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Recreational Gold Panning and Rockhounding

There is still gold in them thar hills! The lure of gold is what brought the miners to Alaska over 100 years ago and is still attracting folks searching for that elusive nugget today. Gold panning and prospecting, if not lucrative can be a fun outdoor entertainment for almost every age.

Father and son gold panning a creek.In northern Alaska, panning is allowed on any federal stream segment along the Dalton Highway south of Atigun Pass (MP 244), with the following exceptions: no panning in the pipeline right-of-way (27 feet or 8.2 m on either side of the pipeline) and no panning on federal mining claims without permission. For more detailed information, pick up a copy of the Dalton Highway Mineral Collection at one of the visitor centers or by contacting the Fairbanks District Office. This free brochure lists creeks and rivers open to recreational mineral collection and rates their potential for finding gold.

In Interior Alaska, the Nome Creek Valley offers a four-mile area set aside for recreational gold panning.  The Nome Creek valley turnoff is at milepost 57 on the Steese Highway, northeast of Fairbanks.  Read more about the Nome Creek Valley gold panning area and it's gold mining history

Jar of gold nuggets.

There are many areas available for recreational gold panning just outside of Anchorage on the beautiful scenic Kenai Peninsula. To learn more about how to gold pan, where to go and what to look for, pick up the USDA Forest Service booklet Gold Panning: The guide to recreational gold panning on the Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Alaska from one of the visitor centers. 

As you drive through Alaska, you may notice many signs of past mining activities - tailing piles, abandoned dredges and equipment, scars from hydraulic mining, and old mining camps.  Even simple hand tools can scar and destroy resources.  Before you take your pan in hand, consider the impacts recreational gold panning can have:

  • Sluicing gravels can cause silt to wash into the streams and destroy fish spawning beds. Use back eddies and side pools to reduce the amount of dirt and silt entering the main stream channel.
  • Do not dig into or near bridge abutments.
  • Work only in the stream channels or on unvegetated gravel bars to protect bank stability and prevent erosion.

It is important that you know who the land owner is when you plan your gold panning activity. Prospecting on BLM managed lands is limited to hand tools and light equipment, such as gold pans, rocker boxes, sluice boxes, or picks and shovels. Use of motorized equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers and suction dredges, are not allowed without a permit. It is important that you know who the land owner is when you plan your gold panning activity. For more information on mining visit the BLM-Alaska Mining home page.