How to Pan for Gold in Alaska

Panning for gold in Alaska is an activity that attracts many people to America's largest state each year. Experienced miners as well as everyday tourists are engaging in gold panning, and many of them are actually finding gold. After gathering the proper materials from a miner's or prospector's store, hardware store, or sporting goods store, the process of how to pan for gold in Alaska can be learned in just a few steps.


  1. 1
    Position the grizzly over your gold pan. Use the shovel to put gravel into the grizzly, and shake it through the holes in the grizzly. Inspect all oversized rocks and other materials for possible gold nuggets, and toss anything that is not gold back into the stream.
  2. 2
    Prepare for the gold panning process. Squat down by the edge of the stream, and submerge a half-full gold pan in gently moving stream water between your knees. Point the pan riffles away from your body so that you can catch any gold that emerges over the pan's lip. Throw back any pebbles into the stream. Break up clay balls in case any placer gold is trapped inside them. When the water inside the pan clears up, the clay is gone and you can start panning.
  3. 3
    Begin panning for gold. Shake the pan sideways or in a circular motion while keeping it completely submerged underwater. Be on the lookout for heavy, unusually shaped or colored pieces that sink to the bottom of the pan. If you have gold, it will settle to the bottom of the pan.
  4. 4
    Tilt the pan sideways occasionally to let sand and other small materials wash away. If you see dark, heavy mineral grains, you are panning correctly. These minerals could contain precious and semiprecious stones such as magnetite, garnet, scheelite, zircon, cassiterite, and platinum, so look out for them as well as for gold.
    • As a general rule, if you find something heavy, keep it for later analysis. A geologist or miner will be able to identify the items you find.
  5. 5
    Do your final panning over a container so you don't lose any small gold pieces that could possibly be in your pan. Use a magnet to separate magnetic grains from everything else. Use tweezers to pick up possible small gold pieces. If you find any possible small pieces of gold, save them in a water-filled vial.


  • Many people find gold at points in the streams where the current speed changes from faster to slower-moving currents. Below rapids or waterfalls, under deep pools, at the downstream side of a boulder, bends of meanders, and the upstream ends of sand bars are all common places to pan for gold in Alaska.
  • The gold is in the water. Spend your time looking for gold in the water as opposed to elsewhere.


  • Do not mine along the shore or in cut banks. Doing so puts you in danger of being in the way of falling boulders and trees. Mine in the active stream channel only.
  • The temperature in Alaska is often cold. Wear insulted gloves and boots to protect yourself from the cold. Wool clothing is recommended because it keeps you warm, even if it gets wet. Dressing in layers is highly recommended.
  • Watch out for moose, black bears, and other dangerous wildlife. Do not approach them. Bears and moose tend to avoid people, but you should still keep your distance if you happen to see these animals. Educate yourself about the behavior of Alaskan wildlife prior to your gold panning trip.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves and boots
  • 14-inch (35.56-cm) gold pan
  • Shovel
  • Grizzly pan with .5-inch (1.27-cm) holes in the bottom
  • Sluice box, 3 feet (0.9 m) long (optional)
  • Tweezers
  • Small magnet
  • Small glass vials with stoppers

Article Info

Categories: Rock Gem Mineral and Fossil Collecting