You may not get rich from gold panning, but it can still be plenty rewarding.
The Shuswap Area Miners Club (SAMC) is hosting an introduction to gold panning on April 29 at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus. Instruction will include the basic technique, equipment, getting your own claim, where you can pan for gold without a claim and more.
The following day, participants will be heading to a site on Tranquille Creek where they’ll put some of what they learned into practice.
“We know they should find some gold,” said the SAMC’s Mike Dodd.
Heading the course will be Tom McDermott, who was the club’s first president. Dodd explained McDermott held a similar seminar about a dozen or so years ago as he was interested in gold panning but didn’t want to go out by himself. From the seminar the club was born.
“It’s a great experience if you like the outdoors,” said Dodd. “If you like to go out on a creek, it can be as little as a 100-yard walk from your car, or you can end up walking for three kilometres to a claim and it might take you an hour and a half to get in.
“If you love nature, it’s a great hobby and sometimes gold is just the bonus.”
When you do find that bonus, Dodd, who has been panning for about 10 or 11 years, cautions it can be accompanied by a touch of gold fever.
“I’ve become quite adept at it and you get to know what the gold is worth when it’s in your pan, sometimes it’s kind of chunky and you’ll go, that’s worth $20,” Dodd shared. “I have had a couple of pans in my lifetime where I’ve looked down and there’s been probably close to $100 in one pan, which is phenomenal. When that happens to you, you get gold fever big time. It always comes to an end; unfortunately it doesn’t carry on like that.”
Dodd described himself and fellow SAMC members as gold-panning hobbyists, and said it’s a hobby that costs little to get into.
“So really, all total, most people have a shovel already, and to get a pan and a classifier and a snifter, you’re looking at $50,” said Dodd.
A lot of SAMC members have their own mineral claims. To purchase one you require a Free Miner Certificate. Dodd said claims can be purchased through the B.C. Mineral Titles Branch, and can cost roughly $115. Alternatively, you can buy claims privately costing thousands of dollars. Claims are good for a year before they need to be renewed.
However, there are places where you can go gold panning without a claim.
“One is Tranquille, the lower part of Tranquille in Kamloops,” said Dodd. “One is the regional park on Mission Creek in Kelowna, part of it is right in Rutland, there’s houses right up to the creek there. There’s a pretty good one at Yale on the Fraser River. There’s a couple in the Kootenays, there’s one in Quesnel, they’re scattered throughout B.C. Those are open to the public.”
Asked if there are misconceptions about gold panning, Dodd said don’t expect to strike it rich.
“Some days it will pay for your gas to get there,” laughed Dodd. “On a good day, you’ll find $100 worth of gold. Which is a good day.”
Dodd also said you can expect to put in a lot of time (likening gold panning to fishing) and do a lot of digging.
“If you want to find gold you have to do a lot of digging, and if you want to go all day long, you could be exhausted at the end of the day,” said Dodd. “It’s like digging ditches. Of course you can go at your own speed and go slow, but it’s all about moving as much dirt as you physically can because it’s all about the yardage of dirt, and the average person digging can only pan half a yard a day – maybe up to a yard if you have a speed pan.”
Dodd also stressed the importance of not going out to pan alone. In addition to being mindful of wildlife, there are also risks to working with flowing water, such as heavy rocks becoming dislodged while you’re digging.
“You do not want to put your arms in dangerous places where rocks could fall,” said Dodd. “You can seriously hurt yourself if you’re not careful. It’s good to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. You don’t want to go to a place that’s dangerous or places that could be really tough to get into in the morning, and it might rain up the mountain.. and all of a sudden the creek’s another six inches higher and it’s got twice the flow and you’re really having problems getting out.”
Dodd said sometimes club members, as a group, will go to Tranquille or Mission Creek, “and we’ll have pizza delivered and we’ll be out on the creek just relaxing and just having fun.”
As for the gold that is found, Dodd said he and fellow club members tend to keep it, like trophies for their efforts.
“Most of us keep our gold because it’s such a labour of love to get it,” said Dodd.
To learn more about the club, or to register for the upcoming session/outing, call Mike at 250-804-1211 or email email@example.com.
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