If you are looking for something to do on a beautiful day in the Black Hills, you will want to catch up with Rattlesnake Randy, an actual goldminer and the owner of Black Hills Gold Panning.
Randy offers a four hour gold claim adventure at an actual claim site. Randy has ten total claims but some are more likely to have gold than others. Randy hopes that through the experience, you learn what the old miners really went through. Although, now it is an activity to do just for fun, at one point, miners did it for survival.
When panning for gold there are some basic things that you must know, says Randy. “The first thing to understand is how heavy gold is. Even the tiniest flake is 19.3 times heavier than water. That’s the specific gravity of the weight. So, it’s almost twice as heavy as lead. So the whole trick to everything is trying to get gold to settle to the bottom because it’s heavier than everything else.”
The first step in panning for gold is to get some material by shoveling dirt and rocks into a bucket. Randy shakes out the large rocks and lets the other material run through a screen mesh. Although any material has the potential of having gold in it,
Randy reminds us, “You could see a lot of sparkly, glittery stuff. That’s like the old saying, all that glitters isn’t gold. A lot of that is mica and pyrite- fool’s gold. Your chances of just spotting gold are pretty rare.” He also says that 98% of the gold would probably fall through a window screen.
Randy uses a rocker box when panning. It’s important to not overfeed the rocker box. Randy puts a small scoop at the top of the box, because if you put the material down too far, it will plug up. Next, Randy pours water over the material to wash everything off and to get rid of chunks and bigger rocks. If rocks start piling up, that is when you should “rock” the water side to side.
After completing the sifting process, it is time to check to see if you have any gold. The rocker box contains a rubber matting that is used to collect any gold pieces. In the final panning step, is where you separate gold flakes from the rest of the material. The color of gold flakes will be a yellow butter-like color.
Randy says, “So many people come out and they just don’t know what to expect. And then it’s like, man, this was awesome. It’s not so much having the gold. It’s the thrill of finding it.”
If you would like schedule your gold panning adventure or for more information, click here.
Rattlesnake Randy offers some advice, “I’ve been mining for over 20 years. It’s just a fun hobby. If you do it to get rich, you’re going to be disappointed a lot. So you got to come out to just enjoy the outdoors, the beautiful Black Hills, and it’s a lot of fun. If you find any gold, it’s a bonus.”