge, and Gold Nugget, which are all within the Medford District, and managed by the BLM. Sharps Creek in the Eugene District is another popular place for recreational gold panning. Good locations on federal land include Quartzville Recreational Corridor, Butte Falls Recreational Area, and the Applegate Ranger District.

    • 3

      Pan for gold in areas where gold was found in the past. Such areas include northeast and southwest Oregon, as well as the Western Cascades.

    • 4

      Search for an area in a river or stream where the water is not running very fast. You will want to begin panning in a spot where the water does not flow very much, and is slowed by rocks, a turn in the direction of the water, or other obstructions, such as fallen trees or tree roots.

    • 5

      Wade into the water and dip the gold pan under the water, scooping up gravel from the creek or river bed . You will want to fill the pan about 2/3 with gravel. Hold the pan in the water, swirl it around in a circular motion and let the lighter gravel and dirt float out of the pan. Examine the remaining pieces in the pan, looking carefully for gold. Use a magnet to pull out other metals from the pan, and tweezers to pick out any pieces of gold that you find. Remember that gold is heavy and will not be floating above the other rocks and gravel. Floating gold specks are likely mica, which is not real gold.

    • 6

      Repeat the panning process as desired. Store your findings in a small glass vial with a good seal on it.
      Be sure to pick up after yourself, and leave any area that you have used cleaner than you found it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Book a gold panning trip or camp to get more detailed gold panning instructions and to learn about some of the best panning locations. Cracker Creek Mining Camp is one choice for panners.
  • Do not disturb animals or plants. If you see salmon spawning, or there are salmon eggs (they are red) visible in the water, pick a different location to pan.
  • Never move, remove, or cause harm to animals or plant life. Doing so can leave you subject to fines.
  • Do not use a shovel to fill your gold pan. Use of a shovel while panning on state and federal lands is illegal.
  • Take precautions when traveling anywhere alone, or when venturing in to desolate areas. Carry a cell phone with GPS tracking, emergency supplies, and warm clothing. Most importantly, always tell someone where you are going and what time you should be returning.
Related Searches


  • Photo Credit Gold Panners in Oregon Photo From Google Images:, Map of Oregon Public Lands From Google Images:,

Related Ads

View Blog Post

How to Pack a TSA-Approved Bag of Toiletries