POINT BAR (ABOUT 8 MILES DOWNSTREAM FROM SALIDA ON HWY 50)
This is a BLM public access area. It is open to all recreational prospecting equipment, but you will need to get a permit from either the BLM or Forest Service to use any motorized equipment. There is no motorized equipment allowed between October 1st and April 1st. The area is usually accessable all year. The gold here is very small (flour) but you will find gold just about every time you pan here. There is a lot of black sand, and you will need to work pretty hard for the gold you get.
Access is from either Howard or Wellsville. If you access it through Howard, you will need four wheel drive where the road crosses Badger Creek. During the spring runoff, the water in Badger Creek may be deep enough to keep you from being able to cross. Also, the water does come all the way up to the road at times during the runoff. You need to drive through the creek and then up a steep bank. You get on the road by crossing the bridge in Howard, and then taking the road to the immediate left. The road follows the river all the way from Howard to the Point Bar area. The other access is from Wellsville. If you look at the directions for getting to the Let's Go Gold Panning Days, you will see how to get to Point Bar. In 2001, the BLM built an all new section of raod to access Point Barr from Wellsville. It's where the old dangerous area used to be just before the gate. (By the way, you need to close the gate behind you when you pass through it.) Since this new road improvement has been done, it is very easy to access the area.
CLEAR CREEK (NORTH OF GOLDEN ON HWY 6)
This area is private property that is graciously opened to the public by the owner. Please remember to respect that owner by cleaning up after yourself. The area is open to recreational prospecting equipment. There are no permits needed to operate motorized equipment. The area is not very large, and most of the open area is on the side of the creek where you and everybody else will be parked. There are some people that cross the creek and work on the other side, but at times the water is deep enough and swift enough to make moving any equipment across the creek very difficult. There are small flake size pieces of gold and occasionally you will find bigger flakes. I have had some people tell me they got 1-2 pennyweight nuggets and larger, but I have never seen it done while I was up there.
Access from Golden is on Hwy 6. Head upstream (Northwest). You will pass through three former railroad tunnels. After the third tunnel, you will go just about two miles. You should notice a pulloff on the left side of the road, that's the place. There are some tailing piles there. Be careful, as there is a lot of traffic on this road due to travel to Blackhawk and Central City (Casino towns).
FAIRPLAY BEACH (TOWN OF FAIRPLAY ON THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER)
This is a pretty good lace to pan. You can NOT use any motorized equipment here, panning and sluicing only. THE TOWN OF FAIRPLAY HAS DECIDED IN 2001 TO CHARGE A HORRENDOUS FEE TO PROSPECT THE BEACH. IT'S NOW $15 A DAY!!! The area is open from about March through December, depending upon the ice on the river. The gold here is various size flakes, some coarse pieces, and occasional small nuggets.
Access is by a road which comes off of Hwy 285 just on the South side of the river (across from the Texaco), just South of the intersection of Hwy 285 and Hwy 9. There is a sign for Fairplay Beach. Depending upon the runoff, you may need to park on the road and walk down to the area.
The only two other places I know of that are public access are in city parks. One is in Golden at the baseball field park. You can pan in the creek (Clear Creek), but you obviously can't dig in the bank or the ground around the creek since it is city park. The other place is in Conflunce Park in Denver. It's where Cherry Creek pours into the Platte River. Same deal here, you can pan in the streams, but you can't do any digging in the park. The water in the Platte River at this place stinks. I mean literally stinks. The pollution or spill from the sewage treatment plant or whatever makes this a very unpleasant experience. There might be a little gold to find there, but with the odor and the fact that you can't do much digging, this spot is none too inviting.
That's it. If you are planning a visit to Colorado to do any panning, my suggestion is to join a club so you have some gold bearing ground to dig in. These free areas are well worked, and really don't offer up too much gold. That's sort of the reason for clubs existing, to obtain claims that are for the exclusive use of the members. It keeps the areas from being swarmed with people and overworked. Remember, GPOC has no interest in any of these free places as a club. We only provide these directions as an alternative for people that decide to not join a club. We sure don't make any guarantees or promises that you will find gold at any of these places, but we don't even make that claim about our own club claims. Gold is where you find it. Happy hunting.
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The page contained so much useful information not duplicated elsewhere that I had to grab it from historical web archives. I could not find another source of this information. The original page is from March 2005. Information may be out of date. Check with local groups and governing authorities before proceeding.
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