Modern prospectors utilize everything available to give them an edge in gold mining. Basically, however, the same gold panning technique is used as was back in 1849. Many people today use metal detectors to help them find what could be larger deposits of gold. Dryblowers are also used by some and are now almost all automated. These use the same principle as panning by swirling the dry material and separating the large from the small and heavy pieces. Then, dust is blown away from the dry material which further reveals the heavier particles that were put into the device. This prospecting technique is widely used in dry areas rather than river and creek beds for finding gold.
Panning is the age old prospecting technique still practiced by many today. With a shovel or by scooping from the river bed, a sampling of dirt about ¾ “is placed on the bottom of the pan. The river water fills the pan which is then gently tapped with the hand and swirled which enables the heavy gold to gravitate to the bottom of the gold pan. While the pan is still in the water (but near the surface) the pan is tilted to allow the lighter material to escape from the pan. This motion of swirling, tapping and sifting is done repeatedly until there is only a very small amount of material left in the pan. Once most of the dirt has been sifted out, the gold flecks can normally be spotted very easily.
Beginners sometimes leave a bit more material in the pan and use a knife to sift through the material left in the pan, looking for gold flecks. Once the gold flecks are identified, they are picked out often just by using a damp finger to pick up the flecks. The flecks are then usually placed into a plastic bottle or container filled with water to hold the sample until testing can be done.