To get started with gold panning, you'll need a few key tools. The most important of these is a pan – typically made of steel or plastic – with ridges on the bottom to catch gold particles. You'll also need a shovel or trowel to dig into the ground near the water source, and a classifier or sieve to sift out larger rocks and debris.
Once you have your tools, it's time to head to the water. Look for areas where the water flow slows down, such as behind boulders or in eddies, as this is where gold is most likely to settle. Scoop up some sediment from the river bottom and place it in your pan, then add water and swirl the contents around. The lighter materials will float to the top and can be poured off, leaving heavier materials – including gold – at the bottom.
Repeat this process several times, getting rid of the lighter materials each time, until you're left with just a small amount of sand and gravel in your pan. Carefully examine this material, using your loupe if necessary, to spot any gold flakes or nuggets.
While gold panning may not always produce large amounts of gold, it can be a fun and rewarding hobby for those who enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring new areas. And who knows – you may even strike it rich!