Local gold panning: Searching for treasure along the Columbia River


Prospectors first found gold in Oregon in 1851 and they're still shouting Eureka today. Gold is closer than most people think too. With planes flying overhead, local prospector Wade Gray of Longview found gold on the banks of the mighty Columbia River.

Gray travels all around Oregon and Washington searching for his next find. Sometimes he's searching for agate or fossils, other times it's obsidian or calcite, but on the day FOX 12 caught up with him, he was hunting for gold.

"I look for black sand first, because that tells you the heavies are there," Gray explains.

Searching for heavy metals just of I-5 with his two lightweights, Alivia and Ethan who spent the day playing in the rocks and sand.

Gray was playing too, filling his pan with sand and waiting for patiently for gold to settle to the bottom.

"You kind of want to aerate it," Gray says, "You want to float the material. The object is to get all your light material on top and all of your heavy material on the bottom. "

Sure enough, a few little flakes of gold were on the bottom of his pan.

He says the key to finding gold is patience and a good eye. Holding a penny sized gold nugget in his hand he explains, "I almost threw this one away because it wasn't shiny and pretty like this. I had to take a knife and scrape it."

Gray verifies his finds through multiple rock enthusiast Facebook groups, including his own "NW Agate and Jasper Hounding" which has thousands of members. He also frequents rock shows and swap meets to identify more illusive rocks.

Both Oregon and Washington have rules for prospecting. Visit their websites for more information:

Washington: https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/mining/

Oregon: http://www.oregon.gov/DSL/WW/Pages/Permits.aspx

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