- Apr 16, 2018
During the gold rush of the 1840s, people uprooted their lives and braved difficult conditions to prospect for gold in the California mountains and riverbeds.
Fast-forward to today, and prospecting for gold may seem like an antiquated activity. But I was surprised to find out that a lot of parks in the US offer visitors the chance to prospect for gold. But these days, the activity is done mostly for recreation (and the accommodations are much more comfortable!)
If you’ve got a case of gold fever, check out the following parks:
1. Alta Ranch (Montana)
Alta Ranch is named after a town that was rich with historical significance. At the end of the 19th century, Alta was home to a bustling gold mining community.
Today, the ranch gives visitors the chance to recreate the thrill of finding gold that the towns original residents felt. I suggest renting a cabin and staying a few days to get the full experience. In addition to prospecting, Alta Ranch also offers other outdoorsy activities like horseback trail riding, rafting, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
2. Consolidated Gold Mine (Georgia)
The American gold rush found its way to North Georgia in the early 20th century. Since then, the place hasn’t lost its reputation for having large deposits of gold.
Even in the 21st century, you can try your luck hunting for gold in the Consolidated Gold Mine. The facility has two different rates: $9 for the chance to search in the “Grade A” area, and $14 for access to the “Grade AA” area. The latter has a higher concentration of ore and, in turn, a higher chance of finding gold.
3. Crow Creek Mine (Alaska)
Surrounded by majestic Alaskan scenery and wildlife, Crow Creek is a prime destination for people looking to pan for gold. The mine offers different packages for groups, individuals, and families.
The place is reasonably-priced, too. The base rate for panning at the creek is $20 per day. You’ll need to pay $10 for children age seven and below, and $15 for seniors.
4. Reed Gold Mine (North Carolina)
North Carolina, specifically Little Meadow Creek, where the American gold rush started. In 1799, the son of a farmer spotted a shiny object in the water, which turned out to be a gigantic gold nugget. The nugget weighed 17 pounds, and sparked the entire rush for gold.
Today, you can still head to North Carolina, specifically Reed Gold Mine, to prospect for gold. Admission is free, although you’ll have to pay if you want to actually pan for gold. The fee is $3 plus taxes per person. If you’re part of a group, you can avail of special group rates. I recommend you visit during the gold panning season, which starts every April 1st and lasts until October 31st.
5. Colorado Gold Adventures (Colorado)
Colorado is known for its winter sports facilities, but you can also prospect for gold here. Colorado Gold Adventures offers guided tours of scenic and historic destinations. They guarantee that you’ll find something valuable during the trip.
The tours will set you back $100 a day, or $75 for half a day, for grown-ups, and $50 for kids younger than 14 years of age.
6. Jamestown (California)
California was one of the most-visited destinations during the original gold rush. There are lots of gold mining-themed destinations to check out, I would recommend Jamestown, because of its proximity to Yosemite National Park.
Jamestown can provide guided panning tours. A five-hour trip will cost $25 if you have your own gear. If not, a trip with rental will cost $50. Park personnel can provide special tours for inexperienced groups or individuals, for $160.
7. Alabama Gold Camp (Alabama)
Alabama Gold Camp may bill itself as a gold destination, but this is the place where you can find other precious materials as well. Guests have found all sorts of cool stuff like garnet, citrine, and even fossils.
This is the place to go if you like roughing it. You can pay $5 a day for basic camping, up to $30 for a full RV rental.
8. Big Thunder Gold Mine (South Dakota)
The gold rush in South Dakota didn’t start in Big Thunder Gold Mine. That would be the Black Hills, where large deposits of gold were found in 1876. It wouldn’t be until 19 years later that gold will be found in what would become Big Thunder Gold Mine.
That said, the mine is one of the best places to prospect for gold. The top reason is that the place is on public land, meaning you can pan for gold freely. If you don’t have the proper requirements, you can always rent.
Panning for Free
Guided tours and park accommodations are big business, but there are still places, such as Big Thunder Gold Mine, where you can prospect for free. There are lots of destinations, more than I could list here, so the best way to find them is to go to a public mining registry website. I recommend DetectorProspector, which has a deep list of both public and paid destinations.
This is a legit way to have fun, see some great sites, and have fun with the family. Note that I said “have fun” not “strike it rich.“ While you may get lucky, prospecting for gold should be done for recreational reasons. If you don’t set your expectations too high, you’ll be guaranteed a super good time!
I’ve been to several of these destinations (Alta Ranch and Jamestown being my favorites) and had loads of fun. Now it’s your turn to share. Have you tried prospecting for gold? How much gold did you find?
Let’s hear your stories!