There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills
Northeast Outdoors Experience Staff
While there indeed is gold to be found in the mountains and earth here in the northeast, finding it can seem like a needle in the haystack when it comes to where to look. This precious metal is found in many places, even in the waters of the ocean! The problem is finding it in sufficient concentrations or deposits to remove enough measurable gold. I’ve found trace amounts in rocks accumulated while mining aquamarine, topaz and tourmaline in some of the areas of New England known to produce these quartz variations, but finding a place where gold can be consistently found can be a totally other thing.
The element Gold has the scientific symbol Au and has been the precious metal that has driven men to murder, robbery and even self-destruction. It has been prized around the world for an estimated 7000 years for its rich golden color, relative rarity and malleability. While there are considerable deposits deep in the earth, it is more commonly found associated with quartz being deposited within the cracks associated with the hard crystalline structure of the mineral. The largest source of commercially mined gold today does not come from a strictly gold “mine”, but strangely enough is mined as a by-product from a copper mine in Papua, Indonesia. It is estimated that since the beginning of civilization around 155,000 tons of gold ore has been mined around the world.
Gold is a dense heavy element, usually much heavier than the surrounding rock and sediment it is found in. This directly relates to one of the more common methods of finding it, especially in the Northeast, panning for gold. As residual amounts of gold are released with time and the elements of nature from the bedrock, granite cliffs and the gravel of the earth, gravity causes it to lie in the lowest layers of strata. In the case of streams which can wash the gold along with the current, gold flakes and even nuggets of gold will settle their way down through the sand and gravel of streams, and in eddies behind boulders and rock ledges that allow gold’s higher density to deposit it in pockets.
Panning gold is a process where a shallow flattened pan is used to separate out the gold deposited in the gravel bottom of the stream by using a bit of water and a swirling motion of the pant to cause the heavier gold to be left behind when the lighter sediments react to the motion of the moving water in the pan. The flakes are then hand picked out and collected in vials and sold for its current market value, presently over $1360 an ounce. The price can fluctuate dramatically, sometimes on a daily basis, but since 2003 has not gone below $1192, nor higher than $1442 an ounce.
There are many streams and rivers throughout New England that have “pannable” amounts of gold although seeking permission from the landowners before starting your little private gold mining operation is more than a courtesy, it is the law. Removing gold from a stream on private property is essentially the same as stealing from the landowner if he or she has not given you permission. The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire has several streams and rivers that hold gold but also has special rules regarding panning and mining the precious metal. The laws regarding mining and panning in the National Forest can be read here.
Cities in New Hampshire known for their gold deposits include several in the Ammonoosuc Gold district such as Lyman, Bath, Monroe, Littleton, Landaff and parts of Lisbon. Historical Hitchock maps showing these local deposits can be found here.
Rivers in New Hampshire that hold gold are numerous thanks to the native granite and quartz deposits around the state. Tunnel Brook, Notch Brook, Wild Ammonoosuk river, Indian Stream, Perry Stream, the Swift Diamond River, the Dead Diamond, Ellis River, as well as many others.
Vermont is not without gold in its streams as well, as a matter of fact, probably has more abundant gold than does New Hampshire. Furnace Brook, Broad Brook, Baldwin and Lewis Creeks, the Green River and many other locations around the state are known for their gold panning. To read about many of the best locations to begin your search for gold in New England go here.
One of the true bounties Mother Nature provides is its natural resources. Gold can be found in many areas if you know where and how to look and what you’re looking for. Returning to days long past to try your hand at a little prospecting on your own is just another way to enjoy the outdoors and explore the incredible wonders that lie beyond your front door.
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