Panning for gold was a common practice among gold seekers because it required less equipment, which meant one could start looking for gold as soon as they arrived in California. Panning for gold was done in rivers and streams. A miner would take his or her pan, place it in the water and fill it with gravel from the bottom of the river. Using circular motions, any trace of gold would sink to the bottom of the pan while loose gravel and dirt would move to the side. Although this technique was not equipment intensive, panning for gold was labor intensive and tedious and did not always yield a large return for one's efforts.
H.S. Poley "Panning Gold," Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, Call Number P-1258.