The gold has been here for millions of years. The Natives who lived here first found little use for the yellow stuff, but tens of thousands of goldseekers crowded here a century and a half ago, seeking the fabled Mother Lode. The miners grabbed the easy pickings—placer or surface gold, and then the hardrock miners went after the deep stuff. Economic vagaries shut down most mining by the 1930s. Today, however, recreational gold panners still seek to get rich. Divers vacuuming the bottoms of the rivers still accumulate respectable piles of gold. Much of the local gold is used for jewelry making.

Where to gold pan: Federal and state regulations limit the places where you can gold pan. Also, you must respect private property. For starters, try the Auburn State Recreation Area, at the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River, near Highway 49 south of Auburn. You can also pan for gold across the bridge in Coloma. You can buy gold pans at many places in El Dorado County, such as at concessions in the park in Coloma (lessons available, too!) and at Placerville Hardware on Main Street in downtown Placerville.

Typical implements one might find at a 49er encampment are displayed here at this historical reenactment in Coloma.

Gold Panning: A Local Tradition

Getting to the Gold in Your Pan

Other Links

Researching the Gold Rush? Take a look at this extensive bibliography of articles.

The Oakland Museum of California maintains this elegant, in-depth site with animated adventures, art, stories and more.

Women in the California Gold Rush: a quality site worth the trip.

Les Kelly is the author/photographer of an elegant coffee-table book, California Gold Rush Country. Here's a portfolio of many of the images from the book.

Want to tour an underground gold mine? Sutter Creek Gold Mining, in Sutter Creek, offers both tours and gold panning.

Gold Rush. Put together by the Sacramento Bee for the Sesquicentennial, this extensive, well-designed site is well worth visiting.

This California State Parks site includes a lot of history about the Gold Rush.

Larson Jewelers offers a great link with tons of information.

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