Virginia was one of the earliest states in the US that gold was discovered. Unlike many of the eastern states that are limited to only small amounts of glacial gold
, extensive hard rock deposits have been found here. The majority of the gold that has been mined comes from a belt that is roughly 9 to 15 miles wide and 140 miles long that runs along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains
, but additional mines are scattered throughout the state outside of that belt as well.
A few small gold discoveries were found here as early as 1785, but small scale mining didn’t start until around 1804. For approximately 25 years starting in 1828, Virginia was averaging a recorded volume of 3000 ounces of gold per year, with peak years reaching over 6000 ounces.
Mining continued in full force until the famous discovery of gold in California, when thousands of miners pulled up and headed west to search for their fortune. Mining in Virginia continued at only a small scale after that.
During its peak, there were several hundred gold mines operating in Virginia. Today, most gold is found by small scale recreational prospectors. Gold can still be found in all the areas that produced gold in the past, with some of the best areas within the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Historic Gold Mining Regions
All areas within the famous “gold-pyrite belt” have good potential for producing placer gold in the creeks and rivers. Focus on areas that have historic lode mining activity. Counties with significant gold mining history includes; Faquier, Culpepper, Madison, Orange, Louisa, Fluvanna, Buckingham, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties.
One of the best known gold mines in Virginia was the Franklin Mine in Facquier County. There are numerous other lode mines that existed throughout the county. In fact, the counties in the northwest section of Virginia were some of the historically richest mining areas. Good gold was found throughout Facquier, Culpeper and Spotsylvania Counties.
The Gold Mining Camp Museum
in Goldvein, VA is worth visiting. This is the only mining park in Virginia that is dedicated solely to the history of gold mining in the state. There are gold panning demonstration and you can even buy bags of paydirt that you can pan yourself.
Continuing further south, several of the early mining camps were found within Buckingham, Fluvana and Louisa Counties. Again, the eastern flanks of the Blue Ridge Mountains around Charlottesville and Lynchburg are all auriferous. One special place to note is Tongue Quarter Creek, a tributary to the Willis River. There were reports of multi-ounce gold nuggets being found here.
The James River
flows right through some of the richest gold-bearing areas of the state, and there are still some decent placer deposits in this river. Spend a few hours shoveling gravel into a sluice box
and you are likely to be rewarded with some decent gold for your efforts.
Rappidan River and Rappahannock River are worth exploring. Both were mined extensively during the early Virginia Gold Rush and each will still produce for a hard working prospector.
Virginia Lode Gold
Most prospectors today focus on placer deposits within creeks and rivers. It is worth noting that most of Virginia's gold production actually came from hard rock lode sources. These mines were the major gold producers, especially in the later years after the easily worked placers were exhausted.
Normally lode mining takes much more upfront cost. To my knowledge there are no more lode gold mines currently operating in the states of Virginia. But this does not mean that these old mines are worthless.
Many prospectors have successfully searched the old tailing piles of these old mines and found some very nice specimen gold. Scan the waste rock with a good metal detector
and you might be surprised just how much gold the old-timers missed.Note: This big chunk of gold/quartz was found in neighboring North Carolina, another rich gold producing state.
Finding Access to Gold-Bearing Areas
Actually finding an area that you can get out and do some prospecting can be challenging. Most of the mining sites are on private land, so you will need permission.
One of the easiest ways to get access to gold-bearing areas is to join a local prospecting club. The Central Virginia Gold Prospectors
are one of the more active clubs in the state. You can pay dues toward membership, which goes toward purchasing leases to gold-bearing properties. This is a great option for all prospectors.
Keep in mind that finding a rich deposit of gold takes time and research. They call it “prospecting” for a reason; spend some time panning different areas until you find a rich gold bearing area. Once you are finding some good color in your pan, you should consider using some larger equipment so that you can process more material.
Virginia is a great state to look for gold, and with the large amount of past mining activity there is a very good chance that a hobby prospector can recover some very good gold.More Article of Interest:Rare Gems and Minerals in VirginiaGold Mining in West VirginiaGold Prospecting in the Southeast