Last updated: 08:00 PM ET, Thu August 11 2016

The Gold Panning Experience in Alaska: A Valuable History Lesson!

Destination & Tourism | Jennifer and Mark Campbell | August 11, 2016

The Gold Panning Experience in Alaska: A Valuable History Lesson!

Photos courtesy of Just Chasing Rabbits

During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s, people rushed to the Yukon and Alaska to claim a part of the gold as their own. The Klondike Gold Rush brought thousands of people to the area, which saw growth of towns and businesses.

Gold panning was on our Alaska bucket list for sure, so we made our way out to the Klondike Gold Fields in Skagway to learn the process of gold panning and see if we could come home with some treasure!

PHOTO: Our guide, Runaway Jim.

We were met by our guide, Runaway Jim, who showed us around the dredge, explaining the ways that gold panning has changed over the years due to evolving technology. We were shows simple gold pans, sluice boxes, and the huge dredge, with each method of sifting gold out of the dirt getting easier and more efficient over time.

PHOTO: The huge gold dredge on the property.

We learned that the man who worked inside the dredge, making sure everything was working smoothly, would eventually become completely deaf from the amount of loud noise.

PHOTO: The hilarious, but very informative, Sluice Box Charlie.

After our history lesson, we were introduced to Sluice Box Charlie, who was quite the character! If you've ever seen illustrations of little, old, bearded gold miners then you know exactly what old Charlie looked like. I have no idea if he was in costume and character or if that's how he really looks and acts.

READ MORE: The Best Souvenirs from Alaska

Sluice Box Charlie is an experienced panner who explained to us exactly how to pan for gold correctly. He also taught us a valuable life lesson: "You can make friends very quickly if you have gold nuggets in your pocket!"

The correct way to pan for gold is to get a scoop of dirt and gravel (your "paydirt") in the pan. Dip it in the water and begin to swirl and shake the pan. Because gold is heavier than the dirt and the water, this motion will deposit the gold into the lowest points of the pan.

Then, you begin to let the gravel and dirt slide out of the pan, continuing to shake and swirl, and empty out the dirt and gravel until the gold flakes become visible.

Honestly, panning is a lot harder than it looks. Mainly because we were too scared to shake the pan too much. Who wants to lose gold, no matter how small the piece? Not us! You definitely have to get over that fear and shake the pan with confidence to make any progress.

PHOTO: Mark and his vial of gold flakes, ready to be weighed!

As our gold flakes became visible, we carefully removed them from the pan and put them into small vials that we would take inside the visitors center to get weighed. The pieces seemed so small. So insignificant. So NOT gonna make me rich.

To our surprise, once our gold was weighed, we learned that we had found $28.90 worth! RICH! Okay, so maybe it's not enough to retire on, but we were stoked. Especially since it seemed like such a small amount in the vials.

PHOTO: Our gold was worth $28.90! Great find!

We had our flakes secured into a locket, which made an amazing Alaskan souvenir!

Panning for gold was an absolute blast! We definitely recommend this experience to anyone visiting Alaska.

Have you ever panned for gold? Where were you? How much did you find? Would you rather pan for gold or dig for diamonds? Let us know in the comments below!

This story originally appeared on the Just Chasing Rabbits blog.

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