Panning for Gold in Maine: The Swift River
While there is gold to be found in California and Alaska, and many other states as well, did you know that MAINE is a great area to pan for gold? The Swift River and its tributaries, near Byron (off of Route 17 between Rangeley and Rumford), is a popular gold panning area because large nuggets are often found there. At the very least you’ll find flakes and small nuggets, and it all adds up; it’s all real gold.
The Swift River and its many feeder streams have produced more gold than all of the other (known) Maine gold regions combined. And here is the really exciting thing about this area. While gold still abounds here, no one has been able to locate the source of the gold, the “mother lode.” Whoever finds it will become very wealthy!
According to Maine’s Department of Conservation Gold in Maine page, gold occurs in several geologic environments in Maine: in bedrock, in sediments that were eroded from bedrock by glaciers, and in stream deposits derived from either of these sources. Veins of gold in bedrock are called “lode” deposits, and “placer” deposits are concentrations of gold that accumulated in unconsolidated sediments. Most of the gold presently found in Maine comes from placer deposits in stream beds.
The Gold in Maine page also gives you the rules and regulations, and other useful information and resources, for gold panning.
While summer is the best time to pan, be forewarned that until the first part of August you will be at the mercy of particularly-vicious black flies. Dress defensively. Check out the “insect protective clothing” at http://www.bugbaffler.com/products.htm. And remember that the water is going to be chilly, so bring appropriate footgear (for example, boots or even hip boots).
I also recommend that you read the book The Next Bend In The River – Maine Mining Adventures ($12). It tells how and where to find gold in Maine. There are instructions regarding how to pan and sluice, tips on dredging and dowsing, and a list of the better streams and locations where gold can be traced. Also, it tells about the mining boom and bust in the late eighteen hundreds, along with the colorful hoaxes and their flamboyant creators.
The Swift River (Byron) area is located in the Western Mountains & Lakes Region of Maine. Click here for a free map of Maine (PDF file).