Gold Panning in American Fork Canyon

Gold Panning in American Fork Canyon

Gold Panning works in just about any creek or river, but many people in Utah don’t do it because we have a reputation as a state where Gold doesn’t exist. That is only half true. Gold exists in Utah. But it is not as common as other Western states. Even so, pan for gold in American Fork canyon, and you’ll probably have some luck. We haven’t tested it out everywhere, but we have done it up at Mary Ellen Gulch, with success.

Let me first explain a bit about Gold Panning, in case you aren’t familiar with it – you start with a pan made for gold panning, which has ridges cut into the sides to catch the gold. You add some mud from the bottom of the river into it, swirl the water over it, and all the lighter rocks and dirt get swept away, leaving the heavier gold to get caught on the ridges. It takes some practice, but once you get the knack of it, you end up with just the heaviest of the dirt left in your pan, and some small flakes of gold.

If you are wanting to pick up a pan to try it, this is the exact pan I have, which works just fine for us –> 

We went up there just this afternoon, and each of the kids pulled a few small flakes of gold from the water in less then 10 minutes of panning.

How To Get There

Any place with Moving water is worth trying, but American fork has the best reputation for Gold Panning, And the river between Tibble Fork Reservoir and Mary Ellen Gulch has the best reputation in American Fork. Based on our results today, I believe it.

This map shows exactly where we were panning:

Note — The road to get to that point is rough, rocky, narrow, and full of ATV traffic. I recommend a 4×4 vehicle.

A Few Gold Panning Tips

  • When your pan is full of mud, you can swirl and shake it more vigorously than you might think. You want to get rid of all that. The gold is the heaviest stuff in there. It is very small, heavy, and shiny. Everything else can go.
  • Once you are getting down to the finer sand and silt, hold the pan so the tops of the ridges are parallel to the ground, and move the pan in a circular motion, gently. This will swirl the water and light material out, while catching the gold on the ridges.
  • The rivers carries the gold, and drops it the bottom the same way the gold moves in your pan. So watch the water, and think about where gold might drop. Look for places where fast moving water slows down, and think about where gravity might drop the gold. Pull your dirt from there.
  • If you go in the summer, try panning some mud from the shoreline. A few months ago, that was underwater.
  • Most of all, just have fun. You won;t find enough gold to get rich… if you are lucky, and do this a lot, you might pay for your lunch. Or gas. This is an afternoon activity for fun, so enjoy it, no matter how much or little you find.


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