I've always been interested in gold mining. Well, maybe not so much the actual mining, but the idea of getting lots and lots of gold. I can remember panning for gold with a frying pan on a Boy Scout trip - even though it never worked, the excitement that it might work next time was always there.
Then my kids and I started watching that "Gold Rush" show on The Discovery Channel. We all got excited about gold after that. I knew that a person needed a claim to get gold, but didn't know much else about it.
As luck would have it, I bumped into a gentleman one day who was on his way to do some gold prospecting on a GPAA claim. He actually stopped on the side of the road to ask if I knew where the GPAA claim was. I didn't know anything about a claim. Nor did I have any idea what the GPAA was. The guy hopped out of his pickup and spent an hour getting me started in the right direction. I told him that I had a couple young kids. He said that we needed a sluice box - not the most effective way to find gold, but it would be relatively cheap and it would be fun for everyone. He described how to setup the sluice box and told me that the easiest way to get started was to get a GPAA membership.
It turns out that GPAA is the Gold Prospectors Association of America. A GPAA membership gets you access to gold mining claims across the country (and even in Canada). It also gets you a gold pan and a few other items. A one-year family membership is $60.
After getting our membership, we bought a 45" sluice box, which was around $120. There were all sorts of sluice boxes - I picked the one that looked the most like the one I had been shown on the side of the road a few days ago.
Grandpa came for a visit the next weekend so we loaded everyone up and headed to the GPAA claim on Grimes Creek near Idaho City. We set the sluice box up in the creek and had a blast shoveling gravel into it for the next couple hours. It was great because the kids could participate and they seemed to love shoveling in any "secret" spots they could find. Then we cleaned the sluice box into a 5-gallon bucket and headed home to pan.
The GPAA membership came with a video on panning so we watched that then gave it a try. Panning is harder than it looks. We found one tiny piece of gold on the first round. We weren't rich, but we were having a blast! We watched the video again and practiced panning through our material a few more times. I am still not very good at it, but I have found a little bit of gold now. My only advice so far is to move the pan much slower than you might expect. And, keep all your material so you can go through it again for practice.
I think we will wait until the snow melts before trying again, but the whole family is excited to camp beside the creek this summer and try to find some gold. If you want to have fun wading in a creek with your family, get a sluice box! If you want to get rich, try something else.