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Panning for gold at Sutter's Mill

Coloma, Calif.
Oct. 5, 2003

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I asked the ranger at the Sutters' Mill Visitors Center what there was to see, and where the mill was. He pointed a few sites out on a map, and I thanked him and began to turn away towards a diorama of 49ers whooping it up in front of a log cabin. But Em wanted more: "IS THERE ANYPLACE WHERE WE CAN MINE FOR GOLD?!"

Sure enough, there was. The ranger let us watch a short video featuring a bear-like miner teaching the seven steps of panning for gold. Then we picked up two little gold pans in the gift shop and headed across a bridge to a beach on the American River, across from a reconstruction of Sutter's Mill. Apparently, that spot in the river had been mined out before we arrived (maybe 150 years before we arrived), but we spent a nice hour out there up to our knees in the cool water under a warm Indian summer sun, panning for gold.

Here's a quicktime video showing how it's done.