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7 Questions + State Spotlight: Prospecting Pennsylvania

by GPAA Admin

7 Questions + State Spotlight: Prospecting Pennsylvania
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Barbour Rock Trail offers stunning views of the PA Grand Canyon, officially known as the Pine Creek Gorge


7 Questions with Chapter President Jeff Lieb


1. Where can GPAA members prospect in your state? (GPAA Claims if any)

• Private Properties

• Most state forests*

• Some state parks*

• Some local parks*

• PennDOT right of ways

(* always contact individual forest and park offices as rules may vary.)

2. Are there any public places to prospect and treasure hunt?

Yes. Always ask for permission from the local office and please be respectful and adhere to the rules and practice low-impact prospecting.

Prospecting is forbidden in all state game lands.


3. Any relevant places of interest?

Many. Pennsylvania was shaped partly by glacial activity and their paths always hold a variety of rocks and minerals. 

*The Appalachian run through much of Pennsylvania too providing many opportunities to discover the great mountains of the East.

4. Recommended tools and techniques?

Pennsylvania is limited to pans and sluices. Most Pennsylvania gold is small flakes to flour gold. Classification is highly recommended.  

Expensive and restricted mining permits through the DEP are required for powered equipment.


5. Any rules and regulations prospectors should be aware of?

There’s no prospecting in state game lands. No gas or battery powered equipment in the creeks. Contact the DEP at, keyword: “Prospecting,” for additional information.

Contact local parks offices for specific restrictions as pertains to the park or forest you wish to prospect.


6. What else should prospectors know before prospecting in your state?

• Do not litter.

• Be cognizant of the impact you are having on a stream and don’t ruin it for other prospectors. When you are done prospecting an area, please return it to its natural state.

• Be courteous of others.


7. What are some must-see places for anybody visiting your state?

• The Pocono Mountains

• Appalachian Trail

• Gettysburg

• Horseshoe Curve

• Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

• The Elk Herds of Northern PA

• Lancaster County   

For more information, go to 


Jeff Lieb is president of the Delaware Valley GPAA Chapter in Pennsylvania and can be reached at 

Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is a three-track railroad curve completed in 1854 by the Pennsylvania Railroad to redue the grade to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.


Prospecting & Treasure Hunting in Pennsylvania


By Marisa Megan

Pennsylvania has a thriving mining industry dating back to the mid-1700s, when the colonial iron industry spurred coal mining into full gear. Since then, both coal and iron have been mined statewide, and although they might be a larger part of the state’s economy, they’re certainly not the only rocks or metals found under Pennsylvania soil. Here’s a rundown of some of the more exciting stones, metals and minerals you might be lucky enough to find while prospecting in Pennsylvania.



While Pennsylvania’s mining history has been based on coal and iron ore, those aren’t the only things that miners have hauled out of the ground. While gold wasn’t their objective, over the years several thousand ounces of this precious metal have been found as a byproduct of other mining activities across the state.

Hoping to get your hands on some nuggets yourself? There’re a few tried and true methods that Pennsylvania prospectors have been using to hunt for gold.

If gold was once found in a nearby mine, it’s likely that there are loose nuggets in the nearby rivers and streams. You can start your hunt by panning the local creeks for small deposits.


So where to look?

Gold is most often found in York and Lancaster counties. In York County, try looking around Dillsburg, Grantham, Wellsville or Rossville; or near Shrewsbury and Winterstown — these are all areas where the local streams have produced respectable gold finds.

The southeast part of the state boasts of some of the larger gold hauls, especially in mining towns near Cornwall and Morgantown. Prospectors recommend the Susquehanna River or Peter’s Creek as perfect panning locations (choose stretches near the town of Quarryville). Both have been the site of small gold finds, and even a small platinum nugget or two has been discovered there.

Of course, not every excursion ends in gold, but according to Jeff Lieb, president the Delaware Valley Chapter of GPAA, that’s not the only thing that matters.  “Prospecting in Pennsylvania is really fun. We have so many streams and creeks that you can make a real adventure of it. We may not have troves of gold, but we do have a great time.”

The rules about mining vary from county to county, so it’s worth making friends with your local park ranger to ensure that your presence is welcome where you’re hoping to prospect.

“Honestly there are so many parks it’s really best to call the one closest to you and ask,” says Lieb.

Keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, environmentally friendly practices are key.

“We practice environmental responsibility and low-impact prospecting,” explains Lieb. We want to ensure the properties we’ve worked to secure [for prospecting] — state parks included — remain open to us now and in the future.”



An amazing stone you’re likely to find in Pennsylvania soil is garnet. This precious gemstone is typically dark red, however the stones can range in color from amber to orange to dark brown, depending on the variety of garnet you come across.

Most of the sites where garnet has been uncovered were once active mines, many of which sit in the aptly named “Garnet Valley,” in the southwest corner of the state. There are also abandoned garnet mines just west of Philadelphia. As with all rockhounding locals, you’ll need to have permission before you start hunting, as many of these old mines sit on private properties.


Calcite Mineral

York County isn’t just one of the main sites for gold deposits — it’s also home to other gemstones you can hunt for. York County has a limestone belt running through its central region, which, according to Lieb, is in part due to the state’s geologic history.

 “Pennsylvania was shaped partly by glacial activity and their paths always hold a variety of rocks and minerals,” he explains.

Throughout this region, several stones can be picked up — including calcite mineral. Polished, calcite minerals can make for beautiful crystals, and they can be picked up directly off the ground if you’re lucky.

Calcite minerals have been reported to be found in Codorus Stone and Supply Company Quarry near Emigsville, as well as the York Building Products Roosevelt Avenue Plant in York County.  However, do note that both of these sites require you getting advance permission in order to visit and hunt.



Pyrite, also known as iron pyrite or fool’s gold, can also be found in Pennsylvania soil. Scientists say that its prevalence there might be tied to an Eocene meteor that hit Earth around 35 million years ago. The meteor left a dent that’s known as the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and pushed the pyrite from the mantel up to Earth’s surface.

That makes Pennsylvania pyrite a special breed. If you’re after your own sample, the best place to hunt is in and around the French Creek Mines in Chester County.



There are quite a few places where quartz crystals can be found in Pennsylvania, however the most popular collecting site is easily Mudd Grubb Lake in Lancaster County. The lake, which sits between the towns of Mountville and Columbia, is on private property, so you’ll need to get permission from the owners before hunting. Once you have it, however, a practiced rockhunter is apt to find beautiful geodes and other quartz crystals in numbers.



Pyromorphite is a beautiful crystalline mineral made of ead chlorophosphate. It can be extremely colorful, often appearing in light or bright green hues, and sports attention-calling hexagonal and barrel-shaped crystals. Pyromorphite is a perfect collectors item, so for those looking for a piece of their own, it’s best to head over to the Wheatley Mines or the Brookdale Mine in Phoenixville, Chester County.



Surprisingly, Pennsylvania is a great state for fossil hunting, due to the fact that at one point in geologic history, the state was primarily underwater. Bones, fish teeth and fossilized marine animals can be found in a variety of locations across the state, along with prehistoric corals, mussels and clams.  


Contact a local GPAA Chapter for more information

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