explore gold panning site and history

The Mother Lode, which spurred the Gold Rush, runs through El Dorado County, so it should come as no surprise that gold panning is a popular activity here. It’s a great activity for all ages and is a fun and unique way to spend time on a beautiful stretch of river. Lucky panners enjoy mining on most of the forks and creeks flowing into both the American and Cosumnes Rivers.

living gold rush history in el dorado county

Living Gold Rush history abounds in El Dorado County.

Trip Picks

Georgetown Founders Day

This annual celebration, held Main Street in Georgetown, is a family-fun event with parade, craft and food vendors, information booths, a community fundraiser walk, and more. Vendors are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the parade begins at noon. Best of all, it’s free to attend! For more information call Liz Keene at Patti Smith Realty at 530-333-4336.

downtown placerville wagon train

The Wagon Train is a fun, educational, and uniquely El Dorado County tradition. Photo: Bill Robinson

Wagon Train 

The Annual Highway 50 Wagon Train is a reenactment of the “Great Western Migration”. Join in one of the many family fun events as the wagon train travels from South Lake Tahoe to Placerville. It’s old-fashioned fun at its finest!

Living History Days 

History is alive and well on the second Saturday of every month at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park from 10:00am-3:00pm, weather permitting. Docents dressed in period clothing take you on a journey to the 1850s with interactive demonstrations and discussions. It’s fun for the whole family with activities like rope making, candle dipping, Dutch oven cooking, sawmill wood working, and games from the past.

Gold Discovery Tours

Enjoy a guided walking tour that tells the story and visits the sites of the Coloma Valley before James Marshall’s gold discovery. Hear about the events leading up to his incidental discovery, and the history of the California Gold Rush and town of Coloma. Tours are offered twice a day or more, weather permitting. Tour cost is $3.00 per adult and $2.00 per child. We do not give tours on our event days including Second Saturday Living History Days, Coloma Gold Rush Live, Historic Holiday Houses, and Springtime in Coloma.

children gold panning

Gold panning is fun for the whole family. Photo: Tina Buell

How do you pan for gold?

  • Any flat pan will do, but the best is the regular pan you can buy at local shops.
  • Fill the pan with sand and small gravel.
  • Fill with water and mix thoroughly.
  • Rotate the pan in a fast circular motion to settle the gold.
  • Keep the pan level and continue the circular motion, then slightly tip the pan to get the lighter material to the top.
  • Take your thumb and scrape the lighter and larger pieces out of the pan.
  • Repeat the process over and over until only a small part of the pan is covered with concentrate.
  • Leave just enough water to feather the tailings as you lightly swirl the material.
  • The heavier material (gold) will be at the tail of the feather.
children finding gold in coloma, ca

Who knew history could be so fun?