How to Pan for Gold in the Denver Area of Colorado


Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1859 at Clear Creek in Arapahoe County. Since then, several gold mining towns have sprung up all over Colorado, most of which have now been abandoned. However, that's not to say there's no gold left in Colorado or in the Denver area. People still pan gold on a daily basis. To successfully pan for gold, all you need is proper technique and a little luck.

Things You'll Need

  • Gold pan
  • Small shovel
  • Small glass jar
  • Rubber boots

The Panning Process

  • Choose any river or creek in the Denver area you would like to pan for gold. Find a spot with about 6 inches of water near the shore that flows slowly. If it flows too quickly, it could sweep away the contents in your pan.

  • Put on rubber boots to protect your feet from getting wet. Dig out enough dirt from the shore to fill the pan about three-quarters full using a small shovel.

  • Submerge the pan in the water and break up the contents by kneading it with your hands.

  • Shake the pan while it's submerged. Move it side to side and back and forth for a few minutes to help the heavier materials such as gold sink to the bottom. The lighter materials, gravel and rocks, rise to the surface. Be careful not to spill any of the pan's contents over the edge.

  • Bring the pan out of the water and tilt it forward slightly toward yourself. Scoop out any large rocks with your free hand. This works best with water in the pan.

  • Tilt the edge of the pan forward and away from yourself. Slowly begin to shake the heavier materials out of the pan, until only sand and gold remains. Add water to the pan while shaking the heavier materials out when it is necessary to keep the gold separated.

  • Shake the pan with a circular motion to make the gold more obvious. Pick the gold out of the pan with your fingers and wash it off into a small glass container. Repeat this process several times until you are satisfied.

Where to Pan in the Denver Area

  • Drive northwest out of Denver to the Colorado River ( Find a suitable spot along the river to pan for gold. Explore the river shore and try out several spots. The Colorado River is mighty river and people have been known to find gold along its shores.

  • Drive east out of Denver to Idaho Springs, about a half-hour drive. Pan for gold at the Phoenix Gold Mine ( Pay an $8 fee to pan for gold along the stream all day and keep what you find.

  • Drive west out of Denver to Breckenridge, about 90 minutes away. Pan for gold at Country Boy Mine ( Pay the $9.95 panning fee for all-day panning along the river and keep what you find.

Tips & Warnings

  • Find a rock or log to sit on to make gold panning more comfortable. This can be done in a squatting position, but it gets tiring quickly.
  • You can pan for gold anywhere, anytime. Doing it during a family outing will increase your chances to find gold and the company makes it more enjoyable.
  • Don't use a Teflon-coated pan when panning for gold because the gravel will ruin the Teflon coating.


  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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