In the mid-1800s, prospectors scoured the streams of the greater Yellowstone area looking for gold.
Today’s visitors to Yellowstone can also try to strike it rich. Throughout the region, historic gold-mining districts hold annual festivals where folks can roll up their sleeves, get their feet wet and perhaps find a touch of color in the bottom of their pans.
In Montana, you can see gold panning demonstrations in several locations.
At the Kootenai National Forest near Libby, an entire area has been dedicated for gold panning. You can also try your luck at Alder Gulch, in Nevada City.
Montana’s many colored sapphires, mined since 1892, are found in the famous placer gravels near Philipsburg. You can mine your own in the summer at Gem Mountain, and year round at the Sapphire Gallery, as featured on the Travel Channel. World-class gems of 1 to 2 carats and larger are often found and made into fine heirloom jewelry.
Across the border in Wyoming, gold prospectors can be found hard at work panning for gold during the summer. Most days you can see them along public stretches of creeks and streams in the South Pass Area near Lander.
During South Pass City State Historic Site’s Gold Rush Days, held every year in mid-July, you can take gold-panning lessons along the banks of Willow Creek.
Travelers who are interested in gold panning should stop at local sporting goods or hardware stores along their route to purchase gold-panning supplies. When you find them, it’s a good bet there’s gold to be found nearby.