Although gold certainly does exist within New York, the state itself has an unusual law in place that reads that all gold and silver found within New York are property of the state. Unlike other states that allow private landowners and claim holders to mine on profitable mineral deposits, this silly law prevents that. Obviously, this has completely dampened any interest in any serious mining operations within New York, as the prospector would technically have no rights to the mineral. This is the case regardless of whether the discovery is made within a public forest, or on private property in your own back yard.
With that said, very few historic reports of gold discoveries exist within the state. Although there is no doubt that prospectors have explored the creeks and rivers of New York since the early settlers arrived from Europe, there was certainly no reason to announce any rich discoveries publically. Several stories of early settlers paying for supplies with gold dust makes it quite likely that plenty of gold was mined in the early days, but little has been documented.
Just to be clear, there are many gold prospectors today that are finding gold in New York. Certainly they are putting all the gold they find back, ahem, as would be required by the law. Nonetheless, make no mistake that it is a fact that gold does exist in New York State.
As with other states in this part of the country, the gold found will most likely be glacial drift gold, deposited by receding glaciers over 10,000 years ago that brought rich gold bearing gravels down from Canada. These gold deposits were ground down by the glacial movement, resulting in the vast majority of the gold being extremely fine. Occasionally, pieces that could be considered flakes or
are recovered from these glacial deposits, but prospectors would be well advised to consider this to be the exception rather than the rule. Carefully panning is required to retain these tiny specks of gold.
So where is the gold in New York? These glacial deposits will occur anywhere within the state, as the terminal moraine of the last receding glaciers from the north covered the entire state at one time. This means that gold can and does occur just about anywhere, but distribution will not be even. As glacial ice melted, gold bearing gravels were deposited in a completely random fashion, thus it can be much more difficult to make predictions on gold distribution. Sampling many locations is key do finding these deposits.
Casual reports of gold discoveries have been made in nearly every county in the state, but again, with the current laws in place there is no incentive for anyone to give these reports any extensive exploration. Anyone interested in gold prospecting in New York would be well advised to see out one of the local prospecting clubs in the state. Hopefully the ridiculous laws regarding gold discoveries in New York will someday be corrected, and information about prospecting within the state will become more well-known and documented.
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