Alaska Gold Panning
Gives You a Chance at the Gold!

Alaska gold panning can be done in many of Alaska's creeks, streams, rivers and surrounding areas. The best time to do it is in the spring (April-May) or fall (August-September), when the water is low and gold-bearing gravels are more available. The seasons depend completely on how soon in the fall and how late in the spring we get freezing temperatures.

Gold washes out of rocks as they weather, and ends up in the streams. So gold is constantly being added to them. And there are many that are known to be gold-bearing. Even better yet, there are a certain number of these streams that are designated as open to the public for recreational gold panning!

Photo of Crow Creek From a Distance

So grab your pick, shovel and gold pan and let's head to the hills and find that gold! You're not going to get rich doing this, but you sure can have some fun and maybe find some glitter in your pan!

Serious Alaska gold panning would need a lot more equipment. But just to have some fun, bring gold pans, pick, shovel and some rubber gloves and boots. You'll be working in and around streams, so you'll want to keep as dry as possible. Alaskan creeks and streams are extremely cold, and getting wet will make you a lot colder.

But first, you may need a few instructions on how to do your Alaska gold panning.

If you've never panned gold before, it is not difficult to do. Take a small scoop of creek sands and place them in your gold pan. Add water and swirl around a bit. Pick out large stones and rocks before you continue. You can also rock the pan from side to side to help separate the gold from clay and mud. As you swirl and rock the water in the pan, any gold particles will settle to the bottom, to one side or catch on the pan riffles. You can gradually wash the sands off the top by letting it slop over the edges as you swirl. Fill the pan repeatedly with water and keep swirling until you've washed most of the sands away. That's all there is to it!

If there is any gold in the pan, it will stay behind. Gold 'fines' are collected in this manner. Dry what remains in the pan. You can use a magnet to pull out heavy metal materials. Then use tweezers or a dry finger to pick up any gold flakes. Put them in a vial of water for storage. Sometimes, you may find small nuggets, but they don't usually look shiny so don't throw it away if it's not. If it's heavy, it may have gold in it. So keep get it identified by someone who knows.

This is a simple way to pan for gold, if you are inexperienced. After you get familiar with it, you may want to be more bold and pan right in the stream. But you'll develop your own methods after you get used to it and figure out what you're doing.

Precious and semi-precious stones are found in many areas of Alaska and you may run across some of these while you are panning for gold, so keep your eyes open!

How do you know where to find good material for Alaska gold panning?

As gold is washed down the streams, it lodges in various places where the water has slowed down. Dig up sands that are in slower moving waters than the stream's normal flow. You'll find these in pools below rapids and waterfalls, downstream from large boulders, in stream-side pools of and at upstream ends of pointed gravel bars.

Because gold it heavy, it has a chance to 'settle out' when it is carried into an area of slower-moving water. It can even build up into sizable quantities in stream beds where crevices give it a place to accumulate. The KEY is to dig deep enough to get to gold bearing gravels. Gold settles against bedrock or other hard surfaces from stream action. You can also find gold in dry creek bed gravels where streams once ran, and in old mining tailing piles-again, near the bottom of these.

All That Glitters is Not Gold
Photo of Rocks in Gold Mining Area


Alaska Gold Panning In the Fairbanks Area:

Nome Creek - You get to Nome Creek from US Creek Road which connects with the Steese Highway going northeast from Fairbanks. The gold panning area starts where US Creek and Nome Creek Roads meet. Going left on Nome Creek Road, you can pan anywhere along the four miles from the junction to Moose Creek.

Dalton Highway - Numerous creeks and streams along the Dalton Highway south of Antigun Pass (milepost 244) are open to recreational gold panning. Get a brochure from the Bureau of Land Management to find out which ones are on federal lands open to panning for gold. Contact the BLM at: Fairbanks District Office, 1150 University Avenue, Fairbanks, AK 99709 or call 907-474-2200 or 1-800-437-7021

Alaska Gold Panning in the Palmer-Anchorage Area:

Hatcher Pass - From the Glenn Highway, a few miles north of Palmer, is the Palmer-Fishook Road. You'll see a sign for the Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine Historical Park. At about 7.8 miles up that road is the start of the Hatcher Pass Public Use Area. You can do gold panning anywhere in the public use area except on private mining claims. There are pull-offs all along the road which runs next to the Little Susitna River and there's a trailhead parking lot for the Gold Mint Trail. Take the Gold Mint Trail which follows the river for 8 miles and do panning anyplace along it.

Independence Mine State Recreation Area - This old gold mine has been turned into a State Park but recreational mining is allowed here. Speak with the Park Staff at the Visitor Center and they will let you know where to pan.

Alaska Gold Panning On the Kenai Peninsula:

Sixmile Creek - One place to stop is at mile 4.3 of Hope Road (connects with the Seward Highway). Park on the side road that goes into the trees and follow the trail to Sixmile Creek. Gold has been located on the pointed gravel bars to the east and old creek channels next to Sixmile Creek.

Resurrection Creek - Follow the road to Hope from the Seward Highway. From Hope, go 4.5 miles up Resurrection Creek Road. The gold panning area starts at the Resurrection Pass Trail footbridge. A quarter mile above the footbridge is a campsite. Above the campsite there are a couple of spots where bedrock is exposed along the eastern wall of the canyon (before you get to some private property). The gravels directly above the bedrock would be good gravels to pan for gold.

Crescent Creek - Follow the Seward Highway to its junction with the Sterling Highway. Follow the Sterling Highway for 7.4 miles to Quartz Creek Road. On Quartz Creek Road, bear left at intersections for 2.7 miles until you reach Crescent Creek Bridge. Park in the day use parking area in the campground just past the bridge. The area 600 feet below the bridge produces gold 'fines'. Look for clay sands to pan as they are more likely to have gold in them.


Photo of Crow Creek Falls at the Mountain Top

Crow Creek - Take the Seward Highway 35 miles south of Anchorage, turn left at Girdwood on the road to Alyeska. Crow Creek Road goes left off the Alyeska Road.

This is a private family-run mine and they charge $15/day for adults, $5 for children and $10 for seniors/active military. There is a $5/night fee if you stay more than a day, with a 3 day limit.

The good part is, they'll provide you with gold pans, shovels and give you a bag of gold-bearing dirt to start you out. Then you can do all the panning you want at the creek AND you get to keep any gold you find.

Open May 15th to October 1st - That's IF the snow doesn't stay too late in spring or come too early in fall. You can call them for current information: 907-229-3105.

I know that panning for gold can be an extremely enticing activity, so don't get lost in it entirely! Along with your Alaska Gold Panning, what about hiking to some of the old gold mines and ghost towns that are often nearby...

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My Alaska gold panning story

My 6 and 8 year old daughters and I went on a gold panning trip with friends. After I drove to the Denali Highway, we parked in an open gravel pit along the side of the road. A truck then drove us through a river. Then they came to a stop at another section of river.

Have you ever watched an Indiana Jones movie? Nobody told me that we'd have to walk single file across a 25' to 30' rope and board slat bridge! This was a deep, swift, dangerous river and the bridge was only about 3' above it in the middle. There were no "side rails" to this bridge but some ropes about a foot above the wood slat bottom.

I was used to walking across swift creeks over fallen trees as I had lots of experience when I was young. So I was used to the dizzying feeling you get from watching the water rush under you. But my daughters had never done that and they were not prepared for this adventure.

The bridge was safe as far as sturdiness goes, but the other adults got on their hands and knees to go across.

My girls got on their hands and knees, one behind the other, and I stood up walking behind them. The older one, who was in front, went forward until she reached the middle. She stopped, frightened. I had to yell (otherwise she could not hear me above the roar of the river) "keep moving" over and over. We made it across but went through the same experience on the way back!

A fun weekend at the campsite and a little Alaska gold panning, made it worth the difficulty getting there. Everyone found 'ruby sand' (sand-sized rubies) in their pans and some found gold flakes, but I was the only one who came back with a small nugget!