The East Coast prospecting community is an extremely passionate bunch. Our East Coast GPAA Gold & Treasure Shows are heavily supported, mostly because it’s not quite so easy to go out and prospect on the East Coast; those who come out are extremely involved and enthusiastic.
The East Coast has fewer lease claims than the West, with lots of pay-to-dig operations and private land, and because of this, the GPAA plays an even more crucial role in providing accessible lands for local prospectors to explore. We love that our East Coast GPAA members come out to the Gold & Treasure Shows and spend the entire day (if not the entire weekend!) there, interacting with the vendors, supporting the community and infusing the events with lively energy.
The East Coast GPAA community has such a solid membership base, with heavily involved directors and great chapters. We travel quite far and put so much work into making these East Coast shows happen, and the warm reception we receive from our East Coast contingent makes it so worth the while, every time. There is such a strong, proud Gold Rush history associated with the East Coast from Georgia to North Carolina and up — and it’s reflected in the spirit of the community there.
The East Coast Gold & Treasure Shows arrive in Ohio in late October. We had originally planned two shows in the east, with the first being in Georgia. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts we had to cancel the Georgia show and sincerely apologize for all those looking forward to it. We’ll still be arriving in Springfield, Ohio, as planned on Oct. 27 and 28 and would still like to take you on the road trip we had originally planned from Georgia to Ohio.
Between Georgia and Ohio there are quite a few great sites for prospecting, old mines to tour, and a handful of pristine, exclusive Lost Dutchman Mining Association (LDMA) properties and campgrounds to check out. So follow along; we wish you loads of fun and lots of gold in your pans!
First stop: Georgia
Georgia is home to two local GPAA chapters: The Northwest Georgia Chapter and the Augusta Chapter. Kevin Hoagland, the GPAA’s executive director of development, avid metal detector and absolute dirt expert, took some time to tell us about several great prospecting sites in Georgia.
First, there’s the Buchanan Lease, which Hoagland describes as both “visually engrossing” and a “beautiful place to be.” The Buchanan Lease is a great place to sluice, dredge or use a highbanker to extract gold. It’s located about two hours west of Gwinnett, in between Buchanan and Tallapoosa. The gold at the Buchanan Lease “has always been good, fine gold.” Because of the Buchanan Lease’s location, the creek replenishes itself year after year during the rainy season.
“We’ve had people who have been prospecting the same creek for years, going back year after year and finding more gold,” Hoagland explains. The property is listed as just under 20 acres, and it’s very easy to get to. “Nothing about this site is complicated. It’s just stunning.”
For more information about the Buchanan Lease, check out the GPAA Online Mining Guide, where you’ll find specific directions regarding the entrance to this claim (www.bit.ly/GPAA_Guide).
Then there is the Lost Dutchman Mining Association’s Loud Mine. Once upon a time, the Loud Mine was a famous mining site during Georgia’s Gold Rush in 1829, producing both crystalline and wire gold specimens in its heyday. Now the mine is a privately owned piece of property with campsites, full hookups, ponds for dredging and a nice big creek where you can run highbankers.
“There’s not much you can’t do out there,” says Hoagland. But because Loud Mine is an LDMA member site, you’ll need to join and become a member of this organization to utilize the facilities. Alternatively, LDMA offers not-yet-members an opportunity to check out their properties by way of a 3-day pass that you can purchase on-site from the caretaker. Then if you choose to join the LDMA, you can do so right there on the spot.
For more information on the LDMA, we spoke with Dominic Ricci, the executive director of operations for the organization. The LDMA is a premier membership organization for passionate prospectors that started about 41 years ago. Although it’s an entirely separate group from the GPAA, the two clubs don’t compete with one another. The primary difference with LDMA properties is that the organization owns the land, versus the GPAA’s claims and leases. “Because of this, LDMA members can stay and camp on our properties for up to six months at a time, which is a big benefit for our members,” says Ricci.
Lots of LDMA properties are located right on huge gold belts. Specifically, the Loud Mine in White County, Ga., spans 118 acres and is equipped with bathrooms, showers, RV hookup sites and a member clubhouse. Loud Mine is located right on that original gold belt where the first gold in Georgia was discovered. That’s another thing about LDMA land: it’s patented gold-bearing land. “The land has been tested. Gold is there. It’s not just dirt, there’s gold in the dirt,” says Ricci confidently.
The LDMA has a few other properties in the area, including one in Cleveland, Ga., about 15 miles from Dahlonega. In Cleveland, you’ll also find Gold ‘n Gem Grubbin’ (which was formerly part of the Loud Mine), North Georgia’s only commercially operating historic gold mine. At Gold ‘n Gem Grubbin’, you can utilize their sluices to pan for gold in their 7-acre lake. Here, they use placer mining to extract gold from their hundred acres of mines. You can also fish for bass, catfish, bluegill and crappie, or hunt for gems such as rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethyst and topaz on their property.
Dahlonega was the site of the first actual gold rush in the United States and is located about one hour (55 miles) north of Gwinnett. Definitely pay a visit to Dahlonega. During the third week in October, Dahlonega hosts its annual Gold Rush Days Festival. From the town’s Gold Museum to its historic mine tours, Dahlonega is a prospector’s dreamland.
The Consolidated Gold Mine was once the largest operation east of the Mississippi and is open for tours that will take you 200 feet underground and 100 years back in time. There’s also the Crisson Mine, an open-pit gold mine from 1847, complete with a stamp mill and antique mining machines. Crisson Mine sells ore by the bucket that you can either bring home with you or mine there. Plus, you can actually use their on-site trommels for free if you purchase six buckets of ore.
While you’re in Dahlonega, make sure to also visit the Smith House Historic Inn & Restaurant and its famed gold mine shaft, which was discovered when a concrete layer accidentally punched a hole directly into a mineshaft in 2006 while remodeling the original home, which was built in 1895. Plus, you’re welcome to dip your pan into the streambed almost anywhere in town — no permit required!
If you’ve got the time, Dahlonega has so much more to offer than its rich gold rush history. There are lots of places to hike and camp in the surrounding area, especially throughout the Chattahoochee National Forest, which is home to more than 4,000 miles of hiking trails (including the start of the Appalachian Trail!), more than 1,000 miles of trout fishing streams and many old battle sites from the Civil War. Georgia’s lush hills, rushing waterfalls and raging rivers are exemplified in this region. You’re also right in the heart of Georgia Wine Country and some of the state’s most renowned vineyards, tasting rooms, wineries and cellars are located in Dahlonega.
Trekking out of Georgia
Another option for prospecting would be to take a short jaunt south to Curvin’s Cow Pasture in Delta, Ala., about two and a half hours south of Dahlonega. The GPAA has exclusive mining and prospecting rights on this property, plus there are lots of shady pavilions, pleasant picnic areas and family-friendly campgrounds. Hoagland slyly mentioned that he and the GPAA are working on acquiring another new property in Alabama, so stay tuned for that.
Alternatively, check out Alabama Gold Camp at Coker Creek, two hours north of Dahlonega.
“They run their big wash plant ‘Goldzilla’ just once a year, and people come from all over to watch it run. The North Alabama GPAA Chapter does volunteer work here, so sometimes the owner of the camp allows members to operate the wash plant,” Hoagland tells us. This is a great area to do some prospecting, as there aren’t many restrictions when it comes to permitting, etc.
If you’re heading this direction, you might check out Murphy, N.C., where there’s lots of good rock and gem hunting. Or try your luck prospecting near the Coker Creek area of southeastern Tennessee, which is near one of the original northeastern gold rush sites.
Depending on your route from Georgia to Ohio, you may also pass through two other LDMA camps: Oconee, S.C., and Vein Mountain Camp in North Carolina. Additionally, there’s an LDMA camp in Athens, Mich., about four hours north of Springfield, Ohio.
The GPAA leases in Ohio are incredibly important to local prospectors, because a majority of Ohio’s land is private property, requiring written permission to access. Reach out to the Buckeye Chapter of the GPAA for local insight on prospecting sites and happenings here. According to the Buckeye Chapter’s site, Ohio’s “most productive localities have been along Stonelick Creek and Brushy Fork, north of Owensville, Clermont County and north of Bellville, Richland County.”
Ohio is home to three GPAA claims, including the Swank East and West, whose “total acreage is huge,” according to Hoagland. Swank East and West are located in Bellville in Richland County, with Swank East taking up about 30 acres and Swank West spanning across 77. The Swank is home to “one mile of the Clear Fork River on the upper claim and one mile of Clear Fork River on the lower claim,” according to the Buckeye Chapter’s site.
“The stream that runs through The Swank still contains lots of material from the glacial drift. I truly believe there’s still source gold in Ohio that was there from the very beginning,” says Hoagland. If the Swank properties weren’t replenishing, “it would’ve run out of gold years ago!” But there are no signs that Ohio’s gold is running out at this popular prospecting sight. Hoagland claims there’s “plenty for everyone.”
While most of the gold found on the Swank properties is flour gold, a few substantial quartz rocks have been found there with gold nuggets layered within them. The Swank is also home to the “best campground on the East Coast,” and can handle any sized camper.
Then there’s the Spriggs Lease, which is 62 acres and has been “a good claim for many, many years,” according to Hoagland. This is a very popular site that “people get very excited about.” The Frazee, located in Zuck in Knox County, is one of the GPAA’s newer claims in the state and is very small (just over 20 acres) with limited camping space area across the road. Hoagland warns that there’s “not a lot of room on the actual creek” here. Ohio is also home to the Lewis Claim (which was recently renamed the Scribbs Claim) in southern Ohio, just south of Lucasville. Here, there is plenty of room along the shoreline for larger dredging operations where the smaller upper glacial rivers feed into the large Scioto River. While you’re in the neighborhood, about two hours southwest of Springfield, Ohio, is Greensburg, Ind., home to the GPAA’s Cottonwood Trails Gold Camp, another popular prospecting site.
In addition to prospecting, Ohio has several nice state parks within a short drive from Springfield. Hueston Woods State Park prides itself on its fall foliage, and October is prime time to witness some panoramic views of color-changing leaves, whether you take a scenic drive or hike up to a state forest watchtower. East Fork State Park allows gold panning and is about a half-hour’s drive southeast of Cincinnati (25 miles). Hocking Hills State Park, about two hours from Springfield, is full of gemstones, from pyrite to garnet, and is very popular among rockhounds. Ohio Caverns are incredible and ancient, home to the “Crystal King,” one of the world’s most perfectly formed stalactites.
Another point of interest is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, located on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Plus, Ohio is home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Cleveland’s Natural History Museum is known to have some really cool panning displays and exhibits, as well.
If you plan on making it out to the East Coast Gold & Treasure Show, you might as well make a trip of it. With so many places to prospect, explore, camp, fish and experience rich and authentic gold rush history, why sell yourself short?
For more information on any of the chapters in these regions, visit the GPAA Chapter Map at www.bit.ly/GPAA_Chapter_Map.
Sam Servetter is the director of vendor relations for the GPAA & LDMA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 951-699-4749, ext. 168.