Utah Gold Fields

Interactive Map

Placer mining in Utah began in 1864 at Bingham Canyon, Salt Lake County. One minor deposit was reportedly found before this discovery at Gold Hill in the Deep Creek Mountains (Clifton district, Tooele County) in 1858 but Indians are said to have driven away the early prospectors here. On September 17, 1863, the first mineral location in Utah (the West Jordan lode claim) was made, and the placers were discovered in the following year. By 1865 the placers in Bingham Canyon were being extensively worked; production from the gravels reached a peak between 1868 and 1872, when placer gold valued at about $1 million was recovered. Placer mining gradually decreased in importance after 1872 as the richer gravels were worked out and was negligible by 1900.

After the decline of placer mining in the Bingham district, placer deposits along the Colorado, San Juan, and Green Rivers in the eastern part of the State were extensively investigated by many itinerant prospectors. The placers were found in sand and gravel bars along many miles of these river courses; the gold, however, was exceedingly fine and difficult or impossible to recover. In 1891 a major placer rush to the San Juan River began. Placers had been worked along the river desultorily since 1879, but exaggerated reports and rumors of rich placers, spread by a trader named “John Williams,” caused an influx of men to this relatively isolated area during the “Bluff excitement of 1892.” The majority of the men returned from the San Juan River placers within a few months, empty handed and penniless.

During the 20th century, placer mining has continued sporadically in a few districts in the State. The placers in the La Sal Mountains, discovered in 1907, created a temporary interest in placer mining in that area, but low gold recovery disappointed the miners. The placers discovered most recently in Utah are those located in the House Range (Millard County), first worked in 1932.

Recreational Prospecting

You do not need a permit for recreational gold panning on BLM or Forest Service land, as long as you follow the regulations stated in the section on the previous page. However, recreational dredging on any stream requires a permit from the Utah Division of Water Rights. The Recreational Dredging and Sluicing Application must be filed with both the Division of Water Rights and the local BLM office. With this permit, recreational dredging is only allowed for a total of 45 days during the calendar year.