The discovery of gold was important in the history of the United States. Early discovers came here to try to tap into the rich resources of the new land, of which one of the most sought after was gold. The California and Alaska gold rushes were essential to their establishment as new territories. Men would do anything and go to almost any means in search of the soft, yellow metal. Now, gold prospecting is gentler and kinder than it was in the days of old. Now, it is a fun activity that my family loves to enjoy.
Many weekends, you will find us in a remote, undisclosed area at a camp with other families, panning the creek for the tiny flecks of precious metal. Active families often have trouble finding something new and different to try with their kids. Gold prospecting appeals to active families. The beaming faces of the kids are well worth the effort when they find that first little speck in their pan. It is a great way to spend the day in the cool shade with your feet in the water and the warm sunshine on your back. Not to mention that you and the kids can get up close and personal with the local wildlife. Gold prospecting makes for a pleasant Saturday or Sunday afternoon with the kids. Throw in a picnic lunch and tent to make the perfect weekend.
One word of caution though, you cannot just take a pan, dip it in any creek and find gold. Mining laws and mineral rights make this illegal in most areas. You must check with state and local laws about the restrictions in your area. One great resource for information on how to do it, where to do it legally, and what to do with it once you find it is the Gold Prospectors Association of America. This club is dedicated to prospecting and has many leases across the US that will allow you and other club members to prospect on their land. Club members get to keep what they find.
The GPAA has many chapters across the United States. Gold can be found in a majority of the states, but the quality and quantity of the gold varies widely from location to location. In order to find a chapter near you, go to the Gold Prospectors Association of America Website at http://www.goldprospectors.org/, Click on the membership tab and then go to chapters to find a club near you.
Many chapters of the GPAA will allow you to come as a guest to check it out and give it a try. If you like it you can then join and have access to all of the sites across the US, Alaska, and Hawaii. The club also arranges special prospecting trips that will take you to some of the most beautiful places in America. A gold pan can be acquired for as little as $15.00, but more expensive equipment is available depending on how much you want to get into it. Other information can be found on the club website.
Mining has received a bad wrap in the past, and one can certainly agree on the environmental impact of large scale mining operations, but this is not what we are talking about here. This has no more impact on the environment than wading in the stream and scooping up a little sand here and there. Some sites have specific restrictions that take into account local environmental impact issues, and they are strictly adhered to.
Aside from gold, members of the GPAA will collect things such as gems, diamonds, geodes, agate and other precious and semi-precious stones. These are fun too, but don’t have the same thrill as gold. Aside from the GPAA, some areas have commercial pay mines available where you can pay a certain fee and you are free to mine and collect for the day. These are fun too. Many of them are available in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and the Carolinas. These mines are a fun day or weekend camping trip as well.
Mining is not only fun for the whole family, it is educational too. The kids can get a feel for what it was really like to be a miner 49er. They get hands on geology lessons too, but don’t tell them it is educational or they won’t want to go. The family can spend some quality time in the outdoors, but, be careful, you just might get Gold Fever, my family did!