Gold panning: what could I be doing wrong?

Hi everyone, possibly a long shot but perhaps someone here may be able to help with some nugget(!) of information for what I am doing wrong.

I had never been gold panning before so there is probably any number of things that I didn’t do right!

I spent several hours today up a creek on the West Coast at a spot that was a historic area for producing gold, even if it was known as poor workings.

Hopefully you can see the above pictures, to give you an idea.

There is steep blue clay walls to the creek, and the creek bed is just lots of granite boulders and stones.

There was a drop in level in the creek bed (water more like mini rapids before falling down the small drop and moving sluggishly in a deeper pool), and I tried on top, part way down the drop and edges of the pool.

I also foccused panning on the inside bend of the creek (including the level change), at various spots right around the bend include right up against the clay wall (I went down maybe 1/2 a foot there), then in various places within the water flow, then a bit further downstream, then upstream, always try to work out the direct line where gold might be entrained on water and where it might fall out…

But no luck. (I must have tried 20 to 30 pans).

No black sand even, but perhaps that’s normal?

Could anyone say if there’s anything obvious I should or shouldn’t do?

Perhaps I should have been moving all the boulders digging deeper down, and moving a lot more material.

Perhaps I needed to dig at different levels, not just on/near the surface rocks and sand.

Perhaps there is not gold there anyway ha ha!

Anyway, I had a good time so that’s something!

Cheers in advance for reading, and any replies!

just looking at the photos
1 i think i know where you are
2 the area looks like it been worked pretty hard
3you are deep enough to get flood gold and with no black sand i would say find somewhere new

goldsbrough is good for starting to get you technique correct because you will always get colour
going to where there is a history of gold isnt always the best as everyone else thinks the same
remember its getting on 150 years of people playing in these creeks.
its always good to get out there you will get it one day good luck …keith


Thanks for the advice keith, really appreciate it!

So, for next time I might change my spot (Goldsborough is a bit far from where I live but I might have to make some excuse to the wife :laughing:); and make sure that I am digging down enough.

Good advice re the historic areas - I kinda thought that it was a gold area so a plus - but a known one so maybe done over. And apparently it was never great.

You may well know where I am - up north on the Coast. Further north than you (I think!)

Oh yeah I meant to clarify: Is ironsand usual with gold? Do you ever get gold without ironsand?

ironsands , blacksands, white silicon sands. gold and others can all be found together gold also by its self. red sand are very small garnets .
send me a personal message i maybe able to help you with location


Iron sand is heaveyish & so sort of hangs out & deposits in the same places as gold. Some creeks aren’t renowned for a lot of iron sand. Unlike here in Queenstown & the likes of the Shotover & Arrow rivers that are over loaded with the stuff. Flood gold, finer flakes & specks, usually gets replenished to a degree after a good flood of which the west coast rivers are prone to. So even the known gold creeks that have been thrashed over the years should get a bit of flood gold redeposited. You just got to be Johnny on the spot after a flood.
Look on the inside bends & the downstream side of larger rocks & boulders. You should notice little deposits of material & hopefully black sands in behind those rocks & boulders. Leaver them out of the way or man handle them from their resting spot & pan the material from under & around them.

JW :cowboy_hat_face:

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OK thanks very much! I really appreciate the info.
Looking forward to getting back into it now :grin:

Hey BarleyBender cant add much to the previous posts. But I can try :sunglasses:

I had never been gold panning before so there is probably any number of things that I didn’t do right!

  • if you haven’t panned much before practice with some lead shot - you can do that at home
  • classify as you learn to pan
  • if you are just panning you’ll probably do better going for places that have some bedrock and look for bedrock cracks. Just panning a gravel bank can be hard to do well
  • watch some youtube videos and read a lot. is a decent video actually his channel has a bunch of decent videos - hes not in nz but I think he has a few clues
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Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it!

This is genius:

if you haven’t panned much before practice with some lead shot - you can do that at home

Here I was actually thinking I need to buy some gold, put it in river gravel, and see if I can pan it out again ha ha!

classify as you learn to pan

Do you mean, like, identify the rock classifications (types) as I see them in the pan; or use a 10mm classifying seive? (or both!)

Hi there Mr Barley Bender.
Your post reminds me of my early days panning over 20 years ago. Usually I tell no one nothing/no-how/never/but I shall relent this once and share. 1. If you want to learn how to swim, get in the damn water. Doggy paddle (oops, apologies to sensitive folk; no doggies were harmed in any way in the writing of this post except maybe their feelings for which I will pay reparations for the rest of the life of the planet) here there and everywhere.

I too think I know the crick you are in, or at least similar in design. and 2. you probably drove over countless cricks with yella in em on da way there. 3. Climb the banks on both side and grab samples in bags and go test. 4. What-cha doing it for? Monies/fame/ fortune. If-in it be dinero ya want ya need to start your journey at home on NZ claims map. Find a place not claimed (or get permission) and go at it. 5. With practice you can do a pan in less than a minute (black plastic); you don’t need to pan it right down just enough to get a clean sample. Practice. The lead shot is a good idea and you could try flattening it with a hammer to more closely resemble gold or even better keep hitting it until it breaks up and add that to a pan of gravel. 6. The heavier/harder the pack (ground you are working in) the better the odds. Light gravel even with big rocks in it is less likely to hold gold unless its way down. Again, how much work do you want to do. I never believe people who say I would be happy with a speck. Everybody wants to win the lottery; but a person of intellect knows the odds and buys a ticket with a realistic idea of the odds.
7. Know thyself. If-in you a lazy sod who prefers the beer to the sweat dat bin what you get. however; if-in you “love"the adventure as much as the “get” gitting it may be for you. Here is a self test. Walk along a beach/ river bank/ etc and watch what you do; yes, observe yourself. Kinda like know you simply can’t resist a blonde or chocolate, know thyself. If, as you walk you thrill at the sight of interesting"stuff” then finding the yellow may be for you. Sure I know folk far more interested in gitting drunk (who are successful) than seeking that wonderful feeling of finding things for yourself (a feeling foreign to the dummies)It is pure joy to create things that you and you alone created whether it is an engine or a poem. That same joy is found in studying a flower closely and letting you eyes wander a crick imagining the passage of time and events from glaciers to flood to mining activities long ere faded into the mists if time.
8. Think outside the box. Gold price is up, people everywhere become protective of their spots, claimed or not so you will have to do the hard yards if you want success and even then you may not succeed But any honest effort is a reward in itself. Plenty of people cheat. I have had people charm me/ follow me/ wait till I sleep or am away for supplies to jump my spot / attack me/ rob me/ threaten me/ vandalize my property etc. (those people will never know joy for their hearts are made of stone and their women and even worse) .
9. Remember the laws, trespass/ health and safety an so on, as they are will only get worse; The greenies (self important sewage pond monsters) want to stop anyone doing anything, especially looking at a river or breathing,eating etc.
10. This mission, if you choose to except it will self detonate in …


yeah buying some gold would work :sunglasses: But I would go with a cheap equivalent to start with, in case of loss.

Sorry by classification, I meant use a classifying sieve. Ideally one that fits nicely into your pan. Basically getting rid of larger rocks is very helpful when you start learning. Why that matters is it helps with the specific gravity differential of gold to “not gold” which is what panning etc. works by. Basically that means when whats in the pan is all a similar size, then the gold will be heavier goes to the bottom when you suspend the material.

Ivanelmango has an important point here to remember. Its harder to find a gold partner than a good wife/husband/etc. Who hasn’t trusted someone only to be taken advantage off, be ripped off, find they are lazy, cleaned out the spot you showed them, or worse etc. From reading others posts, I dont think this is just me just being paranoid lol.

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Thanks for the advice and words of wisdom. There is a lot for me to think about!

And I think that the best thing I can do is keeplooking and keep trying.

Especially interesting about people being out and about in their spots and gold price being higher, the bush tracks round here never seem particularly busy but there is probably a lot more going on than I would know about.

I am now on the lookout for a classifier. Cheers!

Hi BarleyBender;
Re: classifiers,
Um, what are they for? I have bought all sorts of classifiers and struggle to find their purpose. I am probably doing something wrong. I watch guys in the Arrow classify put result in a bucket and put everything down a sluice and then pan it out. it takes longer than a day on Jupiter. (10 hours). Meanwhile I have done 50 pans and have an ice cream container with concentrates to play with at home on cold winters days. Everyone has there style though.
However to combine my last reply and this one… How I pan (with a steel pan). I use a shovel that I can dig with, usually a long handled shovel (but I had great use from a $20 short handle), not the sort that one would move gravel about, that is more designed to load a concrete mixer. I would load my large steel pan with three or four shovel loads rocks as large as a mans fist included. I would carry this down to the river, fully plunge the pan and slowly-slowly! begin to shake,twist and rock and roll… the idea is to make the heavies sink, and then I would simply drag off all the larger material and repeat. One constantly looks at the bottom of the pan as one swirls the material. If you have gold it will quickly become obvious. With vast quantities of black sands (here I mean a large two handed amount or above) you should still see specks of gold, if it is there.

At this stage slow down and access your time versus the amount you clean. I find it best to simply put the concentrates into another container and take it home. Over time, you get good enough to take home less than a kilo of concentrates after a full day of panning (a full day is 5 to six hours of actual panning in one spot and several hours of getting there and away again).
Like everything some days are good and others not so good.

Using plastic pans is a little different because you need to be a little more careful, you cannot load them up as much, they do break, though rare. The darn things have a tendency to float or be blown away with the wind if left unattended for even a few seconds. I have lost a pan this way and found one too.

As to where to get gold, well there is this crick I know loaded with gold and little pickers. Go to town (X) follow road (Y), get to point (Q), open beer bottle, a nice big slurp, drive into (Q) open door reach down for the gold and load foot-well with all the nuggets. Drink more beer, go to pub, tell everyone how wonderful you are. Yes, I do have a grudge against drunks.

Or, quietly, so quietly that even sleeping dogs hear you not, shoulder thou pack and as the frost crackles, fog like, softly cross the land until you reach your spot. Using your ears and eyes make sure you are alone and commence your search. If DoC workers, farmers, fisherman, hikers, drones appear, put on your invisibility cloak and wait until the coast is clear.

It is a very sad fact that the romance of the gold rush days is 99% bullshit. It was and still is a cutthroat business.I have read of only one time in history where one could leave things in a spot and it would be safe and that was the first prospectors if 1848 in California. By 1849 claim jumping and theft was common. In New Zealand fights were as common as sand-flies. Sadly very few have the courage to prospect alone with fortitude risking life and disappointment to seek ones fortune. New Zealand’s history books are full of lone prospectors who were followed by the mobs who are too lazy and stupid to do anything for themselves. This is why secrecy is important. It is also why there is such a thing as copyright.

It is up to you as to your ability to handle risk. However as always there are rules.

  1. If you cannot swim, do not venture into water above the knees, ever.
  2. Learn how to self rescue in rapids. Basically get on your back, aim feet down stream, try to stay calm and get out.
    3.Waders can be deathtraps. I sometimes use them when it is cold but even in thigh deep water they can kill you, fill with water and so on, use dive boots or similar. Often I use my hiking boots as I am often many days walk from any road with a week or more of tucker, my blow up doll etc… This is hard on the boots though.
  3. Use modern technology if you can afford it, especially if you have a family to provide for.

I know a few spots where you could go to get reasonable color (though not enough to travel far, for I would be writing this from there) in most parts of the country. But I have always found it worthwhile to make the effort.

Chin up amigo, the days lengthen, there IS!!! still gold in the hills waiting for you. get at em.


Maybe try the clay bankn and moss and weed there? Lance

More great stuff here. I really appreciate the advice, it helps know end. Not second guessing myself all the time.

I am looking forward to finding my first speck! :+1:

Do you reckon it might be worth a poke around under the mossy rocks?

Mate, you’re here on the coast. Gold is everywhere. Chances are you will find a spec or two in the drain outside your front gate.

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Bloody hell, looks like some earthworks out the front are in order!