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Gold Rush

Pan for Gold in Maine's Coos Canyon


Coos Canyon Byron Maine Gold Panning

Coos Canyon, carved by Maine's Swift River, is a prime place to pan for gold.

© 2003 Kim Knox Beckius
Last Updated: April 27, 2014

I know that people really find gold in Coos Canyon, located along Route 17 in Byron, Maine. How, you ask? Well, I thumbed through the pages of "The Big Nugget Book."

Coos Canyon is a scenic, rocky gorge carved through bedrock by the Swift River. The Swift River is one of more than a half dozen streams and rivers in Maine known to harbor deposits of gold. According to the Maine Department of Conservation's Gold Fact Sheet, "Gold occurs in several geologic environments in Maine: in bedrock, in sediments that were eroded from bedrock by glaciers, and in stream deposits derived from either of these sources."

Anyone who finds a gold nugget weighing three grains or more is eligible to have his or her photo included in "The Big Nugget Book," a photo album displayed across the street from Coos Canyon at the Coos Canyon Rock & Gift Shop, where you can rent gold panning equipment (though a perforated pie plate from home will work fine, too). "The Big Nugget Book" is filled with smiling faces of prospectors of all ages proudly displaying their gold haul.

While fame may come from finding a three-grain nugget, fortune will not come as easily. After all, a grain is equal to just 0.0648 grams. However, the Coos Canyon Rock & Gift Shop sells a variety of vials and pendants in which you can display your sparkling flakes of pure gold: a true treasure from Maine.

If you're going...

Location: Coos Canyon is located in the town of Byron, Maine, on Route 17. It will come up on your right as you're headed toward Rangeley on Route 17 West.

Admission: There is free parking available at the Coos Canyon site, and there is no charge to visit the scenic spot or to wade into the water to try your luck panning for gold.

Pan for Gold: Bring your own panning equipment, or rent gear and take a quick lesson in panning at the Coos Canyon Rock & Gift Shop, located at 472 Swift River Road, across Route 17 from Coos Canyon. As of 2014, the price to rent a pan and classifying screen is $2 per day, with a $5 refundable deposit required.

Camp Nearby: Coos Canyon Cabins and Campground, 207-364-3880, rents gold panning gear at the camp store and offers cabin rentals and campsites for tents, campers and RVs.

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