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7 Questions + Guide with Alabama State Director Mike Finlay

Your Alabama Prospecting Guide

by Mike Finlay

7 Questions + Guide with Alabama State Director Mike Finlay
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7 Questions with Alabama GPAA Director Mike Finlay


1) Where can GPAA members prospect in Alabama? 

●      Cornhouse Creek, AL (NEW GPAA lease)

●      Curvins Cow Pasture, AL (GPAA lease)

●      Alabama Gold Camp

●      Goldzilla at the Alabama Gold Camp

●      Alabama National Forest


2) Are there any public places to prospect or treasure hunt in Alabama?

There are gold mining and treasure hunting locations in Alabama starting in Chilton County between Montgomery and Birmingham continuing northeast to the Alabama/Georgia state line. 


There is also public gold prospecting and panning in the Talladega National Forest. You must have a permit to prospect there; you can get one at the Shoal Creek Ranger Station.


The Alabama Gold Camp is in eastern Alabama, ten miles from Lineville.  The gold camp lies between Wesobugla and Crooked creeks and covers 179 acres right in the heart of Alabama gold country.  You are permitted to do panning, high-banking, sluicing, dredging as well as some metal detecting.  However, the treasures you are allowed to prospect are not limited to gold; there have been treasures such as Citrine, red garnets, Native American artifacts and even fossils have been found at this gold camp.  There is a “pay-per-person” fee that is charged daily for panning, sluicing, and metal detecting while on the camp property. If you want to do any high-banking or dredging you must pay an additional fee. 


3) Are there any relevant places of interest?

●      Lake Wedowee--there are 369 nearby mining deposits in Wedowee, Alabama.  The town of Wedowee is located in Randolph County, Alabama.  Randolph County is one of the largest sources of gold in Alabama.

●      Talladega campsite--located in the Talladega National Forest; one is allowed to prospect here with a permit from the Shoal Creek Ranger station.

●      Alabama Gold Camp-- this is a gold camp where the public is allowed to prospect for gold and other treasures. 

●      The Country Inn in Ashland

●      Cragford


4) Recommended tools and techniques?

The recommended tools and techniques for prospecting gold include the following:

●      Pointed-tip hammers

●      Chisel-tip rock hammers

●      Rock-chisels

●      Heavy rock hammers

●      Gfeller leather cases

●      Rock bags

●      Hand lens

●      Gold pans- these range from the 10” light pans, to the heavier 16” deep gold pans.

●      #2 shovel

●      Dredge, sluice boxes, plenty of buckets

●      Maps


5) Are there any rules & regulations prospectors should be aware of?

Prospectors cannot use a dredge, highbanker or sluice in the Talladega National Forest, however, if the prospector is the landowner then UFIS would not have any jurisdiction over what  equipment was used unless the Feds still had mineral rights. 


A mining operation that is less than five acres of total land is no longer registered under ADEM Admin. Code r. 335-6-12 or Chapter 12 as of February 1, 2013.  These mining operations that are under five acres of land are now permitted under the General Permit AL G890000. 


In regard to stormwater discharges, federal and state regulations require the mining operators/owners to apply for and get an NPDES permit; this has earlier coverage which allows the initial operation of small noncoal, nonmetalic-mining sites.


Additionally, the rules require the owner/operator must register their noncoal, nonmetallic site that is under 5 acres.  IF these sites are larger than five acres they must have individual NPDES permit coverage.  It is the owner/operators responsibility to ensure they apply, obtain, and remain in compliance with ADEM, federal, state, or local government permits, certifications, licenses and/or other approvals. 


6) What else should prospectors know about before prospecting in Alabama?

Prospectors should always take a buddy with them to be safe while prospecting in Alabama (or anywhere). Make sure to bring a lot of supplies such as water and gas. Have your cell phone with you at all times (fully charged) and inform others where you are going and how to get there. Bring a good map, because the GPS system may take to you to a logging road. Ensure you are not trespassing on property— purple paint  is the same as a “No Trespassing” sign. 


7) Some must see places for anyone visiting Alabama

Alabama had is own version of a “Gold Rush” prior to California’s gold rush of the 1840s. This gold rush occurred in the late 1820s and continued through to the late 1830s.  During this period there was quite a bit of gold discovered, with the biggest year for gold in Alabama being 1836.

Chilton County produces the largest amount of gold in Alabama; with Tallapoosa being another large gold region.  Mostly, gold was found in Gadsden, which was just south of Montgomery, where there was a good deal of gold found. 

Heart of Dixieknown as the focal point for the civil rights struggles of the 1960s Alabama features a diverse landscape which includes tall mountains, rolling hills, and gentle plains.  Alabama also has the following must see sights for visitors:


●      The Cathedral Caverns

●      Lake Guntersville State Park

●      The Cheaha Mountain—this is the highest natural point in Alabama at 2407 feet above sea level — located in the Cheaha State Park. 

●      Noccalula Falls, Gadsden, AL.

●      Dismals Canyon located in Phil Campbell, AL.

●      Huntsville Botanical Garden


On a Final Note:

Alabama is a great state to prospect for gold, live and visit. There are picturesque landscapes that feature mountains, hills, and valleys.  


As long as you follow all the rules and regulations while prospecting you will have no problems doing so in Alabama. The people are friendly and helpful; they just ask that you not trespass on their property or claims. 


If you plan to visit Alabama next spring, they will be featuring the “Huff-N-Puff on the Bluff 15k run” on March 9, 2019—this is a beautiful scenic run alongside the Tennessee River. 


May 3-5 2019 is the Recall Lagrange Annual Civil War Reenactment which commemorates the 1863 destruction of the Lagrange College/Military Academy known as the “West Point of the South” by Union forces. The state of Alabama is full of historical monuments of the old south and proves to be a wonderful place to visit. 


Mike Finlay is the GPAA State Director for Alabama and can be reached at or by phone: 334-756-3842.


Sweet Home Alabama! Tales of Lost Gold & Treasure

by Teresa Fikes (An Alabamian)


The state of Alabama has a lot to offer locals and tourists looking to prospect or treasure hunt. Garnet and tourmaline are some of the many gem stones you’ll find the streams riddled with along with gold. And so rock hounds and prospectors alike have found prospecting for these precious minerals an exciting and rewarding hobby. Especially for those who enjoy nature and outdoor activities, it seems Alabama may be a great place to dip your pan into!

Gold can be sought all around the state, near towns big and small. 

There are little towns in Alabama that have been known for a good amount of gold within them. Take the small town of Goldville—with a population of just 55, not many people know this town exists; however, to those who do, there is a lot of gold to prospect.  
During the 1820s, ’30s, and ’40s, European settlers traveled to the area for the sole purpose of setting up gold mines, in hopes that they too would “strike it rich!” After gold was first discovered in the area, settlers swarmed the region, boring mines into the ground, and the population swelled to about 5,000. At its peak, there were more than 200 gold mines in Goldville.

When asked how much gold had been discovered in Goldville, James "Coy" Powell, whose family has lived in Goldville for generations, told Alabama’s CBS42, “In today's market, I would say something like $50 million worth, and that would be a very conservative guess.”
The area of Goldville was slowly abandoned during the California Gold Rush, however, and the population dwindled. "In 1849, the gold rush in California, gold you could pick up off the ground, and Goldville became a ghost town overnight," Powell said.
Prospecting in Goldville was, and is, hard work. But with some tenacity and an adventurous spirit, there’s likely to still be gold to be found in Goldville.

Tales of Treasure in Alabama
Not only is there gold hiding in Alabama, but there’s rumored to be treasure too. Legends and lore abound as tales of hidden treasure and buried loot pass from one generation to the next. Here are just a few:
From 1815 to 1864, Henry Nunez ran a successful ferry operation on the Perdido River. This ferry could be found in the area where Highway 90 now crosses the river, about 16 miles northwest of Pensacola, Fla., on the Alabama side. Nunez is said to have amassed great wealth—a stockpile of more than $100,000 worth of gold and silver coins that were placed in a variety of caches and hidden throughout the ferry landing area or near the remains of his aged dwelling. The coins were never re-covered.
Another tale as told by the townspeople was of Col. Joseph Sanders. In December 1864, he and his group of deserters, escaped slaves, and outlaws were on their way to at-tack the town of Newton. In an attempt to defend the town’s wealth, three men buried a box filled with gold coins from the courthouse beforehand somewhere nearby. At the end of the attack, the three men who buried the box of gold coins were dead, taking the secret of the cache’s location to their graves.

Legend holds there is a stockpile of coins and silver table ware that were buried at the ruins of the McGillivray Plantation property, which can be found 4 miles north of Wetumpka. The McGillivray Plantation was built around 1750 but was destroyed sometime later by an Indian attack. A treasure cache worth $900,000 in gold bars and coins meant for the Confederate Treasury in Richmond, Va., back in 1862 never reached its destination. This treasure is believed to be buried somewhere in Birmingham; however, its exact location is not known. 

Two crates measuring 2 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet each and full of gold and silver coins valued at an estimated $100,000 were en route for Confederate forces at Columbia, Tenn., and were buried in an attempt to hide the treasure from Union Forces that were approaching the wagon transport. This valuable treasure is said to have been buried in a “bog-hole” near the city of Athens.

The Cherokee Indians buried a pot of gold during the 1830s when they were forced off their lands to move to Okla-homa. This gold was buried on the old Shelby Collum Farm, located two miles north of Ryland, in an area bordering the Flint River, also known as Bellfaun.  

Rumors have it that a fortune of gold estimated at $100,000 is buried somewhere on the property of a wealthy plantation owner’s land. This plantation is located near Coaling, on the banks of the Big Sandy Creek, which is about 12 miles east of Tuscaloosa. A Hardy Clemons, a very wealthy plantation, and slave owner, buried this treasure in 1845. Clemons passed away in 1863 without ever disclosing the whereabouts of the buried treasure. However, it is rumored to be in one of these locations on the property: Beneath the house, around the cotton gin near the spring, in a location by the hog farm, or in the cemetery where his slaves were buried.

Good old-fashioned prospecting

If searching for buried treasure isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly adventure, try Alabama Gold Camp. 

The Alabama Gold Camp is a fun location that one can go to if they want to prospect for gold.  Even if you are only an amateur and prospect has a hobby, there is always that hope that you will discover a pan full of gold!  The Alabama Gold Camp can be found in the heart of the Alabama gold belt, and there are literally miles of creek available for panning, sluicing, and dredging; also, there is a high bank that one can take a metal detector to.  Besides gold, one can also find such treasures as red garnets, fossils, and even Indian artifacts.  

The Alabama Gold Camp offers prospecting activities for the entire family.  There is lodging available, as well as camping. There is also a general store available in which campers and prospectors can buy supplies they need. There are also dredge and highbanker rentals available.  

For more information, visit or email

There is plenty of gold prospecting to be done in Alabama. You are welcome to come to see how much fun it can be to search for buried treasure in our beautiful state; just make sure you ask permission and stay safe while in the great outdoors!

Total Comments (4)


4 comments on article "7 Questions + Guide with Alabama State Director Mike Finlay"


5/9/2020 8:37 AM

Anything recent?

CC Beck

2/21/2021 5:33 PM

GPAA has a meeting 0830 am every second Saturday, except Dec. Come out and join in for free. You do not have to be a GPAA member to join in the fun. It is not GPAA leased property. We have a coin shoot Mar and Nov, $15 per person. A $5 activity fee is charged by the gold camp per person. Come learn to pan, dredge and high bank. Bring the kids. Eat free.


4/8/2021 5:34 PM

as to the ferry service on Perdido river treasure, two nail kegs of silver dollars have been found but the 3rd which is believed to contain gold coins has never been reported found

Clyde Reighn

4/27/2024 12:53 PM

Can you use a stream fed sluice in Alabama outside of national forests and state forests such as on public land?

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