Naturally occurring gold can be found in almost all fifty states. This gold may be still embedded in rock, known as "lode gold", or it may have been deposited in a placer (a natural concentration of gold particles in sand or gravel bars) after weathering from the host rock -- or it may be found in plant tissues, or seawater, or even present in minute quantities in beach sand. (Gold is found in copious amounts on Alaska beaches and even in Oregon.) If your interest in gold is more than academic, the trick is to find locations with enough gold to make it worthwhile to try to recover some of it.

The states in which major amounts of gold have been found are: (listed in no particular order) Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Although the historic records are generally not very good, small amounts of gold have also been found in Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont -- which taken together with the big producers means that in three out of every five states, you have a decent chance to find a little gold for yourself.

Where in these states should you look for gold? Government records, in the form of geological reports and maps, will tell you where and in what quantity gold has been recovered in the past. Because gold is washed down into placers over time, areas where a lot of gold has been found by earlier miners will -- even if the placer was played out -- very likely have gold again. Donlt believe the 49 ers got it all - far from it. Advance sin techno;logy and recent gold depostis continue to allow productive searches for gold bearing material.

Gravity is the reason gold collects in placers; gold is six to seven times heavier than ordinary sediments. Because it takes a lot more force for a stream of water to move gold, the gold will tend to get caught in cracks and crevices, to settle out where the flow slows, and to work its way to the bottom of deposited sediments. Knowing this makes it easier to figure out where in a stream to pan for gold. Dry streambeds can contain placers of gold as well, laid down by long-gone flows of water. Unless water is nearby, though, you'll need equipment other than a gold pan to recover it, such as a metal detector or drywasher.

One more reason for checking government records before you set out to hunt for gold nuggets: some public lands are off limits to prospecting, while other areas have already been claimed by earlier prospectors.

*Much of the information in this article comes from: Gold Mining in the 21st Century, by Dave McCracken; You Can Find Gold with a Metal Detector, by Charles Garrett & Roy Lagal; Dry Washing for Gold, by James Klein.

See below for listings of various locations of known gold deposits. We've organized them by states and areas of interest. Happy prospecting!

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