Come along for our Gold Hunt

May 8, 2008 8:50:42 PM PDT
Action News took a trip to a creek in south central Pennsylvania. Only a few inches beneath its bed, is gold.And enough of it to lure several gold prospectors to this site on a weekend morning.

A number of people come to this place to pan for gold - for recreation. Members of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA) invited us along, and showed us how to do it.

Why do they like it?

"Discovery," said Jim Bryant of the GPAA. "Getting out in the air. Camaraderie."

But panning for gold is not something done haphazardly.

"We know over time now, the water is moving," explained Bryant, and "the rocks and the gravel are also working the gold deeper and deeper." So we had to dig.

The location, which by the way we agreed not to reveal, is considered heavily mineralized - a part of the Earth where finding all sorts of minerals is quite common.

Prospectors begin at an area of the creek where the water is moving slowly, particularly behind a large rock, and dig out some of the riverbed.

Large rocks are discarded, and then the panning begins.

"The gold is going to drop to the bottom of the pan," said gold prospector Bryan Bennett, as he demonstrated how to use the pan properly.

"And you want to work your pan around, get all the material all loosened up so it's liquefied."

Gold is 19 times heavier than water, and nearly twice as heavy as lead, so it will descend to the bottom of the pan as you swirl the contents.

Our first panning effort produced two flakes of gold - hardly enough to make King Midas envious (it is rare to find larger pieces of gold in Pennsylvania). But an exciting discovery nonetheless.

"There are places in the United States where people actually do this for a living," said Bennett. "They're pulling approximately an ounce a day. But they're working very, very hard for it."

We panned a second time, and found a tiny flake of platinum. That really got everyone along the creek excited.

That's because platinum is worth twice as much as gold. The prospectors say it is the first known discovery of that precious mineral in these parts.

No one ever really gets rich off these gold prospecting expeditions. In fact, the gold that we found (which we kept in a small vial) is so little, you could barely measure it. They tell me it wouldn't even buy you an ice cream cone.

"Why do you go out fishing?" asked Bryant of the GPAA. "You know, why do you spend thousands of dollars worth of equipment to catch a little fish you can buy in a supermarket? This is the same thing."

The creek is on private property, and the prospectors have agreed to give the owner 10 percent of any large discovery. If anyone is hoping for one of those - well, they might be better off at a jewelry store.

WEB LINK: Delaware Valley Chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America

Other links for panning for gold:
PA Gold Locations
Prospecting for Gold
Gold Prospecting in PA