Gold Prospecting Basics – Getting Started

By Terry Soloman –

The basics of gold prospecting have not changed since the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians dug gold from placer deposits in deserts, and panned it from mountain streams. The first rule of gold prospecting then – and now, is to seek gold where gold has been found before.

The fastest way to get started gold prospecting is to join your local gold prospecting club. This will save you money, and months of research, trial and error. By joining your local club, you’ll have access to local gold claims and the knowledge and insight of fellow members as to what techniques and equipment they are using successfully on those claims.

Once you know where to look, the next step is sampling and finishing with a gold pan. You need several tools including a shovel; classifier; large gold pan; suction bottle, tweezers and a vial to put your gold in.

garrett gold panning kit deluxe

When you locate an area that you feel holds “pay-dirt,” you sample the soils directly on top of the bedrock by digging down to them and panning them out. “Overburden,” or the topsoil covering bedrock, can be a few inches deep – to many feet deep, so it is important to know just where the bedrock (the solid rock under the topsoil which stops gold from sinking any further) lies on your claim.

gold prospecting bedrock

After sampling with your gold pan and hopefully locating pay-dirt, it is time to process – or concentrate, as much of this material as possible. In areas with running streams or a water supply, this is easily accomplished by running the “classifieds” or, sifted pay-dirt, through a simple sluice or highbanker.

Once the dirt has been run through these concentration devices and all of the lighter material has been washed away, the concentrates, or “heavies,” are then panned out with your gold pan separating the gold from the black sands.

Gold rush prospectors knew nuggets were nice, but panning flake gold bought the beans and bacon.

“Nuggetshooting,” or metal detecting for gold nuggets, has become increasingly popular. Gold nugget metal detectors are specialized machines able to handle heavily mineralized soils associated with gold bearing areas. Single- frequency VLF (very low frequency) gold hunters like the Fisher Goldbug Pro; Tesoro Lobo Super Traq; and Teknetics G2 excel at finding the smallest pieces of gold in iron rich soils.

When you need added depth and sensitivity in extreme mineralization and conductive black sands, the Minelab GPX 5000 is the undisputed King of the goldfields and the pinnacle of metal detecting technology for the professional treasure hunter. This pulse induction nuggetshooter is capable of finding a nugget as small as one-gram at 14” in depth.

At today’s gold prices, finding a gram or two of gold each weekend can add up in a hurry. It’s no wonder gold fever is taking hold in the metal detecting community. If you have specific questions about gold prospecting feel free to email me at