Where is it Legal to Pan for Gold?

They say what goes around comes around.  The first great wave of settlers came to Colorado in the 1859 Pikes Peak Gold Rush.  Today, gold panning is seeing a resurgence, thanks to high gold prices and some popular tv shows that highlight the practice.  But if you’re into prospecting, be careful where you pan.  Larimer County, for instance, is looking at outlawing gold harvesting from county property.  But the issue is not just limited to Larimer County. “On federal land or national forest land, the mineral rights would be owned by the federal government,” Colorado School of Mines Professor Murray Hinzman told the Denver Post.  And if the land in question is private property, the issue of who owns the mineral rights must be determined before a prospector can stake a claim.  However, says the Post, “…in nonwilderness public areas, it is legal for an individual to stake a claim.”

If you’re interested in gold panning, it’s best to consult the experts before heading out on your own.  One of the best sources is the Colorado Geological Survey.  They have published a popular book, Gold Panning and Placering in Colorado:  How and Where, which can be checked out from our library.  This guidebook “digs” further into the issue of where a prospector can legally harvest gold.  The Colorado Geological Survey website also warns,  “There are many opportunities for mineral collecting in Colorado but a person must be careful when evaluating a collecting site.  A given mineral locality may actually be a staked claim.  Collecting from such a site without permission is stealing.  Access to, and through, private land must be granted by the landowner prior to use.  Please be aware of all federal, state, and local laws; and be sensitive to the landowners wishes.”