COLORADO — The prospectors at Vic's Gold Panning in Black Hawk, Colorado describe themselves as "crazy." Using processes that date back more than 150 years, this group continues a long legacy of discovering and retrieving wild Colorado gold.
“It started in 1957, ol’ Vic came out here and started digging gold … We have a little tourist panning operation to regulate the people [who] want to know what’s going on … and we go about working in the mine," said Jesse Peterson, the current owner of Vic's Gold Panning.
Many gold panners described a certain thrill associated with the act of discovery, often regarded as "gold fever," but some said it is simply a reason to relax in nature.
“A lot of it is just the zen experience of doing something physical that requires mental focus. I mean what’s bad about standing up to your knees in a river somewhere? Nothin’ … So, it’s good for the soul," said Kevin Singel, the author of "Finding Gold in Colorado."
Singel, who first discovered Vic's Gold Panning as a child in a 1969 edition of National Geographic, said gold has taken on a very practical application in his life.
“My wife’s wedding band that she wears now … it’s made with gold from my 2013 prospecting season," said Singel.
For others, like Brandon Gaul, who attended this year's Goldapalooza at Vic's Gold Panning, the discovery of gold has maintained the same promise of a better future that it had in the 1800's and 1900's.
Gaul, who was seated in front of his tent, brewing "cowboy coffee," along a river at Vic's, said he planned to invest his gold into a college fund for his two sons. He said he had amassed nearly nine and a half ounces over the last 20 years. At the time of publishing, gold is valued by Forbes to be worth $1,925.01 per ounce, meaning Gaul has saved more than $18,000 in gold for his sons' college funds.
Though you might expect this value to inspire competition between panners, most are ready and excited to share their wealth of knowledge. Rodger Schlenger, an organizer of 2023's Goldapalooza, said many of his efforts are focused on teaching people, which he said provides him a sense of meaning behind gold panning.
Schlenger is not alone; it was this same educational motivation that inspired Singel to put together his website and write his book on gold panning.
“I was kind of complaining to my wife about how every website had the same three or four dig sites listed … that led to not just a website with a few dozen dig sites on it … but at some point the website gets awkward and you say ‘it’s time to write a book,'" said
No matter the motivation or location, Southern Colorado, Denver Metro, or the small town of Black Hawk, those with gold fever can rest assured: adventure is just beneath their feet.
“It’s exciting to be the one who figured out how to play hide and seek with mother nature and find what she hid," said Singel.
Vic's Gold Panning can be found using the following coordinates:
5001 CO-119, Central City, CO 80427
The Vic's Gold Panning listings that can be discovered at 199 Black Hawk St, Black Hawk, CO 80422, through multiple map applications will not lead those interested to the correct location.
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