You can pan gold with few tools: a pick or shovel for extracting gravel, and a pan, made of traditional material like steel, or new-fangled plastic with built-in riffles to catch the gold. Most local hardware stores stock pans. Veteran miner Ray Little cautions that the pan must be oil-free, or gold will roll right out of the pan. New metal gold pans are coated with rust-preventing oil. Get rid of it by using an SOS pad or "burning it off," says Ray.
What to pan? "First, you have to get down to bedrock," says Ray. Gold, exceeded in density only by platinum, "has had millions of years to work its way to the lowest spot it can find," he says. He suggests working smaller streams, since getting underneath the larger deposits of gravel often found along river edges can present logistical difficulties. Work streams in winter or early spring, when run-off is high.
"There are as many ways to run a gold pan as there are people," says Ray. First, "The more gravel you can put in, the greater the chances of finding something. It's a matter of volume." With his pan about two-thirds full of gravel, he stoops at the creek's edge, filling the pan with water. Holding the pan at an approximate 30-degree angle, he gently rotates the pan, spilling off lighter gravels, breaking clods of clay, and changing the water frequently. Finally, all the clay is gone and the water is clear. "Remove only small bits of rock at a time," he says. "Don't try to get rid of the overburden [larger rocks on top] too quickly."
Heavy black sand remains, made up of particles of iron. The iron, together with the gold, collects at the "tail of a string of black sand." Use tweezers to retrieve the gold, says Ray.

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