There was a time when placer gold was commonly discovered in certain parts of America. But these days it can be a challenge to find. Nevertheless, recreational prospectors can still expect to uncover small amounts of placer gold. All you'll need is the right equipment and a good prospecting site. In this article we'll tell you what placer gold is and where to find it.

What Is Placer Gold?

Placer gold occurs when a larger lode deposit is worn away by flowing water. Small pieces of gold break away from the lode deposit and get carried off by the water.

Placer deposits generally don't stray too far from their original site. However, some lucky prospectors have reported finding placer gold far from any known lode deposits. This is good to know because it means that prospectors have a shot at uncovering placer gold even if they aren't near any fruitful prospecting sites.

Placer Gold

Where Can You Find Placer Gold?

As mentioned above, placer gold usually stays close to the original lode deposit. As such, those hoping to find some should focus their search on rivers where lode gold can be uncovered. Specifically, you should pay attention to the riverbed. This is where most placer gold comes to rest. It can also be found inside the bends of rivers, where it often becomes lodged in rocks and mud.

Placer gold can sometimes be found on the immediate shore of a river. Though this is an uncommon occurrence, it's something you should be mindful of during your search.

Tools for Placer Mining

To give yourself the best chance of placer mining success, you'll need the right equipment. Here are the most popular tools for placer mining.

Gold Pan

Every prospector should have a gold pan in their arsenal. A gold pan will allow you to capture small amounts of gold in a river. You can buy a gold pan or you can make your own gold pan if you'd like.

Small Digging Tool

With a small digging tool you can transfer dirt into your gold pan. It's best to choose a brand that is lightweight and portable.

Sluice Box

Some prospectors prefer to use a sluice box instead of a gold pan. While they certainly have their advantages, sluice boxes are forbidden in many areas. If you are planning to use a sluice box, then make sure it's allowed in your chosen location. Using one in an area where it's prohibited could result in a fine.

Glass Vial

Placer gold can be quite small and easy to misplace. To make sure you don't lose your gold after extracting it, you should put the placer gold you find inside a glass vial.

How Much Is Placer Gold Worth?

Placer gold isn't particularly valuable unless you have a large amount of it. This is largely because it's small and it's not pure gold. Placer gold is in the range of 70-90% pure. Nevertheless, with the right equipment, the right location, and a little bit of determination, a placer gold miner can still make a profit.

You can use our scrap gold calculator to find the approximate value of your placer gold. All you need to do is weigh your placer gold, input the number of grams, select a purity in the 70% to 90% range, and then click the 'calculate' button.


During the famous California Gold Rush, placer gold existed in abundance. Miners regularly extracted it from the state's rivers. Today it's not as easy to find placer gold. However, placer gold mining can still be a lot of fun. With your pan and/or sluice box, you can retrace the footsteps of your prospecting forefathers. You can hunt where and how they hunted. You may not be as successful as they were, but you'll have just as much fun. Many recreational prospectors say the relaxation and peace of mind they obtain from the hobby makes even an unsuccessful outing worthwhile.