Finding Gold in Georgia
In decades-long ago, the thought of finding gold would mean instant riches and indescribable wealth. During the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, the quantity of gold extracted during the 6-year timeframe went from a value of around five million dollars to over ten times that. With roughly 300,000 individuals traveling to the state of California in search of the precious metal, it is no wonder why the value of gold exported during this timeframe increased so much.
One would think that with gold mining becoming so popular over one hundred years ago, interest would have faded away well into the past along with gold supplies. Neither of these situations is true, however, and today’s post is going to cover just that; specifically, with regards to finding gold in the state of Georgia.
Today we’re going to talk about prospecting for gold in Georgia, where to go, how to go about doing it and what you need to look in order to conduct your mining legally. Before we dive into where the best places in Georgia are to find gold though, let’s back up a bit first and cover the different ways one could mine for gold.
How to Find Gold in Georgia
There are multiple ways to extract gold from the earth, many of which involve heavy machinery. If you’re not in possession of the right tools to pursue this route, there’s no need to worry as there are manual methods to finding gold as well. Here is a brief overview of the 5 ways gold and gold ore can be mined from the ground:
1. Mining in Placer Deposits
Placer deposits are natural occurrences that are simply due to gravity. During the sedimentary process, minerals may separate from rock and collect in a gully, river basin or any naturally occurring preferred area of deposition. The gold can then be collected from these areas. Given that gold does not typically travel far from its original vein, the location of placer deposits can be a valuable piece of information for prospectors. Mining gold from placer deposits usually means collecting it via sluicing or dredging, which we’ll talk more about next.
Dredging has mostly been replaced by more modern methods of silt and sedimentation removal, although it is still performed today for mining albeit on a much smaller scale. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association from the United States Department of Commerce, dredging by definition is the process by which deposits are removed from large bodies of water such as rivers and harbors. Sediment naturally accumulates at the bottom of these waterways and if not cleared, would eventually clog and block them off entirely. Dredging allows for these passageways to remain clear and, in the process of doing so, collects much from the deepest depths that would otherwise have gone undiscovered and untouched.
With regards to mining, this now small operation involves essentially vacuuming the floor of a large body of water. The goal in doing so is to excavate gold placer deposits, thereby bringing up pockets of gold that would have otherwise been unnoticed.
Sluicing is a mining process involving water that can be done on a small-scale manually or through a large commercial extraction process. For the purposes of this post, we’ll be talking about the former.
Sometimes when searching for gold, the water current itself can be leveraged during the prospecting process. A sluice box is a man-made channel where water flows over the top. On the bottom of the sluice box are what are called riffles; small obstructive ridges that act to create turbulence in the water as it flows past. The turbulence churns the sediment within the water and the larger, heavier particles and deposits sink to the bottom of the sluice box. This is where and how the gold is collected. Lighter deposits are not captured by the riffles and in turn, are carried away with the current.
Mining using a pan, also simply called panning, is the oldest and most basic form of prospecting for gold from placer deposits. The process involves filling a shallow pan with sediment from a lake or river where the current has slowed. The thought behind this is that more minerals can settle in this area creating valuable placer deposits that can be manually collected.
The semi-filled pan is then gentle submerged in water and shaken so that lighter sediments and minerals can be washed out, leaving behind heavier deposits. These heavier deposits are then left to try in the pan and once ready, the gold is then manually removed and collected.
Learn to make your own gold pan.
Permits and Laws when Gold Prospecting in Georgia
Always check local municipalities for ordinances and laws prior to prospecting for gold in Georgia. This is not meant to be legal advice and one should always do further investigating to verify that their activities are legal. Do not go hunting for gold without knowing the laws.
Fortunately for the residents and visitors to the state of Georgia, there is an abundance of public land to consider when searching for a place to privately prospect for gold. Even though the land is available for you to enter and explore, the activity of mining may not be. Land-use laws will vary depending on the type of public land you’re considering. In other words, unless you are visiting a now-vacant commercial gold mine that’s been revamped for educational purposes, there are land-use regulations that you’ll need to do your research on before attempting to find gold.
Heavy machinery like those involved in dredging and even man-made sluice boxes are not permitted on public lands. This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind as the public land that is available for you to consider for your gold mining is also focused on preservation; for example, national forests. In general, all private non-commercial gold prospecting must be done through the panning method with the occasional ability to dig here and there in designated and approved areas.
With the above in mind, this brings us to our first important post: You cannot pan for gold in state parks, ever. Given than land-use regulations can and do change, it’s always helpful to double-check with local park services to see if there has been any alteration to this rule. More often than not though, there has not been. So it is safe to say that state parks are not a viable option for gold prospecting.
We did mention national forests though, and it is true. There are certain designated streams where panning can be conducted along its beds. It is important to reiterate that panning here is not for commercial purposes and as such, no significant digging is allowed. If you do plan on doing a considerable-enough amount of digging where there would be a significant disturbance to the streambed, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Services requires you file for the appropriate permit. Anything marked off as a trout stream should be avoided as it usually offers limited areas for panning or is entirely off-limits.
Additionally, the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ properties have certain segmented sections that allow for gold panning. Similar to national forests, this means only certain digging is allowed and no heavy machinery or sluice boxes can be brought it.
For more information on gold prospecting in specific locations and the Georgia land-laws associated, this North Fulton article offers several helpful references and summaries.
Where to Find Gold in Georgia
With well over a million acres of public land available in Georgia, there are seemingly endless options to choose from when it comes to panning for gold. An article by Silver Recyclers narrowed hundreds of thousands of locations down to just a select few prime areas where you may have the best chance of finding one of the most precious metals on our planet. Most of these revolve around the original preferred mining locations from the 1800’s Georgia gold rush. From the Silver Recyclers’ list, we’ve picked three to share here.
1. Chattahoochee River
The Chattahoochee River is a body of water that stretched from Georgia’s northwest corner all the way north with a majority being along the Alabama border. It covers over 400 miles and had particularly rich placer deposits around the counties of White and Lumpkin. With many tributaries flowing into the river that are rich with gold deposits themselves combined with the river itself cutting through the site where the Georgia gold rush took place in the 1800s, it is no wonder that this river is still revealing plentiful placer deposits. Non-commercial panning for gold along the Chattahoochee River’s streambeds is generally allowed and does not require a permit.
2. Chestatee River
Similar to the Chattahoochee River, the Chestatee River also had mines punctuated along its coastline during the Georgia gold rush. The river itself is located in northern Georgia within the Appalachian Mountains and stretches a little over 30 miles. Unless you plan on using anything more than a pan and trowel, permits for panning are generally not needed.
3. Gold ‘n Gem
If you are looking to prospect for gold beyond panning in public land streambeds, there are opportunities to explore now-closed mines that could still produce a gold nugget or two. Gold ‘n Gem is one such place where visitors can pay to search the nearby river for gold using dredging and sluicing techniques. There are no additional permits or approvals needed to prospect for gold here since it is a paid service. All is covered and offered by Gold ‘n Gem, so it is a nice experience if you’d rather not search for an area to pan for gold yourself.
The 1800’s gold rushes seen in California and Georgia have not been forgotten. If anything, they’ve sparked new curiosity and ambition within many to experience exactly what the first visitors to these states did while prospecting for gold. Georgia’s gold mining history is rich, both literally and figuratively, offering potential miners millions of acres on which to conduct panning and even other areas for dredging and sluicing.
No matter where you decide to search for gold in Georgia, always make sure to check land-law regulations to ensure nothing has changed unless of course, you opt for a commercial mining establishment. Whether it’s a few flakes or a solid nugget, there’s a wealth of fun to be had while prospecting for gold in Georgia.
Want to search for gold in other states? Check out these 11 places to find gold in Texas.