Gold Panning in Ohio

Gold Panning in Ohio

Has panning for gold always sounded intriguing? Most people including myself have always thought Panning for Gold required travel to Alaska or some other Western state. Most people do not realize that Ohio has many locations that you can pan for placer gold. Gold in Ohio has been left behind by glacial drifts thousands of years ago, and most of what you will find will be fairly small in size, although it is possible to find nice “picker” sized nuggets if you look in the right places. “Picker” refers to pieces of gold large enough so that can be picked up by using your fingers.


Placer Gold is essentially identical to Lode Gold. Placer Gold is created from erosion and time and is found in sands and gravel of streams. Placer Gold is typically 70-80% pure Gold and depending upon the current market sells for $200+ per ounce. Placer mining which is what we have available here in Ohio and involves filling a pan with the gravel and sand (crushed ore) to separate the gold. This process can be done individually and with minimal equipment. Lode mining involves the labor of many people working together to extract gold from tunnels in a mountain or the earth.

Since Gold Panning is not common in Ohio there are still large areas of the state that have had little to no prospecting done. Because of the nature of glacial gold deposition there could literally be gold just about anywhere. Do not be afraid to try new areas.

Some of the more popular areas in the state of Ohio for Gold Panning are:

  • Stonelick and Brushy Fork creeks in Clermont County.
  • Numerous creeks and streams in Ross County
  • Numerous creeks and streams in Richland County
  • Franklin, Hocking, Licking and Morgan Counties have all reported small amounts of gold

Hobby prospecting activities in Ohio streams are considered “exempt” from Ohio Surface Mine Laws if the following apply:

  • prospecting is recreational
  • prospecting is not commercial in nature
  • material collected is of little or no commercial value, and the environmental impacts are minor/insignificant

Please be advised that if conditions change, the Division will revisit its decision to determine whether the exemption remains appropriate.

Hobby prospectors need to continue to be vigilant in adhering to: exemption guidelines as stated above, landowner rights and compliance with all other agencies that have jurisdiction over Ohio’s streams

Even though hobby prospecting is not currently considered “in-stream” mining, it does not relieve a person of the obligation of compliance with any other regulatory requirements such as those of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) or any other agency of jurisdiction, prior to the commencement of any prospecting.

If activity involves the use of a suction dredge and stream substrate is being dredged up and run through the sluice and discharged back to the stream, then it may require a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit and associated Section 401 Water Quality Certification. These determinations would need to be made by the appropriate U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office and Ohio EPA respectively.

If one is simply panning with a shovel and pan then these permits probably won’t be needed. Landowner permission is needed to conduct this activity from any stream bank that is private property. Because stream beds and banks are typically private property, even floating into a site requires permission of the landowner.

It is NOT legal to pan on Ohio state forest lands. The only national forest in Ohio is the Wayne National Forest. Please contact the Wayne National Forest regarding their rules/regulations.

Remember that unlike commercial mining, recreational prospectors are often tight-lipped about their gold discoveries. Just because there are no official reports of gold production does not mean that it isn’t there. Get out the gold pan and start searching!

Getting started is easy and inexpensive!



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