Maine Gold Panning – Exploring the Swift River and Coos Canyon

Gold Prospecting Swift River Maine

Serious gold mining is mostly associated with deep dark mines, the sound of pickaxes striking rock, railway carts going every other way filled with ore or stones. Gold can also be found in rivers and streams throughout the United States.

One of those places is located in Maine. Swift River is a 27-mile long river in the western part of Maine. During all the centuries of its existence it has cut deep into the rocky landscapes of the land and unearthed a lot of rich minerals such as garnets biotites and magnetites. It is one of few places in the USA where anyone can come and have a try at becoming a true gold prospector himself.


Gold Panning on the Swift


Swift River has its origin near Swift River Pond in Franklin County. It flows south through mostly rocky terrain and the towns of Byron and Roxbury. Its end is at the town of Rumford where it becomes part of a bigger Androscoggin River.

There is good placer gold in the Swift River. Some people believe that the river flows through an undiscovered gold vein, however it has not been found and gold in the tributaries suggests otherwise. The source is likely from many smaller fractured veins in the surrounding mountains rather than one big vein right in the river itself.

The most convenient places for gold prospecting would be closer to towns since those offer good roads and camping sites. However, there are tributaries to the Swift River that are also gold-bearing and may be overlooked. You can try to seek the banks of the river upstream near Berlin since those are less popular and chances for finding some big nuggets might just be better.

If you are a beginner or a casual prospector, you should take a closer look at East and West branches of Swift River. They are close to the town of Byron and are considered the most convenient places for gold prospecting. This is also where the largest gold nuggets have historically been found.

Read: Gold Prospecting in Quebec


Coos Canyon Gold


Sources state that one can find gold almost everywhere along the Swift River and its tributaries but the most popular place where you can actually rent some supplies and get a camping place is in Coos Canyon near Byron. This place is proven to have not only flakes of gold but also occasional nuggets and if you find one bigger than three grains you get to be entered into “The Big Nugget Book”! And you can even take panning lessons in the equipment shop.

You should also consider the season for prospecting. Most popular times for that are from May to August when the weather is good and even if you don’t get lucky with the gold you can spend great time camping and watching the scenery.


Panning Tips for the Swift River


There are a few ways to prospect gold in the Swift River: panning and using a sluice box. The ways are really quite similar and result in filtering a mix of gravel and water using special instruments. The simplest instrument is the gold pan. The point is that by making the water gradually flow from the drain you make small particles get stuck on the steps and since gold is heavier than most particles, I’ll be left on those steps.

There are actually a few tricks to perfect panning. First of all, you don’t just shovel gravel into your pan from the river bank. You have to dig with your shovel closer to bedrock and only then get the deeper layer into your pan. Be sure not to overload it since It is harder to manipulate that way. After that get rid of all the bigger rocks. You are not that likely to get a large nugget but look out for it just in case. After that submerge the pan underwater and use circular motions to rearrange the particles in the pan. Look out for clay and break it up. After the particles have been rearranged, tip the pan and empty out the water with the lightest particles. Repeat that until you have only the finest grains left at the bottom. If you are lucky, you may see some flakes and maybe even a nugget or two!

Also Read: How to Pick the Right Gold Pan


Find More with a Sluice Box


A sluice box is basically a more complex pan. It is a special box that can be placed in the river flow and when you put gravel inside it filters the particles using the river currents since it is submerged underwater and has the added benefit of using the natural flow of the water to help process the gravel.

Sluicing is a good option because you will find more gold than by panning alone, since you can easily move 10x more gravel in a day of prospecting. Panning is great for sampling areas to find the best places to set up, but a sluice is better for the serious prospector.

The Swift River is one of the best prospecting locations in Maine and really all of New England, so consider a trip to this famous golden river. Some of the biggest nuggets in the Northeast have come out of this beautiful river.

Next: Gold Prospecting in Maine

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