To our friends “across the pond,” the American frontier is considered the Far West. To us, it is the Old West, and it was a time in American history that was as wild and rugged as the cowboys’ legends implied. Rocky, desert outcroppings offered bandits hideout, while scorpions, rattlers and unwelcoming natives made travel and habitation formidable at best. If you mosey into the Disneyland Resort Paris version, however, you can “see how the West was FUN!”
Cutting through the rough terrain are the Rivers of the Far West, on which the two passenger paddle-wheelers, the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown, navigate, as do the River Rogue Keelboats. Overlooking this scenic wonderment is the Phantom Manor and its 999 happy haunts. But what all of DLRP’s Frontierland centers around is the popular island attraction of Big Thunder Mountain.
Big Thunder Mountain is a runaway mine train similar at first glance to its Disneyland (California), Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland predecessors. This Paris attraction is the only Big Thunder Mountain that can claim the unique distinction of being situated on an island. The 1,500 meter track plunges beneath Rivers of the Far West, reaching top speeds of 50 kmph, rising again on the island only to discover one tunnel flooded with water, a second about to collapse, and a third swarming with bats. It’s a rough and tumble jaunt!
With the discovery of gold in the mountain streams, folks were drawn to the Old West in search of fortunes. Today, try your luck panning for gold!
For the Today’s Takeaway in our 2010 feature on Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, my dear friend Susan K. Marlow, author of the Circle C Adventure Series, shared some simple steps for panning for gold. She is pictured here with her son and grandson panning for real gold in North Carolina at the first gold mine in the United States.
Gold Panning How-to:
Purchase some “fools gold” (iron pyrite, which you can buy inexpensively at any rock-lovers store or hobby shop). You may need to break it up into small pieces, then mix it with sand and gravel. Don’t break it too small, though, or it may slosh away when it’s sifted. Fill a trough with water and dump the sand/gravel/fool’s gold mixture into the bottom of the trough. A plastic dishpan would work just fine.
Follow the steps below to reveal your treasure:
Find a pan—anything with sloping sides will work.
Choose a likely location—a nearby creek would seem natural or just your backyard.
Fill your pan with sand and/or gravel.
Dip your pan into the creek, or pour water into the pan. If doing this at home, use ICE COLD water to get a sense of the real joy of panning in a mountain creek.
Shake the pan in a sideways, back-and-forth manner. The gold will now start to settle to the bottom of the pan.
After a couple minutes of shaking, pick out the bigger rocks that are getting separated. Make sure than you don’t throw away any nuggets!
Tilt your pan away from you a bit and start letting gravel fall out. Remember, the gold is rapidly settling to the bottom of the pan now.
Add water as necessary to keep a good “soupy” gravel mixture—it helps the gold settle.
Keep tilting the pan more and more, and letting the gravel on top fall over the side. The bottom of the pan should always be lower than the lip of the pan, though, or the gold will fall out.
As you get to the last bit of sand in your pan, adding a circular motion to your shaking will make the gold separation more obvious—not more effective, but more fun to watch.
The last bit of sand takes care, and is the slowest part – as long as you don’t tip your pan too far, though, the gold will stay in the pan. The traditional declaration of success is “Bonanza!”
Get a small glass container.
Put your gold into the container – it will stick to your finger in the pan, then wash it off into the container.
Display the container on your mantel to impress the neighbors!
Repeat as needed.
Susan’s Circle C Adventures stories track the escapades of a teenage girl and her friends in 1880s California and are geared toward the middle grades. In the 5th book of the Circle C Adventures series, Trouble with Treasure, Andi Carter goes on a gold panning quest following a map of old gold diggings.
If you are in a gold-rich region and can pan for real gold, just remember Andi Carter’s advice to her friend Jenny to look for a quiet bend in the creek where gold might have washed up. Gold is heavier than other minerals and should remain in the pan when the dirt and rocks wash away. You may see only a flake or seed-sized nugget, so look carefully.
You can find more about Susan and her books at www.circlecadventures.com. Visit this link to read a review of Trouble with Treasure. Thanks, again, to Susan for sharing this fun activity with us!
Here are a few pics of my younger two Magical Mouse Schoolhouse students panning for gold in a creek near our home [pyrite/gold not native to this creek ].
SCHOOL SUBJECT: History
SKILL LEVEL: Elementary
About Jodi Whisenhunt
Jodi Whisenhunt has written 1012 posts in this blog.
Jodi Whisenhunt is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who has visited Walt Disney World numerous times and has been homeschooling since 2000. She is the author of MAGICAL MOUSE SCHOOLHOUSE: Learn While You Play at Walt Disney World Resort, available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace. You can also find her work at Chip & Company, WDW FanZone, and various places on the web. Come, think outside the textbook and stretch the walls of your home classroom with Walt Disney entertainment!
When I visited Walt Disney World a couple weeks ago, a lot of people asked me why the Parks were [...]
Magical Mouse Schoolhouse reveals the educational opportunities available from Walt Disney entertainment and encourages you to stretch the boundaries of your home classroom with teachable moments found in Disney movies, Disney theme parks, Disney art, and more!
Jodi Whisenhunt, feature writer and owner of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, is an award-winning freelance writer and editor. She and her family have visited Walt Disney World numerous times and have been homeschooling since 2000.
MAGICAL MOUSE SCHOOLHOUSE: Learn While You Play at Walt Disney World Resort is now available in print at at Amazon.com, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble. Also on Kindle & Nook.
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