Gold Panning in Fairplay!


It’s a new day and I’m starting a new blog categoryone I have been planning for a while, actually. It’s gold hunting!

Ever since I moved to Fairplay, Colorado last November, I have been interested in finding gold. I mean, we’re not far from where they found Tom’s Baby, the 13 lb gold nugget, back in the gold fever days. So after I got here I dragged Gregg across every tailings pile we could find, looking for treasure. The search has definitely been one of learning by trial and error. Much of the information I’ve gleaned to date has been from piecing together obscure pieces of information as they come my way.

For example, I’ve read up on gold in every ancient gold hunting book I found in the house, and these are replete with antiquated and flavorful stories–like how to separate gold from other metals by hollowing out a cavity for it in a potato and baking it together with mercury to cause the gold to conglomerate. (Right, so we modern people don’t do it that way anymore because of the whole mercury poisoning thing.) And then, if you have a particularly pesky mother-in-law, the same book states, you can feed her the mercury potato. (Again, do NOT try this at home.) It’s a good thing for Gregg’s mom, I guess, that he and I are not married!

Anyhoo, my interest in gold hunting peaked and then waned, being replaced this spring and summer by my obsession with wild edible plants instead.

Until this afternoon, that is.

In the morning, Gregg and I headed down to Fairplay for the town’s annual Burro Days, which celebrates the treasured animal that got so many a miner through the long, hard, mining days not to mention cold nights as well. Each year they race burros up and back down Mosquito Pass, making a 30-mile trek peaking out at 13,500 feet, if I heard the announcer correctly. The race starts and ends back in Fairplay, which hosts an arts and crafts festival to entertain folks while they’re waiting for the burros’ and trail runners’ return. 

After the race’s start, the burros having all galloped down the street and off into the mountains, Gregg and I sought out kettle corn and small donuts. Finding ourselves out of cash, however, we were starting to head home when we came upon the booth of the Gold Prospectors of Colorado. To my intense joy, they had a full imitation gold panning operation set up right there on the town green!

Many thanks go out to Ken for spending so much time teaching us how to pan gold in the trough they had set up. We learned how to swish the lighter material out of the pan, which was immersed in water, to get it down to the gold-containing black sands, and then how to separate the gold from that too. Gregg was better at it than me.

Ken showed us his gold collection and also the Desert Fox machine that he uses to separate his gold from the black sands. I wish I had taken pictures! I was envious of his stories of  sitting out back, watching the game, swilling a beer while swishing the sands to collect enough gold to give each of his 13 grandkids a vial full of it.  

Anyway, Ken made a good pitch for the Gold Prospectors of Colorado and Gregg and I are seriously considering joining. The annual rate for individuals is $25 or $35 for the family membership, and it includes access to the organization’s claims, not to mention the knowledge we stand to gain from the expertise of this crew!

I keep telling Gregg I think it would be a nice gesture if he were to gather enough gold to melt it into a piece of jewelery for me. Now, it looks like, he might get a chance to make good on that offer I offered for him to offer.


6 thoughts on “Gold Panning in Fairplay!

  1. Canuci

    I live in south central New Mexico and I have been interested in gold prospecting for many years. Her in Southern New Mexico I can find places a little gold after a lot of work. Have you been to the “gold field” near Fairplay? Have you tried finding any gold there? I am trying to find information on places open to the public for gold panning in that area. Do you know of any places like that?
    Thanks for your help. Good luck!

  2. etmarciniec

    Hi Canuci – To be honest with you I am pretty inexperienced (albeit quite enthusiastic) about the gold hunting. To date, my search has been limited to poking around old tailings piles.
    I think the “gold field” you are referring to might be the Fairplay town beach. If so, although I have yet to give this a try myself, I did find some good information on free places to pan in Colorado at . According to the site, you can get a permit from the Town of Fairplay online by clicking the “forms and permits” tab, filling out and bringing or sending in the form to be signed, and then keeping it on you while you pan. The site states that “Gold here historically was just amazing and the beach is very close to what the old timers used to call the “GOLD SLIDE.”
    Unfortunately (for the sake of research) I’m out of town right now but you’ve peaked my interest in panning at the Fairplay town beach, so when I get back (early September) I’ll give it a try and report back on it. In the meantime, I hope this information has been helpful to you. Cheers!

  3. Gail

    Who is operating the Gold Panning business off of Hwy. 9 in Fairplay? There are no phone numbers or contact information available for this operation that I can find.

  4. Gold fever'n Okie

    The gold panning business off of Hwy 9 is ran by a guy named Chad. I can’t remember his last name, but he is usually there from 8 or 9 am til 4 to 5pm depending on how busy he is. He also guides private parties. I know he has a cell phone but I don’t have his number either. We stopped by there in July (my wife and her parents) and spent a half a day there and did pretty well for our first time. He is very nice and willing to share what he knows and explains/demonstrates very well. Stop by and give him a try!

  5. Gold Fever'n Okie

    I replied once, but it went on as another comment instead of reply. The person that owns that business is Chad. I do not remember his last name or phone number. He is there most days, but does do guided private parties. We (my wife and her parents) spent a half day there and did very well for our first time. Chad is very willing to share his knowledge and explains and demonstrates how to pan very well. Stop by and give him a try, its a blast!!!

  6. etmarciniec

    Thanks for posting that info, Okie. I tried to stop by that Hwy 9 gold panning business a couple of times to get the information for Gail, but my timing must have been off because it was closed both times. Much appreciated!
    In regards to how the postings look for comments versus replies, I am going to run some tests. I think the “replies” end up looking the same as the “comments” unless I figure out how to program things differently. I’m also trying to figure out how to get email alerts to go out to the folks in the conversation when replies are submitted.
    In the meantime, cheers and thanks for visiting my site. Happy gold panning!


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