Gold Panning on the Red Deer River

Gold Panning on the Red Deer River | Alberta, Canada
The headwaters of the Red Deer River start in the Rocky Mountains within Banff National Park. From it’s humble beginning, it continues flowing for 450 miles across southern Alberta.

There was never a true “gold rush” on the Red Deer River. In fact, Alberta has never been a major gold producer like British Columbia. Pretty much all of the gold is flour gold, so it takes a lot of effort to recover any appreciable quantities of it.

With that said, it’s certainly not a bad place to try a bit of gold panning. In some locations you can get several nice “colors” in each pan.


Flour Gold in the Red Deer River


I have talked with several prospectors in Southern Alberta and there is pretty much a consensus with the Red Deer River. There don’t seem to be any real “hot spots” to speak of, but as with any watershed, you will find concentrations of gold that are more worthwhile than others.

Anywhere around Innisfail will have some gold if you get down below the sand and gravels and pan out the heavier materials. This fine gold gets redistributed easily during flood events. You’re likely to have the best luck in late summer when water levels are lower. Downstream of the city of Red Deer has quite a few places that look good.

Honestly, the type of fine gold that you will get out of the Red Deer River is similar to what you can find in the Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, and Peace Rivers as well. The gold is there, but it has eroded for millions of years and been moved around by prehistoric glaciers. It’s small stuff.


Panning Fine Alberta Gold


Since the gold is so tiny, you have to be careful about using the proper equipment and techniques to ensure that you don’t lose it. Crude or sloppy methods will cause you to lose the gold.

Panning is obviously one of the ways to get the gold out of the Red Deer River. A good location can yields as many as 20-30 “colors” per pan. What are those colors worth? Well, put them all together and they might be worth a penny or so…

Proper panning technique is critical. If you are sloppy or aggressive with your panning, that fine gold will flow right out of your pan and you will lose it. Be cautious and take your time. When you get down to the last tiny particles at the bottom of your pan, use a snuffer bottle to expose the fine gold under the black sands.


Advanced Gear for Tiny Gold


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of Alberta gold that would qualify as a nugget. If you want to find nuggets you’d better hop in the truck and venture over to British Columbia. The geology in Alberta simply doesn’t produce much in the way of lode gold sources. The gold is small. Very small.

These days if someone is serious about prospecting and wants to know the best way to capture as much as possible, I recommend that they get a Gold Cube. I have used one on the beach sands in Washington and seen first hand how well to does on these itty-bitty gold specks. If you get it set up properly, classify your material and feed it in slowly then you will catch a surprising amount of gold with it.

Are you going to get rich from the gold in the Red Deer River? I can’t exactly say that. But you can definitely find some gold here and its a great way to get out on the river and enjoy the day!

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