Bathurst, New South Wales. Australia's oldest inland settlement. Home of the famous Mount Panorama motor racing circuit. And it is also the site where the first gold discovery in Australia was announced.
In 1851 Edward Hargraves announced in a pub near Bathurst that he had discovered payable gold at Summerhill Creek. Although gold had been found in Australia as early as the 1830's it was kept secret by the government who feared disorder from restless convicts and that it would prompt farm workers to abandon their obligations. This cautious attitude was well-founded as when the government officially announced the discovery of gold, thousands of men rushed to the newly named "Ophir" gold field, beginning the first gold rush in Australia.
Even today the lure of gold still brings fossickers to Bathurst, and its surrounding areas, with their metal detectors and gold panning equipment. But if you think you can rock up to a stream or river, swirl your pan around a few times and find some gold, best think again, as I recently discovered.
Gold panning is not as easy as it looks, but luckily for us the Bathurst Goldfields will show you how to pan for gold. They provide the location, equipment and the all important lesson on how to find that elusive precious metal.
You can learn how to pan for gold at Bathurst Goldfields
The gold panning area
First you must know where to look. If you are trying your luck at a river or a creek try searching under boulders or in sheltered pools near rapids. Gold is very heavy and will sink in water and will therefore be found at the lowest points of the river or creek. At our location, in the little man-made water holes at Bathurst Goldfields, we were scooping up the sand and gravel around the concrete edges of the pools.
There is also a method to follow when panning. Scoop sediments from the river in to your pan towards yourself, not away from you. Then add some water and begin "puddling", i.e. washing away the dirt. Once the clay & dirt have been removed cover the remaining sediment with a small amount of water and shake the pan, causing the heavier particles (hopefully gold) to sink & bringing the coarser gravel to the top.
Gold panning demonstration
Then tilt the pan forward and wash away the top layer of gravel with the water. Continue until only a small amount of sand remains. Any gold should now be on the bottom of the pan. If you have been lucky enough to find some gold you can lick your fingertip and place it on top of the gold, then transfer to a small vial of water that you have prepared earlier.
Our group recently spent an hour panning for gold at the Bathurst Goldfields. On this particular morning the weather was sunny and mild and it was a really relaxing activity as there was only a small group on the tour. The tour guide was friendly and informative and came around to everyone individually to help them with their technique and to check if anyone had found any gold.
I found gold panning to be a very relaxing activity
Even with all of the helpful tips from our guide and a hands on demonstration it was still really difficult to distinguish between what was real and what was only "fools gold". But at the end of the tour we each came away with a tiny bit of gold in our little vials.
We found gold! A few specks of it anyway....
is located on Conrod Straight Mt Panorama and is open during school holidays only. No bookings are required but check their website for gold panning and tour times. Apart from panning demonstrations they also run Gold Tours during the school holidays.
For the more adventurous gold seekers, there is also an information sheet titled "Fossicking around Bathurst" which is available from the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre.
It shows you some designated gold fossicking areas around Bathurst and outlines the rules of fossicking in NSW. Good Luck!