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Tuesday 2 June 2015

Panning for Gold

Over the Memorial Day long weekend we went on an adventure that including a little gold prospecting and visiting a real life ghost town.

Today we're going to have a look at our gold prospecting adventure with the aptly named Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown, a little town a few hours east of the Bay Area.

Panning for gold was such a fun way to spend an afternoon. The kids really enjoyed it, especially as it was a warm day and they ended up drenched from the creek! The highlight of course, was finding gold.

Our helpful guide showed us what we needed to do to get started panning for gold and then we got to work. The first step was to get in the water with our shovels and start digging. We scooped up shovels full of dirt and rock and poured it into a bucket full of water with a sieve on top. Any large rocks - that weren't quartz with traces of gold - were thrown out. The rest went through the holes and into the bucket.

Kim and Ava did most of this work. I had Mathilde on my back in a carrier so I wasn't much help. Lola tried her hardest but she struggled to scoop up much. She did manage to scoop up a lot of water into her too-short rubber boots though! I love how they are completely submerged in the photos!

Once the bucket was about three quarters filled with mud we were ready to move onto the next step. We each partly filled a pan with the mud from the bucket and started the search for gold. The first step was to break the mud up with our hands. 

Once the mud was nicely broken up, we dipped the pan into the water three times on an angle, making sure that the ridges on the pan were at the top so as not to lose any potential gold. Each time we dipped the pan excess dirt and rocks would tip off. After every third dip we would hold the pan flat and give it a little swirl. Any gold in the pan would then settle to the bottom. We then continued with this process until there was only about a tablespoon of dirt left in the pan. 

With just a small amount of dirt remaining it was pretty easy to see if we'd found any gold. But to make sure we hadn't missed any we needed to get the dirt out of the way. We tapped the dirt into a small pile at the top of the pan. Then with a small amount of water added to the pan we gave it a gentle swish in a clockwise fashion. Any gold flakes settled to the bottom and stayed where the pile of dirt had started. We repeated this a few times until we knew whether or not we'd found gold. And guess what? We did find gold! Look, there's a flake right there in the photo below.

Any gold that we found was transferred into small vials of water for safe keeping.

Panning for gold in this manner was fun but quite slow, so we also tried out a faster technique: using a sluice box. Our guide set the sluice box up for us among some rocks that formed a little dam. The water flowed through the the sluice box like a little waterfall. Scoop by scoop we place all of the mud that we'd dug up onto the top of the sluice box. The water pushed the mud through with any flakes of gold settling either in a ridged area at the top (which you can see below) or in a box at the bottom (which we later panned using the same technique as before).

While Lola and I worked at the sluice box Kim and Ava dug up more mud for us to work with.

Ava was pretty excited when she dug up a worm! We took a photo and then found a new home for him away from our digging.

Kim and the girls continued digging and working with the sluice box while I took Mathilde for a much needed run around on the grassy banks of the creek. She had been on my back for almost two hours by this stage and was eager to get down - and I was eager for a rest from carrying her! There were vintage wagons set up nearby so Mathilde enjoyed exploring those.

The last step of our gold prospecting fun was to empty the sluice box and collect the gold. There were quite a few pieces of gold sitting in the top of the sluice box so we collected these and put them straight into our little vials of water. The rest of our gold was to be found among the mud in the bottom of the sluice box. The mud was poured into a pan and Kim went back to our original panning method to separate the gold from the mud.

While Kim worked with the pan the girls decided to fill the buckets up with rocks from the creek bank. Mathilde was excited that she could "help" out this time - not that the girls were actually doing anything that was required!

Oh yeah, and Ava discovered that gold pans make good hats! What you don't see in this photo is that the pan was actually full of water before she put it on her head. Her front looks quite dry, but trust me, her back and the top of her head were a different story! 

We all had such a fun time panning for gold. It was nice to be outside in the sun doing something so different from our regular activities. And, of course, finding gold was a highlight too!

For more information about Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown visit their website here: http://goldprospecting.com/

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