Colorado is a great state for gold prospectors.
It has a long and rich history of gold mining with lots of places with great potential of finding gold. The challenge for most gold prospectors and especially those not residents of the state is that it can be difficult to find a place to prospect for gold that isn’t already claimed up. Quite a number of the richest places lay on private land or claims.
If this has been a challenge for you then worry no more. Colorado has quite a number places where you can pan for gold without a mining claim.
Now to be clear, some of these places have been prospected hard over the years. You will usually find richer areas if you do the research and find a place that others haven’t been mining. However, if you are simply looking for a simple spot to get out and enjoy the weekend while maybe finding a bit of gold, these are great places to try.
1. Arapahoe Bar
Arapahoe Bar is a BLM site set up on a gold bearing stretch of Clear Creek west of Denver. The park is a prospectors’ paradise and they are allowed to prospect for gold free of charge. Note that prospecting activities such as sluicing and panning are only allowed in the creek bed. Digging is prohibited on the southern banks of the creek but you can dig on the northern side provided you don’t disturb vegetation and you fill the holes after digging.
No gas-powered equipment are allowed.
Arapahoe bar is located to the south of Highway 58, next to the Clear Creek Train, a half a mile to the west of Youngfield St. The bar is accessed through either the 41 street or the Youngfield trail and it is under the managed by the Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreational Department.
2. Cache Creek
This is another great place for any gold prospector without a claim in Colorado. The creek was on private property for most of the last century but the owners did not mine on it for over 100 years until 1992 when it was purchased by the BLM for use by recreational gold prospectors.
Prospecting on the creek is free but there are plans to charge a small fee in future. Currently, you can pan for gold on it using simple tools such as gold pans and sluice boxes. It is important to note that diverting water or other significant disturbances are not allowed. Digging under or near trees is also prohibited.
Cache Creek is located between Buena Vista and Leadville along US-24 highway to Granite. To reach the site, turn off the highway west along the lost canyon Road. Travel along the Lost Canyon Road up the plateau until the intersection under the electrical cables. From here follow the unmarked road to the south then turn let to the dirt parking lot. You will see a sign for the creek area.
3. Clear Creek Canyon Park
Clear Creek Canyon is another site set aside for gold prospectors. It is a located along Highway 6 on your way to the Blackhawk. It allows gold panning, sluicing, and even suction dredges of up to 4 inches in diameter.
The property is run by Jefferson County which strictly follow the laid down rules. Although there are plenty of areas to prospect here it is important you fill all the holes before leaving, don’t disturb vegetation and don’t prospect to within 100 feet of any given structure within the park.
Clear Creek Canyon Park is located to the west of Golden, Colorado on the edge of Denver. It gives access to about 10 miles of waterway to prospect for gold. The water level in the canyon vary throughout the year but the flow of water means that gold along the river bed is replenished and thus giving a great opportunity to find some valuable gold.
Also be aware that most of the gold is very fine, so you will need to use your best fine gold recovery techniques to capture it.
4. Fairplay Prospecting Park
Fairplay is a historic gold mining town in Colorado. Having developed as a gold mining camp, the area all around the town is rich in gold. The town was established in the 1860s and had a fair share of gold mines that were operational until 1900s. Once the mine closed, dredging operations along the rivers took over supporting the town well into the 1930s.
Today, for a small fee you are allowed to pan for gold and sluice the South Platte River’s middle fork and the surrounding creeks and tailing piles.
Panning and sluicing are allowed all along the creek although digging in the river is prohibited. There are still plenty of gold in the waters and you find some rich gold flakes if you work hard enough.
5. Phoenix Gold Mine
The Phoenix gold mine is another place where you can pan for gold in Colorado even when you don’t have a claim. It is a working mine that offers tours to prospectors and visitors and a place to pan for gold. The mine was established in the 1930s and has been in operation ever since.
For a small fee, you can take an hour’s tour deep into the mountain to learn about gold mining. Once the tour is done, you are taken to a stream just next to the mine where you try your luck at panning for gold. The stream carries gold from the mountains and you can actually find some real gold here.
The Phoenix Gold Mine is a perfect place for the novice gold prospectors because here you work with experts who train you on how to pan for gold along river beds.