How Much gold Can I Expect To Find?
The definitive answer is -- it depends. There are many variables. The amount of gold recovered varies tremendously. You may find a few small nuggets every few pans, while your friend 10 feet away will find nothing but gold dust.
The most difficult lesson to learn is where gold hides. The path of water, amount of gold moving, types of rocks and speed of the water over the life of the stream, all affect gold and where it settles. This means that you may find decent flakes at a specific spot, but never find anything else there again.
There is no reliable way to tell how much gold will be found. If you go to the same area each time, you will be able to get a feel for the amount that you typically recover.
Personally, on a 4-hour hike along a stream mostly visiting with friends, I will typically find 1/8th of a gram of gold. Not much, but enough to make it fun and be visible. If I am not being lazy and decide to work specific spots, a lot more can consistently be found and occasionally a nugget too.
What Is It Worth?
That is another variable question. The biggest variable affecting the value of gold is the purity. In some places, gold can be 24 karat and other places it will be very coarse and only be 14 karat or less. 24 karat gold is worth about $10 a gram and may often be worth more as an art piece.
To put the size into perspective, a piece of gold the size of a grain of rice can weight a gram. It doesn’t take a lot of flakes in the bottom of a vial to add up to a gram or 2
Even if you do not have much gold, and even it isn’t pure, it has another value -- sentimental. There is something almost magical about having a vial of gold that YOU found. Inside that vial is the story of the look on your face the first time you found a decent sized flake or nugget, perhaps the memory of a visit with a old friend or how the stresses of the week melted away after finding some color. Perhaps your vial will become a legacy that you pass to your children as a reminder of the many fond memories from taking them panning and hoping they do the same with their children.
This potentially life long hobby is fun, great exercise and is applicable to anywhere in the world. Once you start finding gold you may find yourself counting the seconds until you can go back and turn over the rock just to the left of where you had been digging.