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North Carolina Gold Prospecting and Gold Panning

GOLD LOCATIONS, Gold Panning and Prospecting in North Carolina


Gold was first discovered in Cabarrus County around 1800. This discovery of a 17 pound gold nugget by a twelve year old in Little Meadow Creek prompted the country's first gold rush. Most of North Carolina's gold deposits were subsequently discovered in Stanley, Mecklenburg, Union, Gaston, Rowan, Davidson, and Randolph counties.

Placer Deposits

A placer deposit is a concentration of a natural material that has accumulated in unconsolidated sediments of a stream bed, beach, or residual deposit. Gold derived by weathering or other process from lode deposits is likely to accumulate in placer deposits because of its weight and resistance to corrosion. In addition, its characteristically sun-yellow color makes it easily and quickly recognizable even in very small quantities.

The gold pan or miner's pan is a shallow sheet-iron vessel with sloping sides and flat bottom used to wash gold-bearing gravel or other material containing heavy minerals. The process of washing material in a pan, referred to as "panning," is the simplest, most commonly used, and least expensive method for a prospector to separate gold from the silt, sand, and gravel of the stream deposits. It is a tedious, back-breaking job and only with practice does one become proficient in the operation. Thankfully, technology finally caught up with our gold fever and brought us metal detectors! Six gold-bearing belts were identified in North Carolina as described below.

Eastern Carolina Belt - An area about 300 mi2 in northern Nash and Franklin Counties, southern Warren and Halifax Counties, and west into Wilson county. Most mines were discovered where Franklin, Halifax, and Nash Counties meet. Carolina Slate Belt - Containing the state's most well-known gold producing areas, is a series of rock formations running NE from Union and Anston Counties in South Carolina to Person and Granville Counties in Virginia. The Gold Hill district in SE Rowan and NE Cabarrus Counties, the Cid District in southern Davidson County, southern Guilford County, and the Reed Mine in SE Cabarrus County are the most famous areas of this belt. Charlotte Belt - Deposits primarily occur in Guilford, Davidson, Rowan, and Mecklenburg Counties. Kings Mountain Belt - Narrow belt running NE from Gaston County, through western Lincoln County, and into western Catawba County. Kings Mountain mine was the largest producer within this belt. South Mountain Belt - 300 mi2 region throughout Burke, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties. Placer nuggets can be found along major streams such as the Silver and Muddy Creeks and the First Broad River. Western Belt - Includes mines west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Georgetown Creek gravels in Fairfield Valley (Jackson County) and the Valley River gravels (Cherokee County) have yielded a significant amount of placer nuggets. You can always ask for permission to hunt on any private property, but there are also several places you can pan and metal detect in public access areas. However, be advised that prospecting is not allowed in NC state parks. The following lands offering some great potential are controlled by the National Forest Service. Contact the local Local Forest Ranger for more information including maps, regulations, and mineral rights.

Murphy (Cherokee County): South of city centered around Andrews from the Nantahala Gorge in the NE to Brasstown in the SW, all north/south creeks and tributaries of the Valley River and Nantahala River. Highlands (Jackson/Transylvania Counties): East of city within creeks around Chimney Top, Sassafras Mountains, east of Cashiers, and south of Oakland to include the Horsepasture River. Marion (Caldwell/Avery Counties): Northwest of city along the following streams: Rockhouse, Wilson, Timer, and Anthony Creeks. Also, Gragg Prong and their tributaries, west of Globe. Troy (Montgomery County): East of city along the Uwharrie River, Crow and McLeans Creeks, Eldorado area creeks, and tributaries on western side of Uwharrie River as far down as the Pee Dee River. The Carolina slate belt and major gold mines (modified from Hatcher and Butler, 1979).


Large deposits of almandite and rhodolite garnet of gem and abrasive quality are known in Clay, Jackson, Macon, Madison, and Burke Counties. Abrasive-grade garnet was produced from some of these deposits from 1900 to about 1926, but no production has been recorded recently. The deposit of almandite garnet in Clay County is in a hornblende gneiss at Penland Bald on Buck Creek.

Fine red colored, gem-quality pyrope garnets have been found in the wastes from placer gold operations in Burke, McDowell, and Alexander Counties. Rose-pink rhodolite garnets are recovered from gravels in Cowee Creek near Franklin, and Mason's Branch near Iotla, both in Macon County. Rhodolite can be found in situ on Mason Mountain.

Deposits in Yancy County produce fine-quality, bright blue facet-grade kyanite. These beautiful stones are some of the finest in the world. Deposits in Alexander County produce some of the finest-quality hiddenite in the world. The same deposits produce small amounts of bright red, facet-grade rutile.

North Carolina is well known for its hobbyist production of sapphire. Sapphire have been produced from the Cowee Valley in Macon County since 1895 when the American Prospecting and Mining Co. systematically mined and washed the gravels of Cowee Creek. Today a number of dig-for-fee operations are located in the Cowee Valley. Each year many people pay to dig or purchase buckets of gravel to wash in hopes of finding a sapphire, garnets, and other gem materials. Many of the dig-for-fee operations have enriched the gravels with gem materials from other locations.

Every year articles appear in magazines and newspapers about large and valuable sapphires found at one or more of the mines in Cowee Valley. No doubt large corundum crystals and pieces of corundum are found each year. By the same token, valuable sapphires may be found, but the number of large valuable gemstones are far less than reported, and the values are generally not as great as reported. During the period when the area was commercially mined, gem material was found that would cut fine quality 3- to 4-carat stones, but the amount of quality gem material available has greatly declined. It is doubtful that North Carolina will ever again boast of commercial sapphire production, or that the commercial gemstone industry will seriously consider the State's sapphire deposits.


North Carolina has a rich history of early settlements and Civil War battlefields - the perfect combination for an energetic relic hunter! Here's a few more ideas to get you started:

Schools and College Campuses

Parks / Playgrounds / Picnic Areas

Foundations, Wells, and Cellar Holes of Old Churches or Houses

Downtown Construction Sites

Swimming Holes, Beaches, and Natural Springs

Camp Grounds, Boy Scout Camps, WPA Camps, and Mining Camps

Sports Facilities

Ghost Towns

Rodeo Arenas, Riding Stables, and Race Tracks

Old Fair and Carnival Locations

Old Town Dumpsites


As in other areas of the US, there are several tales of lost treasure in North Carolina concerning caches buried for safety. In many of these stories, people either died or forgot where they buried the stash. Contributing factors include:

1. Fear of Sherman's "foraging" troops during the March to the Sea

2. Distrust of banks during the Great Depression.

A pot of gold was buried by a group of six Englishmen over 250 years ago near Chimney Rock, Round Top mountain, which forms one side of Hickory Nut Gap. A copy of the map showing the site is in the Library of Congress. Several explorations have been made, but no success has been reported.

Off the coast of Cape Hatteras countless ship hulls litter the sea bottom. Shoreline areas such as near Okracoke Inlet and almost any seaside beach around the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" are great spots for coinshooting.

Plum Point in Beaufort County was a burial spot for pirate booty, and to prove the contention, some has already been recovered.

These excerpts are a sampling from American Coin Treasures and Hoards

Info courtesy of www.treasurefish.com


North Carolina Gold Prospecting
Where to Find Gold In The United States
North Carolina Gold Prospecting

Where to Find Gold In The United States

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