Monday, August 1, 2011

Finally, The Secret Free Gold Panning Spots in Colorado List

We see people searching all over the Internet looking for good places to go gold prospecting only to find that local gold clubs, forums and websites pretty much all simply cut and pasted the same 15 or 20 year old list of one free location and two or three pay/fee (not free) spots to find gold.

The only free location on "the" list is the section of Clear Creek West of Golden in Jefferson County on HWY 6 between the first tunnel and the split to Blackhawk/N. Fork Clear Creek which is partially open for prospecting, but it is steep and deep, parking is tricky at best and the gold is spotty.

NOTE: 6/2012- Mayhem Gulch area is CLOSED to gold prospecting within 100' of any trout habitiat there.
So with that in mind, here is the list that all the people in the clubs and groups and forums know about, and talk about, and go to, ...but don't bother telling you about. Probably because they are more interested in selling memberships than helping recreational prospectors.

Looking at google maps, start by searching Commerce City, zoom in and focus on Clear Creek. You will find gold the entire length of the Clear Creek from it's confluence with the South Platte River in North Denver/Commerce City all the way upstream to the town of Golden. Access is the tricky part.

Here are the locations along HWY 76 which follows Clear Creek from I-70 and Wadsworth to it's confluence with the South Platte.

NOTE: 6/22/2012- DREDGING and gas powered equipment is prohibited at ALL of the following locations according to Jefferson County Open Space, Adams County, City and County of Denver. DREDGE ONLY WHERE DREDGING IS ALLOWED!

Confluence Park on E 74th street west of HWY 85 (on the south side of 74th) is one of the first locations gold was found in the region by early prospectors and has good color in all sandbars and gravel banks along both Clear Creek AND the South Platte. During the great depression, the South Platte was line with gold panners. As the name implies, there is parking there.

At 70th and Gilpin there is a very nice park on the south side of the street (just west of the NAPA store) with tables, grills, shade trees and... oh yeah, reliable gold in the sandbars and gravel banks on both sides of the bridge.

Continuing west on 70th street, to Washington St, go south to the first parking lot on the right (west side). This is private property so you will need to ask permission. Go into Tymkovich Meats and ask, they will give you permission. Check out their quality meats and products while there and make sure you fill your holes and leave your site cleaner than you found it.

Continuing upstream, one of our favorite spots is at about 68th and Broadway. 4-2012-YOU CAN NO LONGER park at the back (SE corner) of the Clear Creek Business Park parking lot which has parking for trail access there. YOU WILL BE TICKETED and/or TOWED for parking in this lot.
The sandbars and streambed has good consistent gold of the small, medium and pretty good sized variety when the water is low enough to allow access.

I'm told that you can get down under the HWY 36 overpass also to prospect in Clear Creek there but I have not checked out the access or parking personally.

Goldstrike Park is at the confluence of Ralston Creek and Clear Creek. Both streams have a good supply of placer gold working its way downstream. This location is a little tricky to get down to the water during the monsoon season.

Wheat Ridge - WARNING, DANGER: Don't even think about it, gold prospecting was banned, even at Prospect Park, they will take your shovel and make a bowtie out of it for you. People are working to encourage the city to develop and implement a permitting system for gold panning and such, much like a fishing license.

Wheat Ridge has plans to annex Clear Creek from I-70 and Youngfield west one mile to Indiana street, as of this writing (Aug 2011) it is legal to prospect West of the I-70 Overpass.

NOTE: The Arapahoe Bar/Arapahoe City site is a very Sensitive area and is at risk:

If you do go there, please be respectful of the south side creek bank, grass and bushes along the shoreline as these prevent erosion of the Clear Creek bike path and trail above, therefore avoid any digging above the natural waterline at all these locations.

Practice responsible prospecting so we can keep this area open for future generations to enjoy. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to neighboring Wheatridge that prospectors are as responsible as every other sportsman and have just as much right to access to the river and recreation.

Clear Creek History Park - Golden, CO. Take the Washington St exit off of HWY 58 going into Golden. Go south on Washington to 11th then go west to Arapahoe st. Parking on the left behind the Ball fields. Watch out for kayakers in your sluice box, but otherwise a beautiful and fulfilling location.

Clear Creek above Golden on HWY 6 - This is the area that virtually every website and gold prospecting club in Colorado tells you about. Yes, you can pan and even sluice upstream from Tunnel #1 to Tunnel 3, however there is a claim upstream from tunnel 3 to Elk Creek.

North Fork of Clear Creek HWY 119- To Blackhawk. You can get access just downstream from the convenience store which is about 2 miles upstream of the split from HWY 6. There are some holes already started which will deliver some fine gold in spots. Trying to work in the streambed on N Fork is futile at best. The soil is heavy clay material with tons of silt from the old mine tailings. There is also a small piece of BLM land marked by a roadside emergency phone upstream about 2 miles below Blackhawk which has produced some fine gold from the banks and benches up above the stream itself.

Now, going all the way back down to Ralston Creek, in Arvada, both Memorial Park and Hoskinson Parks have decent size gold, but this creek is littered with broken glass and trash, so beware and wear gloves/boots in it and bring a trash bag to remove any trash you come across. There is good parking along the street at both parks, watch out for flying discs at Memorial Park, (do NOT pick one up to throw it back) as this is a frisbee golf course.

South of Denver at the confluence of Dry Creek and the South Platte in Littleton, sandbars and gravel banks contain gold. Access is difficult, consult google maps before heading out.

Further southeast, Cherry Creek has fine gold south of Parker near Franktown and Castlewood Canyon (as well as Cottonwood creek) at the headwaters of Castlewood Canyon all the way downstream to downtown Denver's confluence park with the S Platte. This is a very challenging area with fine gold, private property and limited access to the benches and deposits above the stream.

Cottonwood park is just west of Parker road off of Jordan road at the north side of the town of Parker. There is good parking and access to Cherry Creek. Fine gold down fairly deep.

Hope this helps any new prospectors out there.

If not, at least the other prospecting websites have something new to cut n paste.


  1. Thanks so much for the info, Red!

  2. GREAT INFO!!!Living in parker,

  3. Thanks for the info. I wish I had it six years ago when I was there. My gold take would probably have been much better.

  4. thanks for the info,,i am planning on going over spring break and this is the most info i have found yet,,

  5. The park at 70th & Gilpin puts you a half block east of the 36 overpass. There's also a pull-out on the south side of 70th, directly under the overpass.

  6. Be very careful and aware going to the Arapahoe bar 44th and Youngfield area as police have been down there enforcing Wheat Ridge law outside of Wheat Ridge City limits due to complaints by Wheat Ridge residents walking along the bike path who called after seeing dredging operations going on there by a couple of self centered irresponsible prospectors. 4/6/12

    A group of us are working feverishly to have the state of Colorado set the Arapahoe bar property aside as a state gold panning park and invite you to help.

    1. Hey red I was mining behind parfet park in golden n got arrested for crim mischief just for diggin dirt in creek not on land they told me I was modifying the river wtf they act like I was usin a dozer they took my sluice n equip I ask gold n detector if it was fine they said perfectly fine n legal wat u think bout this

  7. how does one help with the development of this park?

  8. Thank you for asking. I moved this comment over to the post on the Arapahoe Gold Panning Park. Stay tuned to this blog and join Gold Unlimited once we get everything dialed in.

  9. Sorry to say, the parking at the Clear Creek business park (68th & Broadway) is now closed to any one trying to access the creek/bike path, some have been irresponsible and it is now closed, just a heads up.

  10. Thank you for posting this and for the call earlier about this. We are going to attend meetings this week with Adams county to determine if that is merely a parking issue there at Clear Creek Business park.

    Until then we suggest finding alternate parking and access either just upstream or downstream from the Broadway bridge.

  11. After resding this I have made several trips to Memorial Park and Hoskinson Parks in Arvada. I have never seen any panning and was wondering if anyone has actually gone there, and or has anyone ever given you a hard time? I live right down the street and this would be an easy place to access with the kids.

  12. The reasons no one goes there are
    A- they never thought about it and/or
    B- the glass and trash and filth and other stuff scared them off.

    The city of Arvada has no ordinances prohibiting gold panning and in fact are planning a gold panning park down at GOLDSTRIKE PARK at the confluence with Clear Creek.
    You can contact Arvada Parks and Rec for more information.
    Please keep your holes confined to the streambed itself and NOT in the banks and shorelines.
    Hope this helps,

  13. Can you have any motorized equipment (dredge, goldcube, etc)at ralston creek??? Thank you!

  14. There is a big difference between gasoline powered pumps and battery powered pumps in terms of public perception especially, so I advise against using a dredge or highbanker that requires a gas powered engine but have used a Gold Cube on Ralston Creek many times.
    Remember to always dig IN THE STREAM bed itself and NOT in the banks and under vegetation.... and remove the massive amount of glass and trash that you find!

  15. Ok great, sure will! Thank you for your time!! Happy hunting :)

  16. I am new to the Prospecting hobby, I have talked to many people why on the rivers. I am beginning to feel the frustration with gas powered equipment. I am in this for the fun and to get my kids out of the house I am seeing more and more people disrespecting the rivers every day.

    Friday why on clear creek there was a 10 foot long drudge with a 4 inch hose in the river. I mean really! These streams and free places are being over run with people trying to get rich and bringing the motorized equipment and disrespecting the rivers. Why on the north side of the bank 2 guys have demolished the bank 20 + feed away from the river with there drudge. And people wonder why they want to close down these places. The respect is gone for some and it is going to ruin it for the rest.

    I would just say that is you are planning on using gas equipment to not go to the places family’s go to have fun and ruin it for everyone! I am leaning to counties enforcing the rules and requiring permits and policing the waters from the people who are destroying the banks.

  17. Gold Unlimited has coordinated with Jeffco Open Space, Jefferson County and the city of Wheat Ridge and Wheat Ridge Parks and Rec to open Colorado's first public free gold prospecting park.
    The Arapahoe Bar Gold Prospecting Park is open!
    Go to the Wheat Ridge Parks and Rec website for rules!