20 Rivers With Gold Where You Can Go Panning in North America (With Maps)

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Written By Alex

Panning for gold is a great American tradition, a fun outdoor activity, and even a lucrative hobby for a skilled few.

Thus, many people are curious if there’s a river with gold near them where they can go prospecting.

Unfortunately gold is so expensive because it’s rare, and few rivers contain gold.

So we assembled this list of 20 rivers in North America that still have gold in them that you can find today. And to prove it we provided a video of someone finding gold at each one, and a map of the river!

Western States & Canada

South Platte River near Denver, Colorado

South Platte River Gold Panning Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The South Platte River is a 439-mile river in Colorado that contains gold in many places, including its many tributaries and creeks.

It originates high up in the Rockies near Fairplay, Colorado and runs northeast through the heart of Denver.

Park County, the county southwest of Denver near the head of the South Platte River, is home to some of Colorado’s largest gold discoveries.

The cool thing about the South Platte River is there are many places to pan for gold that are located in and around the Denver Metro Area, and are quite easy to access. Not every river on this list is so conveniently located near a big city!

As an example, Youtuber Shane Klesh has a video where he successfully pans for gold with Diamond Miner Ivins in Clear Creek, a tributary to the South Platte River.

Clear Creek runs right through Golden, a western suburb of Denver and home to Coors beer! And spoiler: they didn’t name the town after the color of the lager!

Fraser River near Vancouver, British Columbia

Fraser River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Fraser River is a MONSTER 854-mile river, the largest in British Columbia, that flows from the headwaters near the Alberta border in an “S” shape down to just south of Vancouver where it joins the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Georgia.

It’s been a legendary source of gold for more than 150 years.

Gold was discovered in the Fraser River in 1857, and then a gold rush ensued with 30,000 people pouring into the province to seek their fortunes.

The Department of Mines of British Columbia reported $28,983,106 of gold was taken from the river from 1860 to 1869. At today’s prices that’s worth more than $290 million!

Like all historic gold rush rivers, there is still plenty of gold to be found today!

Prospector Dan Hurd, one of the most prolific prospectors on Youtube and social media, is the king of the Fraser River. He has tons of videos prospecting the river and its tributaries

Dan Hurd Panning Fraser River
Screenshots from Dan Hurd’s popular video “And the Adventure Continues! Gold panning the Fraser River.”

Yuba River near Yuba City, California

Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Yuba River is a unique and historic tributary river that flows a mere 40 miles from the crest of the Sierra Mountains at 8,000 feet above sea level to where it feeds the Feather River just 70 feet above sea level in Yuba City

Amazingly, more gold has been taken from the Yuba River watershed than any other river in the US!

Many people love panning the Yuba River today because, not only is there still gold to be found there, but it’s conveniently located to Sacramento and the beautiful South Yuba State Park allows the public to come in and pan for gold!

Yuba River Gold Panning
Youtuber Gold Freak Miner has a great video panning the Yuba River called “My 2 best Gold Panning days ever! NorCal”

Lynx Creek near Prescott Valley, Arizona

Lynx Creek Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

Lynx Creek is the most productive gold-bearing stream in the state of Arizona by some accounts. It’s reported that $1-$2 million in gold was mined there before 1900, which could be $10-$20 million by today’s standards!

There are still plenty of people panning gold there, and it’s a really prospector-friendly place. It’s just 15 minutes from the beautiful city of Prescott and the Forest Service has withdrawn a lot of area from mineral claim and opened it up to recreational prospecting.

Lynx Lake Gold Panning Map
Source: FS.USDA.gov

Youtuber Gold Freak Miner has a great video showing some heavy pans from Lynx Creek as recently as a few years ago. There is still plenty of gold to be panned there!

Lynx Creek Gold Panning
Screenshots from Gold Freak Miner’s “Gold Panning on Lynx Creek Arizona January 2019”

Kern River near Bakersfield, California

Kern River Gold Panning
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Kern River is a 165-mile river that originates up at the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the U.S. outside Alaska, and flows out of the southern tip of the Sierra Nevadas into Bakersfield, California.

Gold was discovered there in 1851 and was so rich prospectors were pulling $50 of gold per pan out of the river. That’s $1,900 in today’s dollars!

Imagine pulling over an ounce of gold out with each pan. Almost makes me want to brave the lack of medical care and electricity and go back in time….

But don’t worry because today people are still pulling lots of gold out of the Kern.

The Keyesville Recreational Mining Area is a big area around Isabella Lake, conveniently located just northeast of Bakersfield, where anyone can pan for gold.

Rogue River near Grants Pass, Oregon

Rogue River Gold Panning Map
Source: Google Maps

The Rogue River is the famous golden Oregon river.

Almost all of the rich gold-bearing waterways in Southwestern Oregon drain into the Rogue River, which makes it a great starting point for those who want to pan for gold in the Pacific Northwest.

Josephine County, specifically the county seat of Grants Pass, is a great place to start for gold prospectors. Between 1852 and 1900 miners in Josephine county found over 1 million ounces of gold, worth almost $2 billion today!

Plenty of gold is still found there in modern times, and Gold Nugget Waysides and Hellgate Recreation Area, both a short drive from Grants Pass, are open for “hands and pans” gold prospecting to the general public.

Rogue River Gold Panning
Youtubers H&H Prospecting made a video called “EXACTLY where to find GOLD in Southern Oregon; Rogue River Trail” where they find some nice chunky gold
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North Saskatchewan River near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

North Saskatchewan River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The North Saskatchewan River is an 800-mile monster river that flows east from the Canadian Rockies through Alberta and Saskatchewan.

While gold can be found in large swaths of the river, the heaviest concentrations are found in the gravel bars around Edmonton.

There was a mini gold rush in Edmonton between 1895 and 1897 when hundreds of miners came to work the banks of the North Sasketchewan River upstream and downstream from the city.

There are lots of videos on Youtube of people panning for gold in the river, or recovering it in highbankers powered by a motorized pump.

North Saskatchewan River Gold Panning
Screenshot from Youtube video called “Gold Prospecting On The North Saskatchewan River…Little HONEY Hole” by Canadian Gold Prospector

Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho

Snake River Twin Falls Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

At 1,078 miles long, the Snake River is the longest tributary of the Columbia River and the largest North American river to empty into the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a geographical wonder, and has a unique deposit of gold. Many geologists believe the Snake River contains more gold than any other river in Idaho, and yet there’s no commercial mining.

Why? Because much of the gold is so fine and light, and each particle is worth so little, that it takes a ton of work to recover gold profitably.

By some accounts in the gold rush days it would require 1000 colors just to get a penny’s worth of gold. At today’s price of almost $1,800 an ounce, it would require 11 colors to get a penny’s worth.

Millions of dollars of gold remain in the Snake River and no one has been able to recover it profitably except a few gravel pits that operate along the river and sluice the easiest gold out for a bit of extra profit.

The river flows through some really remote country, and access can be anywhere from tricky to outright dangerous. But for the adventurous, capable, and prepared prospector – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to pull shiny pans from this legendary river.

Southern Idaho Gold Prospecting Snake River Video
Screenshots from Mining Magnet’s video “Southern Idaho Placer Gold on the Snake River”

South Fork of the American River near Placerville, California

American River South Fork Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The American River is a 119-mile long tributary that starts in the Sierra Nevadas and flows straight through the city of Sacramento where it feeds the Sacramento River.

It’s one of America’s most special rivers, because it was the site of the original gold discovery in California!

Local city “Placerville” got its name for a reason!

James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill (modern day: Coloma) in January 1848 along the banks of the South Fork of the American River and, despite trying to keep his finding a secret, kicked off the rush of thousands of hopeful prospectors the next summer in 1849.

There are thousands of gold bearing rivers and streams that constitute the American River drainage, and gold is actually more easily panned in these tributaries than in the main waterway.

Be careful where you pan, though. While it’s conveniently located near Sacramento, the area is a hodgepodge of active mines, private mineral claims, and recreational prospecting areas.

Ready to explore the American River? Read 9 Spots You Can Still Pan Gold in the American River!

It’s clear folks are pulling nice gold from the American River drainage to this day as there are hundreds of videos of people with heavy yellow pans prospecting there on Youtube.

Screenshots from a video called “Gold panning the South Fork of the American River” by Youtuber Memoirs of a Prospector

Sooke River near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Sooke River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

Vancouver Island in British Columbia flies under the radar of gold prospectors.

The name “Leechtown” doesn’t conjure up the same storied gold rush histories as Dawson City or San Francisco, but it was a 19th century boomtown all the same.

On July 18, 1864 gold was discovered on a river deep in the woods of southern Vancouver Island. The nearby Leech River was named shortly thereafter, and a similarly named Leechtown sprung up overnight.

Only four months later there were 6 general stores, 3 hotels and over 1,200 miners at work in the area. Oh, and 30 establishments selling liquor.

By 1865 the rush was over, and by 1950 it was a ghost town – returned to the forest that it was on July 17, 1864.

Some call the beaches of Nome, Alaska the “Poor Miner’s Paradise,” but that title might belong to lower Vancouver Island. The gold deposits weren’t rich enough to support large scale mining, but could support individual men and women who were willing to live simply and scratch their gold from the earth.

As such, not much is known today about the gold-bearing rivers there. The Leech River is a tributary to the Sooke. The Sooke River and many of its tributaries are believed to contain gold.

There are no public panning parks or attractions. You’ll have to do research and talk to locals to find spots you can pan for gold.

Friend of the site PioneerPauly is the unofficial king of the lower Vancouver Island gold prospectors. His videos show him panning and sniping the tributaries of the Sooke River – and it’s clear there’s still beautiful, chunky gold pieces to be found!

Check out the time he found two gold nuggets worth almost $500!

Gold Panning Vancouver Island Victoria Sooke River
Screenshots from PioneerPauly’s “Gold Panning in British Columbia!” video

Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado

Source: OpenStreetMap.org

Don’t judge me but when I found out this gold-rich river was in Colorado I didn’t know why they called it the “Arkansas.”

Turns out this beast of a river is almost 1,500 miles long and flows into the Mississippi through, you guessed it, Arkansas. It’s the 6th-longest river in the US!

Naturally, you’re going to find a lot more gold closer to the headwaters high up in the Rocky Mountains near towns like Salida than you are close to the Mississippi.

This river flows through some of Colorado’s richest mineral deposits. The gold rush here happened a little earlier than most as Spanish prospectors are said to have first discovered gold here in the 1540s.

Like the Snake River in Idaho, the Arkansas has a lot more fine gold AKA “flour gold” than chunky gold nuggets.

There is a popular gold panning site at the Point Barr Campground about 20 minutes southeast of Salida on US-50.

There is also a more subtle BLM Prospecting Site another 20 minutes southeast of Point Barr at Texas Creek. You’ll have to do a little research on that one!

Beyond that there are a lot of different recreational panning areas and you can probably get access to some of the many private claims through local prospecting clubs.

Rumor has it that there’s a million dollars of gold every mile on the Arkansas, and it’s beautiful to boot!

Molalla River near Salem, Oregon

Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Molalla River is a 51-mile tributary to the Willamette River in Oregon. It’s a beautiful little spot, and conveniently located to Portland and Salem.

The gold in the Molalla is something of an anomaly. Most of the gold in Oregon is found in the southwest part of the state, but there was a single mine at Ogle Creek, a tributary to the Molalla, that operated in the early part of the 20th century.

The gold in the river is believed to come from the lode deposit there, and since it’s such a small deposit the gold here can be spotty at best. But it’s still a great spot for those who don’t want to travel far from Northwest Oregon to go pan for gold!

Gold Panning Molalla River
Screenshots from Gold Freak Miner’s “August 2017 Gold Panning the Molalla River, Oregon” video on Youtube

Yaak River near Libby, Montana

Yaak River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Yaak River is a rugged 25-mile river that flows from British Columbia into northern Montana where it feeds the Kootenay River. You can access this junction by car at the Yaak River Campground just 25 minutes from Libby following US-2 to the north and west.

Prospecting the Yaak River isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest, a remote stretch of federally-protected wilderness. There are many creeks and tributaries that contain gold as you follow the Yaak up into the mountains.

The Kootenai National Forest allows panning and in-stream sluicing throughout which makes it a gold prospector’s paradise. But do your research as there are already many mineral claims in the area!

An easier nearby option is the Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area just 45 minutes south of Libby, Montana on US-2. You can drive to it and the public is welcome to come pan for gold there!

Gold Prospecting Yaak River Libby Montana
Screenshots from SVENMEISTER’s Youtube video “Gold prospecting in Montana Yaak River 2020”

Eastern States & Canada

Chestatee River near Dahlonega, Georgia

Chestatee River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Chestatee River is a beautiful 51-mile stretch of river coming down from the Appalachian Mountains of Northern Georgia.

It was home to numerous mines along its banks and tributaries during the Georgia Gold Rush in 1829. Dahlonega was ground zero for the rush as it spread throughout the Georgia Gold Belt.

According to the City of Dahlonega website, recreational panning for most streambeds on public land in the area allow gold panning without any kind of special permit as long as you aren’t destroying waterways.

That said, it’s reported that most of the best gold-bearing ground is on private land. So we recommend connecting with a local prospecting club to make connections with people in the area!

Panning for Gold Chestatee River Dahlonega
Screenshots from Ridgeland Outdoors’ Youtube video “Panning for Gold on the chestatee. North Georgia”

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Ammonoosuc River near Littleton, New Hampshire

Ammonoosuc River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Ammonoosuc is a 55-mile long river in Northwestern New Hampshire. It’s a tributary to the Connecticut River that eventually flows into Long Island Sound. It also has a sweet name.

Gold was discovered near Bath, New Hampshire on the shores of the Ammonoosuc River in 1864, which seems fairly late for the east coast considering the Georgia and North Carolina gold rushes were in the first half of the 19th century.

The gold deposit was only rich enough to support a few small mines, and even those had closed due to economic circumstances by the late 1870s.

That said, the Ammonoosuc River is still a very popular place to pan for gold, and some prospectors even recover ounces of the stuff with small motorized dredges and highbankers.

The most popular spot to pan for gold there is at the junction where the Wild Ammonoosuc River (AKA the “Wild Am”) meets the regular ‘ole Ammonoosuc. There’s a campground there called Twin River Campground & Cottages that can hook you up with a pan, a spot, and the proper gold panning technique.

I like the prospectors of New England – they’re a funky bunch! Check out this Youtube video from 802 Outdoor Adventures finding a nice gold nugget in the Ammonoosuc!

Video: Gold digging in NH. Panning on the wild ammonoosuc. Big nugget found

Panning Gold Nugget Ammonoosuc River New Hampshire
Screenshot from 802 Outdoor Adventures’ Video

Etowah River near Canton, Georgia

Etowah River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Etowah River is a 164-mile river in Northern Georgia that’s popular with rafters, kayakers, and other adventurers.

While there wasn’t as much commercial mining activity here. as the nearby Chestatee River, there is an abandoned gold mining tunnel the Etowah flows through where you can shoot through a quarter mile of rapids in almost pitch black darkness.

As far as gold panning goes, the Etowah River faces many of the problems of the eastern states. Mostly, the land is almost all private. It doesn’t have the large, gold-bearing national forests and state parks that the western states have to explore.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t good prospecting to be had! The portions of river near Sixes, Georgia and in Dawson County are particularly gold-rich.

Several local businesses sell access to gold panning sites and can hook you up with a gold pan and some instruction if you want to explore there!

Youtuber Patrick Dortch shares a great video with us called “Gold Panning in Cherokee County, Georgia.” Cherokee County is where the town of Sixes is located, so he’s likely panning gold close to there!

Missouri River near Kansas City, Missouri

Missouri River Gold Panning Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

Yes, there is gold in Missouri! The Missouri River where it runs through the northern part of the state, and some of its tributaries, contain glacial deposits of fine gold that can be found with careful panning.

Youtube Kyle Thiemann has a great video called “Gold prospecting the Missouri River” where he finds some nice gold with a pan. He doesn’t say where he is on the river exactly, but reports are the Chariton River tributary is a good place to pan for gold, and the junction of the Chariton and the Missouri is just a 90 minute drive or so from the heart of Kansas City.

You’re going to need to get creative to find a place to prospect here, as it’s a big stretch of a big river, and there aren’t parks and recreational areas specifically created for gold panners like the more popular gold prospecting destinations out west.

Gold Panning Missouri River
Screenshots from Kyle Thiemann’s video “Gold prospecting the Missouri River”

Swift River near Byron, Maine

Source: OpenStreetMap.org

The Swift River is a 27-mile tributary of the Androscoggin River in Western Maine. The first discovery of gold on the Swift River was made in 1849 near Byron, and there’s plenty of gold left to be recovered today.

The most popular spot to pan for gold is at Coos Canyon in Byron as gold is regularly found there.

You can use a river sluice or a gold pan to find gold there and if you find a nugget bigger than 3 grains you get your name entered into the “Big Nugget Book!”

Check out Hip Bee Explorer’s Youtube video called “Huge Pans of Maine Gold! / Swift River/ Coos Canyon/ Byron Maine” and watch them find chunky gold!

Alaska & Northern Canada

Yukon River near Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada

Dawson City Gold Panning
Source: Google Maps

You ready for the big leagues of gold prospecting? If so, you’re ready to enter Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada.

The Yukon River is almost 1,980 miles long flowing west across the entire giant state of Alaska before emptying into the Bering Sea.

For gold prospectors, Dawson City is the most important town to grace the banks of the Yukon. Fair, as it was the epicenter of the biggest and richest placer gold rush in history: the Klondike Gold Rush.

The Klondike region is still home to some serious commercial mining activity, including the operations of some of the cast of the Discovery Channel show Gold Rush.

The good news for you is, as a town built around mining, Dawson City has lots of businesses that cater to folks looking to pan for gold or hobby prospect.

Who knows? Maybe a visit to Dawson City will inspire you to get in the independent gold mining game.

Fortymile River near Chicken, Alaska

Chicken Alaska Fortymile River Map
Source: OpenStreetMap.org

I was ready to make a joke about the Fortymile River not being 40 miles long, when I looked it up and found out that was actually true. It’s 60 miles long.

Turns out prospectors gave the Fortymile River its name around 1886 because it enters the Yukon River about 40 miles below the former Hudson’s Bay post of Fort Reliance.

Chicken, Alaska sits on the banks of the Fortymile and is barely a town by any standard. It’s a runway, a couple stores, a postal hut, and a mishmash of campers and connexes. But that hides the fact that it’s a hub of independent gold mining of the rare scale where folks can actually make a living.

Modern day miners in Chicken benefitted from the Klondike Gold Rush in a strange way. In 1886 gold was discovered in the Fortymile River. Prospectors worked it pretty hard for a decade, but the massive Klondike Gold Rush sucked all the fortune seekers away in 1896 leaving many of the gold-rich gravels unworked.

There is a lot of gold remaining in the Fortymile River, and crafty prospectors build big diver dredges to recover it.

You can’t just pan anywhere though. Much of the river and its tributaries are under mineral claims and you don’t want to run afoul of gold miners in Bush Alaska by claim jumping. They’re crazy.

Chicken is extremely remote, so it doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure that a place like Dawson City has, but someone kindly set Jack Wade Creek aside for public panning.

Jack Wade Creek runs along the Taylor Highway a few miles north of Chicken, Alaska. It is open to recreational gold panning from one-quarter mile (0.4 km) upstream of the Walker Fork Campground to the mining claims near Milepost 85. No permits are required.

There is an outfit called Gold Fever Prospecting Camp that sells all-inclusive gold mining packages (no affiliation). Clegg’s Adventures Youtube Video “Chicken Alaska Gold” shows what he found panning with them.

Screenshots from “Chicken Alaska Gold” Youtube Video

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1 thought on “20 Rivers With Gold Where You Can Go Panning in North America (With Maps)”

  1. Excellent content as usual, very interesting stuff
    Alex, i enjoy reading it very much as i do Emily’s content as well. Doug R.


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