Gold Panning

On-Site Gold Panning Claim Panning

Gold Panning

The Black Hills of South Dakota has a rich history of gold mining and gold panning. In fact, the Black Hills gold rush is what built up the surrounding cities! Since 1892, Big Thunder Gold Mine has been finding gold in the Black Hills. Now, you have the opportunity to learn all about gold mining, gold panning, and placer mining.

What is placer mining?

Gold panning is actually a form of Placer Mining. Placer Mining is the retrieval of loose gold from the sand and gravel of the creeks. The first gold discovered in the Black Hills was through Placer Mining in 1874 on Battle Creek and French Creek.

Gold panning is an easy process. Once a suitable placer mining deposit is located, some gravel is scooped into a pan. There, it’s gently agitated in water. Doing this allows the gold to sink to the bottom of the pan. Because gold has a high specific gravity, it sinks to the bottom with other materials that have a high specific gravity. The materials with a lower specific gravity spill out of the pan. The gold panner then examines and inspects the sediment collection at the bottom of the pan. Usually, the sediment comprises dense materials like black, magnetite sand and whatever other gemstones or metal dust gold panning might uncover from the source material.

Gold panning can be an effective method with certain kinds of deposits and is essential for prospecting. However, even skilled panners can only work with a limited amount of material. In many situations, gold panning usually turns up only minor gold dust that is usually collected as a souvenir in small clear tubes. Gold nuggets and considerable amounts of gold dust are occasionally found. However, placer mining and gold panning is used to locate the parent gold veins, which are the source of most placer deposits.

Big Thunder Gold Mine offers two different types of gold panning experience for you and your family.

On-Site Gold Panning

Learn the basics of placer mining and gold panning with our on-site gold panning.

Learn more about On-site Gold Panning.


$11.95Per Pan

$9.95 when combined with a mine tour - Per Pan

$7.95Gem Panning - Per Bag

Claim Panning

We also offer claim panning. Spend a half-day or day on Big Thunder Gold Mine’s actual claim. You’ll head out with one of our panning experts and pan for real Black Hills Gold. Whatever gold you find on your claim panning adventure, you get to keep!

Learn more about Claim Panning


  Half Day (4 hours)Full Day (8 hours)
Children (ages 6-16) $40.00 $65.00
Adults $50.00 $80.00

*Reservations for claim panning must be at least 24 hours in advance.
**Tours book up fast, so we suggest making your reservation a few days in advance.