Panning for gold in the San Gabriel Mountains

So you want to know where to find gold in Southern California? Me too…I’ve done countless hours of research, driven thousands of miles all across this great state in search of peace, relaxation and gold. But what’s great is right next door to my home, I can head to a local mountain range without the crazy travel and still enjoy a great day searching for gold.

If anyone ever asks me about a nice place to pan, sluice and get the basics down without breaking the bank or driving up north to Gold country. I usually point them towards a small town called Azusa. Located  about 20 min from Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains, the gold prospecting isn’t great, the environment has a lot of damage from 100 years of mining. But there is in fact gold still waiting in the river and hills of Azusa for us to pull it out.

There are two portions to the Public recreation area in Azusa. The West fork, and the east fork. The east fork past the cattle bridge is open year round for prospecting. Sluices, Pans, shovels…are all OK, but they draw the line at dredging equipment.

Azusa gold panning got me hooked. A few weekends of panning, running the sluice and digging locked me in. I didn’t find much gold there, just a few flakes here and there. But the first time I saw a flake in my pan after running my concentrates through the sluice. It was like a drug – I had to have more.

The Azusa east fork area is not claimable land – It is public usage. Near the bridge to nowhere – Below that bridge and upstream a few miles, there is exposed bedrock where the search for gold can become tedious. Moving a boulder for 6 hours is not fun…but dang if I don’t feel accomplished when I roll that 2 ton sucker out of the way for a nice free dig.

Just remember, even the remotest of areas on the East fork, and any public use land have been mined for over 100 years. Back then, regulations did not stop the mining companies from destroying the river bed, the mountain sides and generally just ignoring the health of the environment in the search for wealth.

So whenever you are out panning for gold in the Azusa mountains, remember to think like the river and to think like the weather. You can’t just stick your shovel in the ground and come up with a shovel full of nuggets. You need to read the river, eye the rocks and think about how the laws of nature would affect the area you are in.


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