Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Panning for Gold

A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to go gold panning with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The gold was put there when Glaciers melted. At times Ohio has had 3/4 of its surface covered by vast sheets of ice as much as a mile thick (about 1.6 million years ago). 

Members of the Gold Prospectors Association of America were present to help teach us about gold prospecting. They were so friendly and helpful!

Plastic gold pans are light in weight and have ridges along the inside lip of the pan that prevent gold flakes from being sloshed out. You agitate the pan, while it's submerged in water with a wrist motion. Doing this technique will cause the coarsest gravel to rise to the top and out of the pan. Once there are only small particles in the pan you will put a little water in and do a swirling motion so the heaviest materials can be seen (magnetite, ilmenite and garnet). These heavy materials are dark so the gold should sparkle up at you if there is any in your pan. 

When panning you are trying to get to the heavy dark materials including iron, since gold is 2.5 times as heavy as iron it will still be in the pan as well. The iron can then be taken out with a magnet and you can make one of these. The gold is commonly confused with pyrite and marcasite (fools gold), chalcopyrite and weathered mica flakes. I found some gold flakes inside of a tiny quartz rock. 

You use a snuffer bottle or a small plastic syringe to suck up the tiny bits of gold. You can't easily pick them up with your fingers.

Many of the gold-panners pan for the black sand that holds the gold on the river and then take that home to find the gold.

The professional gold panners had a portable sluice and dredge. A sluice is an inclined trough that has a series of cross ridges or baffles that trap gold and other heavy minerals from a mixture of sand, gravel and water flowing down the incline. Dredges are gasoline powered and use a long hose to suck sediment from the stream bottom. 

Look at those tiny yellow specks of gold! You won't get rich panning for gold but you will feel enriched.

Standing in the rive panning for gold was somewhat backbreaking, so they would run sediment through the dredge and sluice and we'd sit on buckets and pan.

We had a beautiful day to pan and I had fun learning about gold panning. I truly appreciate being able to call a company and order my metal. 


Kelly Heck said...

That sounds like a fun experience... we talked about doing that while in Alaska but opted to fish instead.

Valerie A. Heck Esmont said...

It was fun in a way but also very tiring and you didn't find a lot of gold at all. Made me appreciate how I can just order what I need!

Sandy Eaton said...

What a beautiful spot to spend the day and to get even a few specks of gold is great. Can't expect to get rich in a day.