Most of the gold in Tennessee is found in a small area in the southeast part of the state. The best known area for gold prospecting is Coker Creek and the Tellico River, where gold was first discovered as early as 1831. While a small gold rush did occur here, the gold deposits found there were limited, and did not yield enough profit to attract gold miners for very long. Even with todayís high gold prices, it would be difficult to make a living mining for gold in Tennessee; however the deposits in Coker Creek and surrounding drainages can still provide enough color to interest recreational gold prospectors.
The Gold Prospectors Association of America has a leased property along Coker Creek that is available to its members to prospect. Since much of the creek is along private property, this is a great way to get access if you are new to prospecting or donít have anywhere else to go. You will need to contact the GPAA and become a member to gain access to this property. There is also a local GPAA chapter in Tennessee that can give you more quality information if you are considering prospecting in the area. Local knowledge can be very beneficial if you are exploring a new area. If you can gain access to private properties, there is a good chance you will be able to find more gold than the areas that have been hit hard over the years.
In addition to Coker Creek, there are several other waterways in Southeastern Tennessee that are known to contain gold. The Tellico River is one of the other areas that has a history of producing gold. Prospecting here can be trickier than on Coker Creek due to the size of the river. Remember than gold has a particular way that it settles in a river, and understanding the basics of how gold distributes in a waterway will help you find these richer areas. Simply panning along the edge of the river in a random location is less likely to be productive than if you can seek out the areas that gold natural accumulates.
Coker Creek and Tellico River are the best known waters in Tennessee for gold prospecting, but there are several other places in the area that have also produced gold. Explore the creeks in Monroe, Blount, and Polk Counties. Turkey, Cane, Tobe, and Citico Creeks, along with many others around Tellico River and the Hawassee River have all been productive.
Gold in the creeks and rivers of Tennessee is a bit different than what some prospectors may be accustomed to out west. Rather than settling on bedrock, gold deposits are often found on what could be considered false bedrock of hardpan clay. The clay can prevent small gold particles from settling deeper and will be found lying on top of it. Carefully capture the material above the hardpan clay and pan it out to see if you are finding any color. Be sure to move around, as gold is not evenly distributed around the area. Explore different area to find good concentrations of gold.
Most gold found in this area is relatively fine sized. Occasionally a nice little nugget is recovered, but the majority of gold will be fine textured and require careful panning technique to recover. The biggest nuggets found are generally only a gram or so in size, but if you find a good area it is certainly possible to find a nice concentration of good picker sized gold. Itís all about finding those good areas that havenít yet been searched by other prospectors.
People use a variety of methods to find gold here. One of the preferred methods is suction dredging
, but currently there is a ban on dredging in most of Tennessee. This ban includes waterways that are located on private lands. There are a few exceptions, including creeks located within the Tellico Ranger District and the GPAA leased property along Coker Creek. All types of prospecting in these areas do require an annual permit which can be obtained from the Tellico Ranger Station. It is best to contact them prior to any prospecting to get updates on any changes to rules and regulations.
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