Our Honest Review of Prospector John’s Tours

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Panning for gold during prospector john's tours.

For years, we’ve dreamed of finding gold in Alaska. Luckily, Prospector John made our dreams come true.

We heard great things about an operation in Cooper Landing, Alaska, and figured we’d give them a shot. After such a great experience, we wanted to share it with you.

Today, you can read an honest review of Prospector John’s Tours. Did we strike it rich? Keep reading to find out!

Who Is Prospector John?

Prospector John had always wanted to test his survival skills by living off the land. This was the driving force for him moving to Alaska in 1994. While exploring the rugged terrain of the Kenai Peninsula, John Belcik caught prospecting fever and became Prospector John.

Once he caught the bug, he began looking for opportunities to share his expertise and knowledge with others. He opened a store and then offered guided prospecting trips.

The United States Forest Service granted him a permit to access restricted streambeds. However, his reputation grew quickly when he began appearing on television.

He was in a few episodes of Animal Planet’s show “Wild West Alaska” and was the star of the “Devil’s Canyon” series on Discovery Channel. He was living the dream of doing what he loved. In 2018, he met the love of his life, and the two enjoy prospecting, running the store, and fishing together.

A couple smiling with Prospector John.

Where Is Prospector John’s Tours?

Prospector John’s Tours operates in Cooper Landing, Alaska, approximately 100 miles south of Anchorage. This small community sits in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and has a population of approximately 260. 

The town sits on the banks of the world-famous Kenai River and has stunning views. The mountains and wilderness surrounding it make it fantastic for those who enjoy hiking and outdoor adventures. In addition, bears, moose, eagles, and various wildlife often appear for tourists to enjoy.

When he’s not giving tours, you’ll most likely find Prospector John at his shop. It’s a small log cabin right off the highway, with plenty of gems, stones, gold mining supplies, and other souvenirs.

View of Prospector John's Tours store.

What Type of Tours Does Prospector John Offer? 

One great thing about Prospector John’s Tours is that they offer a variety of adventure opportunities. Here are the different tours that this outfit offers guests. Let’s see which is right for you.

Scenic Boat Tour of Kenai Lake

This tour provides a 30-minute boat ride and a trip to their gold claim, which features a gorgeous cascading waterfall that rushes out to Kenai Lake. Your eyes are treated to something special no matter where you look. 

Make sure you bring your camera and capture the reflection of the mountains on the water and any potential wildlife sightings. Guests often spot moose, bears, eagles, sheep, and goats. Seeing them in their natural habitat beats any zoo you’ve ever visited.

Once you arrive at the claim site, you can continue to take pictures and even try panning. They’ll teach you the basics and let you keep any gold you find. The entire tour takes approximately two hours.

View of a boat on Kenai Lake.

Prospect at Devil’s Canyon

The Prospect at Devil’s Canyon tour comes in half and full-day options. For a shorter experience, the half-day tour lasts three to four hours. If you want to make a day of it, the full-day trip lasts six to eight hours.

However, it’s important to know that this is a messier experience. You’re likely going to get wet and muddy during this adventure. Their experts will train you to dredge, clean out a sluice, and pan the concentrates.

We chose the half-day option and had a blast. We were impressed at their knowledge and ability to teach us how they delivered clear directions to get the best results. They wanted to make sure we went home with plenty of gold. While we may not have struck it rich, we went home with more than we have ever captured anywhere else!

A couple taking a selfie smiling while panning for gold during Prospector John's Tour.

On-Site Gold Panning or Gemstone Mining

If you don’t have time or like the idea of boarding a boat, you’re not out of luck. Prospector John’s Tours offers opportunities on-site to join in on the fun. You can enjoy gold panning and gemstone mining without leaving dry land.

Grab a shovel and fill a bucket with raw ore. From there, their staff will walk you through how to process it like a pro. You’ll send it through a wash plant, clean out a sluice, and pan the concentrates. When finished, you’ll leave with a vial of the gold you find.

If gold isn’t your thing, give gemstone mining a try. You can select your own gemstone bag and sift sand and water to discover your new treasures. This is a great opportunity for miners of all ages. If you’re unhappy with what you find, you can leave the gems behind and get a full refund. 

View of an on site gold panning location.

What We Loved About Prospector John’s Tours

We can’t say enough great things about Prospector John’s Tours. This was an incredible experience that we highly recommend. Let’s look at a few things that we loved about it.

A Private Tour

Some experiences sound great, but then you discover you’re part of a large group. Since there’s no minimum, we hit the jackpot and were the only two on our tour. We had plenty of time to find gold and learn about the process. We didn’t feel rushed or embarrassed to ask any questions.

Friendly and Knowledgeable Staff

Another advantage of being the only two on the tour was that we had plenty of time to interact with the staff. They were very friendly and knowledgeable about finding gold. They were happy to answer our questions and were great teachers to help hone our skills.

As we said, they aim to help you walk home with as much as possible. Chatting with them about their experiences and hearing stories of their adventures made the experience even more fun. 

Keep in Mind: Is the Gold Dredge 8 Tour Worth It? Click the link to find out!

A man panning for gold during prospector John's Tour.

Half or Whole Day Adventures

We chose to do the half-day adventure, which was perfect for us. As promised, it lasted between three and four hours. It was pretty physical, and we were glad we chose the half-day option. However, for those who are up for putting in the time and energy, the whole-day trip can help increase your haul.

The peaceful setting of the private claim was remarkable. There were multiple times when we would look around and take in the views. But don’t let natural beauty distract you from your task at hand. You only have so much time to find as much as possible. 

We Found Gold

As we said, Prospector John and his crew made our dream come true. The miners helping us estimated our haul was roughly a gram. The price of gold currently sits at just under $2,000 per ounce. If you’re unaware, there are approximately 28 grams in an ounce. 

While we may not be retiring anytime soon on our $60 or $70, we’re proud of our vial. We checked off an adventure we had been looking forward to for quite some time. In addition, we met some amazing people and created some memories that we’ll cherish for quite some time. 

Pro Tip: Before you try panning for gold, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Panning for Gold in Alaska!

Close up of gold in a vial found during a Prospector John's Tour.

Is Prospector John’s Tours Worth It?

If there’s any doubt, we loved Prospector John’s Tours. The entire experience was worth every penny. Unfortunately, we could see how it could be a bit pricey for families.

However, if you or anyone traveling with you is like us and dreams of finding gold, this is the place to go. Prospector John and his team will do everything possible to make your dream come true.

Have you ever panned for gold in Alaska?

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