Georgia has one of the most significant gold occurrences in the eastern U.S., with many thousands of ounces of gold to its credit. Gold was first discovered here in 1828, although many reports claim that native Indians and earlier Spanish explorers may have had knowledge of gold prior.
After the initial discovery of gold in North Carolina, prospectors exploring nearby states stumbled upon rich gold deposits near Dahlonega in Lumpkin County, and throughout the north Georgia mountains.
The Georgia Gold Belt
The early prospectors mined gold in Georgia for several decades, until the rich discoveries in California attracted most men west in search of gold. Georgia still has excellent gold mining opportunities today.
Gold in Georgia is found in what is known as the Georgia Gold Belt, a region in the northwestern part of the state that has produced the vast majority of the gold in the state. The belt spans numerous counties, and we will highlight a few of the richest locations below.
This map shows a few of the richest mining sites in Georgia. It shows the general area where most of the gold mining has take place. A modern miner would be well advised to revisit these known gold-bearing areas.
Lumpkin County Gold
Lumpkin County was the area that gold was first discovered here, and the creeks and rivers still have plenty of gold to be recovered. Any creek in the Dahlonega area will produce some gold for a diligent gold panner. An early report states that 400,000-500,000 ounces of gold has been extracted from the Dahlonega mining district.
The Chestatee River had numerous mines along its banks
, with rich placer gold deposits found throughout. The Etowah River
is another great place to explore, and the smaller creeks and tributaries in this area are all likely to have gold. The nearby Tesnatee River
is also a reliable producer of gold.
The first mining that took place here was placer diggings, but miners eventually moved on to break free-milling gold from the gold bearing rocks.
The town of Auraria just south of Dahlonega swelled to over 10,000 people in the 1830s. The Calhoun Mine was the biggest mine in this area. As Dahlonega continued to grow, most miners moved out of Auraria, and it dwindled over the coming decades.
Contact Zones and Rock Types
Look for contact points between mica schist and granites, or mica schist and hornblende schist. These contact points between rock types are where fast heating and cooling events took place, resulting in the formation of gold veins.
Remember that nearly 200 years ago there were thousands of men working these waters, so look for areas that show signs of old working; tailing piles, hand stacked rocks, and old mining “junk”. These areas that were previously worked by the old-timers are still going to have gold today.
White County Gold
Nearby White County also has rich gold throughout its waters. The Chattahoochee and Nacoochee Rivers both have good gold
, as well as various smaller creeks throughout the county. Dukes creek
has several historic reports of very large nuggets being found.
Records of gold production are spotty at best. Several mines were established here pre-civil war, but the war put a halt to nearly all mining activity. After the war, some sites were reworked. Georgia's first gold discovery was made at the town of Nacoochee at the confluence of Nacoochee and Chattahoochee Rivers.
Georgia was one of the richest mining regions in the USA prior to the California Gold Rush. There was even a US Mint located in Dahlonega for a short time that minted coins using gold from the Georgia goldfields.
The mint opened in 1838 and continued operations through 1861. All coins were minted with gold. Overall mintage was quite low, making these coins highly valued by collectors.
Many good gold placer deposits can also be found in Cherokee County. The Cherokee and Sixes Mines
were both productive lode mines in the county. These mines have a dark history as one of the reasons that the Cherokee were removed from their ancestral land during the infamous Trail of Tears.
Gold can also be found in the Etowah and Little Rivers.The Weekend Gold Miners
prospecting club currently hold a 136-acre property on a historically rich segment of the Etowah River. Club members have access to the river for panning, sluicing, high banking and dredging. This is a great opportunity for prospectors to gain access to a known gold-bearing area.
Other Historic Mining Sites
Additional areas worthy of investigation in this general area include Dawkins, Pickens, Forsythe, and Paulding Counties. Each has produced plenty of gold, but don’t limit yourself to just the best known areas, as there have been placer gold producing areas found throughout the Georgia gold best.
As with most areas, the majority of gold found is very fine, but nice chunky gold can also be found here.
can be a great way to move lots of material and recover good quantities of gold.
Additionally, it may be worth investigating areas that show signs of old hydraulic operations, as many areas were mined this way in the early days. There are also good amounts of old lode mines scattered throughout the region that may still be productive.
Using metal detectors to explore these areas may be worthwhile. Multi-ounce gold nuggets have been mined in many parts of Georgia. Your biggest challenge will be getting within detectable range of a nugget.
Tip: Seek out exposed bedrock and areas where nuggets will be closer to the surface. Pine duff and leaf litter can hide a deep nugget, so it may be prudent to scrape away overburden and scan with your detector.
Nearly all of the richest gold bearing areas are located on private lands, so proper research and contacting landowners for access will be necessary to access some of the best gold grounds. Another fantastic option for a beginning prospector would be to join a local club, which will help you gain access to areas to work.
Georgia has a rich mining history and great opportunities, and along with that are clubs that are more than willing to help out beginner prospectors. This is a great way to get started in the hobby, regardless of the state that you live in.
Mining Tourism in Georgia
This article has primarily focused on the richest prospecting areas throughout Georgia. This is mainly mean to provide a motivated prospector to go out and find some gold on their own.
However, it's fair to assume that many of you are more interested in a fun weekend than you are doing hardcore prospecting or mining.
Luckily, there are a lot of fun, family friendly opportunities for you too! There are several businesses in Northern Georgia that cater to tourists interested in gold.
Here are a few places you will definitely want to visit in Dahlonega:5 Articles about Finding Gold and Gems:Gold Prospecting in the Southeast eBookRare Gems and Minerals in GeorgiaGold Prospecting in AlabamaHow to Use a Sluice BoxTips for Successful Gold Detecting
Crisson Gold Mine - See a 130-year-old stamp mill, take a tour of the mine, and pan for gold and gems here.
Consolidated Gold Mine - Go underground and see the tunnels of a real working gold mine. See the quartz veins that the early miners followed deep underground. Gold and gem panning available.
Dahlonega Gold Museum - Learn more about Georgia's rich mining history at the gold museum located in the Lumpkin County Courthouse.