Libby Recreational Gold Panning Area

Ted panningThe Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area is located 10 miles up the Libby Creek Road. The turnoff to Libby Creek Road is approximately thirteen miles south of Libby, MT on Highway 2.

The Gold Panning Area is a great place to recreationally pan for gold. There are no developed camping facilities, but primitive and dispersed camping sites are available. There is an outhouse in the main panning area. For those planning longer visits to the area, Howard Lake Campground is one mile south of the Gold Panning Area. Howard Lake Campground, a developed fee campground next to Howard Lake, offers swimming, fishing, hiking opportunities, a water well, and toilets.

Learning to PanGold found in the panning area is defined as a placer deposit, meaning a place where eroded mineral particles (gold) have accumulated due to some form of movement such as by streams or glaciers. Any gold that you find while panning at the Gold Panning Area is yours to keep. There are a few area rules that do apply to recreating at the Gold Panning Area.


  1. Placer material shall not be removed from the Mineral Withdrawal Area. All material must be processed within the Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area and we ask that you limit yourself to one or two 5-gallon buckets at a time.
  2. Only hand tools and pans are allowed for prospecting. No motorized or mechanized mining equipment is allowed.
  3. Please “Pack it in, Pack it Out”.
  4. There is a 5-Day camping limit.
  5. No discharging of firearms within the Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area boundaries.

The Missoulian newspaper published a striking article and slideshow about the Gold Panning Area in June, 2009. See a copy of their article or view the narrated slideshow .

Historic pannerThe panning area and surrounding Libby Creek have a rich mining history dating back to the 1860’s. Please see our Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area pamphlet for more information on the site, geology and history of the area.