Georgia is a “funny” state. It’s one of the few that really don’t have “prospecting regulations” that apply to the entire state. That’s simply because there isn’t “public land” open for prospecting per-say. All the land in Georgia is OWNED in one form or another. Most is owned by individuals. Some is owned by the, county, state, and some by the feds. Therefore the only real “regs” are for the National Forests., where you can use a pan and small shovel / trowel only. So to “prospect”… you’ll need to either get permission from a land owner, lease some land, buy some land, join a club, go to a pay to play business, or pan in the National Forest.
Great map of Georgia – CLICK to expand.
A KEY factor of finding gold in GA is that GA really doesn’t have MASSIVE rivers flowing through it. You know the ones out west and other areas where you see massive rounded rocks piled up on the shores. GA has small creeks and rivers. This means that HEAVY rock / surface erosions have not really occurred over the past 100’s or even 1000’s of years. A LOT of the gold in GA is still in the rock below your feet. Hence, when they started picking nuggets out of creeks in California, the gold rush moved quickly.
Another KEY piece of this… since we don’t have a lot “crushing action” going on, we don’t have a HUGE amount of fine gold. Go to the massive rivers in Canada for example… you may see 20 – 40 tiny colors per pan. Here in GA we’re lucky if we see one. The majority of the gold will look course and not rounded or flattened like the BIG water areas. This is because the gold really doesn’t move far once it breaks free from the lode deposit.
The best gold can be found on bedrock or in the pay layer. (From bedrock up to about 12″) Problem for most areas is that the bedrock can be 2 – 8 feet down. Making it hard to access. The best “run” I ever had with a dredge is about 4 grams in 30 minutes. Bedrock was about 36″ below the creek bottom. IMPORTANT… the surface test pans of this area were lousy. Maybe a speck of gold every 2-3 pans. Like I’ve said… don’t judge a book by it’s surface pan.
Georgia has “spotty” pockets of gems. Garnets and quartz varieties such as amethyst can be found, but nicer / larger gems usually only show up when running “excavated dirt”. Rubies, sapphires, topaz, and the occasional emerald can also be found, but again they really are mostly found in certain areas when working excavated dirt.
Metal Detecting Summary
If you don’t mind “junk”… GA is a fun place to metal detect. Almost everywhere you go “people” have lived there. So you’re constantly digging up old cans, nails, etc. But… there are old relics all around in some surprising places. I wouldn’t waste my time detecting for gold unless I KNEW I was in an area with a history of it. Even then you can probably make more money selling what you find in the scrap yard than you will selling any gold you find. Personally I have found old coins and a ring, as well as old nails, etc. I have NEVER found gold with a detector in GA.
Short History Excerpts Below from WIKI PAGE
It is estimated that Georgia produced about 870,000 troy ounces (24,000 kg) of gold between 1828 and the mid-20th century, when commercial gold production ceased.
1828 Georgia Discovery
No one knows which version of the original find is accurate:
- Some anecdotes have either Frank Logan or his slave making the find in White County, Georgia, in Dukes Creek.
- Another version of the White County find has John Witheroods (or Witherow or Wilhero) finding a three-ounce nugget along Dukes Creek.
- Still another version was that the North Carolina prospector Jesse Hogan found gold near Dahlonega, Georgia, at Ward’s Creek.
- Thomas Bowen supposedly found gold in the roots of a storm-blown tree along Duke’s Creek.
- Benjamin Parks found gold on his birthday in 1828 while walking along a deer path, and subsequently he and his business partner, Joel Stephens, leased the site from Reverend O’Barr.
However, these stories have no contemporary documents to support their validity
Besides panning and other gold-washing machines, efforts shifted to working the lode deposits, or gold-bearing quartz vein mining. This involved digging shafts and tunnels, from three to seven square feet in size, braced by timbers due to the fissures in the rock and the danger of collapse. Most mines stayed above the water table, being no more than thirty feet deep, such as the Allatoona Mine in Bartow County. The deepest was the Loud Mine, in White County, at one hundred and thirty feet.
“Gold mining” as a commercial venture really no longer exists in GA. This is mainly due to the fact GA does not have public / BLM “claims”. If you want to mine a piece of land you have to buy the piece of land. This makes the economic feasibility of mining here a stretch. a 20 acre claim out west is a filing fee and annual fee. Few hundred dollars total in most cases. Buy a good 20 acre tract in GA you might pay $200,000. That’s a LOT digging for a profit.
This map shows the “basic” gold deposit areas in GA.
Pay to Play Locations
Gold n Gem Grubbin – WEBSITE
If you want to pull up, pay a fee, then go run excavated dirt there really is only one place to do it. Gold n Gem Grubbin, in Cleveland GA. You can pan, run a stream sluice, highbanker, or up to a 4″ dredge. They are open 7 days a week. The gate opens at 9am and they close at 5. But they ask you to start shutting down around 4. The dirt comes from pits on their site and the gold is “fair” on most days. Once in a while you’ll do pretty well. But the fun part is that they have really good gems. There is roughly 1/2 a mile of creek on the property to work and it’s a natural peaceful place. NOTE: If you go there or call there, let them know you found them on the Gold and Gem Gazette site.
Crisson Gold Mine – WEBSITE
Crisson Gold Mine is a family owned, OLD stamping / crushing op that has been converted into an “open to the public” attraction / prospecting supply store / gold mine experience. Keep in mind… they don’t have excavated dirt or creeks to work. They sell their crushed ore which you can pan or run through some equipment they have on site… or take home with you. Since the gold is CRUSHED out of the ore, it REALLY is pretty stuff. Mostly nuggets, pickers, and small gold but since it’s crushed / released from the ore… you won’t find much “super fine gold”. NOTE: If you go there or call there, let them know you found them on the Gold and Gem Gazette site.
LDMA – Loud Mine – WEBSITE
The LDMA Loud Mine property is a private club in Cleveland GA. ONLY… LDMA members are allowed to visit and stay at these camps usually through a lifetime membership in conjunction with GPAA. GPAA members are often given passes they can use for a few days at these sites, but they do not have full membership rights. An LDMA Membership is not cheap, but for someone that wants to travel and spend a great deal of time prospecting, it’s a good deal. Most sites have camper / RV hookups. They do have excavated dirt, but you have to get it from the piles and then transport it to your equipment. Equipment is run by members around the catch ponds, not in the creek. However you can pan, sluice, and dredge in the creek. Each LDMA camp has different rules, regs and facilities, so check with them. Gold is “decent” with pickers and fine gold being found. They also have common digs / outings during the year.
Laws – Regs (Layman’s Summary)
If you are searching for “gold prospecting regulations” in the state of Georgia you may not have much luck. There’s a reason for this and we will explain… or you will figure it out pretty quickly. Many states in the U.S. have “public lands” that are covered or regulated by the BLM. Georgia does not. These BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands often give people the right to file a “claim” for mineral rights and work the ground. If a “claim” is not filed they are open for prospecting in many cases. In GA most of the land is OWNED… by someone via DEED. This means while the land is considered “public”, it is in fact owned or was purchased by the state or some form of government at some point in history.
What lands are there in GA?
(The short version)
1- National Forests
2- WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas)
3- State Parks
4- County and City lands. (owned or under control )
5- Corps of Engineer Land
6- Private Property
Where can I go prospecting on these lands?
Well…. Really on #5 and that’s about it. “Heck… that leaves me nowhere to prospect for gold!”
Now you see why Georgia doesn’t really need to regulate prospecting. The large majority of land is closed to prospecting in GA. If you OWN the land, you can prospect on it. If you get permission from the land owner, you can prospect on it. If you lease the land for prospecting, you can prospect on it. That’s about it.
Let’s get a little deeper into it…
#1 National Forest lands
National Forest lands in GA are “controlled” by the GA DNR. You are allowed to use a pan and a small hand trowel only. No… not even a stream sluice is allowed. No buckets, no nothing…. Got it? Pretty clear. Do keep in mind that if a stream, creek, river, etc are designated as trout streams… nothing is allowed. You may not disturb the stream bed. These lands are HUGE in the North GA, with some areas containing more than 20,000 acres and most are located in the prime gold belt. I know…. life bites sometimes. Material panned must come from stream beds only. Do NOT dig in banks or nearby dry ground. A “bank” is open to interpretation, so better safe than sorry.
WMA’s, Wildlife Management Areas, are “mostly” within national forest in north GA. So… it can be VERY hard to tell when you cross over between the two. NOTHING is allowed on WMA’s, just “basically” hunting and fishing. Again, they are CLOSED to prospecting.
#3 State Parks
Don’t bother. State Parks in GA are closed to all prospecting.
#4 County and City lands.
OK… this gets a “little tricky”. Often these lands do NOT have “published” regulations. However, if you pry deep enough you’ll eventually figure out that the MAJORITY of city and county lands restrict ANY use that is not expressly covered within the written “permissible uses” clauses of their ordinances. If it’s not written, you have to get permission, and that has to go through all the phases of the city / county. (Not happening)
Also, many Corps of Engineer Lands fall within the city’s and county’s areas or control. The Corps will give jurisdiction to the county and again, nothing is permitted. If any problem starts to come up, the city simply restricts the use. Seen that happen twice in GA.
#5 Corps of Engineer Lands
Most Corps of Engineer lands are closed to “prospecting”. This is due them being turned over to the county, city, for governance, or falling into recreational type areas. Some do allow panning but the material panned must come from the water way, and not the banks and surrounding lands. Be VERY careful. They can fine in the $1000’s and take all your equipment. Lake Alltoona is one example where they actually post the rules on their website. Panning only. They also warn that you may NOT trespass on surrounding lands to get to those areas. Again… be very careful on these lands. There are no posted regs as far as what they DO allow… in most cases.
#6 Private Land
So… your best bet is to be nice person and ask land owners for permission. I will warn you that GA has a LONG history of “land pride”. Most land owners do not want any “strangers” on their property. Networking amongst friends and neighbors is a great way to start. People always know “other people”. Ask them to contact them for you or call first and ask if you can drop by. Walking up to someone’s house COLD is not recommended in the north GA area. Land leases are NOT common and mostly range in the $1000’s of dollars. Not the thing for someone wanting a “hobby”.
In the state of GA many properties have creeks, streams, or rivers as their property lines. When this occurs the “center of the waterway” is the property line, in most cases. Yes, over the years this line will move, and so will the property boundary. You are NOT permitted to go past the center line of the creek if you are prospecting with permission from the other side owner.
Some have tried to use the “navigable waterways rules” to overcome this, but they are misinformed and doing harm to our industry / hobby.
This law applies to waters that can carry “powered ships / boats for commerce” and allows for PASSAGE rights only. You are NOT permitted to walk the waterway, and certainly not allowed to “mine minerals” that are owned via mineral rights of the property owner. Know the boundaries of the land you are working.
Restrictions and Regulations (What you can and can’t do.)
You can pan, stream sluice, highbank, and dredge on YOUR land (or private land with permissible land usage from the owner) as long as you don’t do harm to the banks, digging or suction dredging, vegetation, or riparian flow. Recreational prospecting is fairly open in Georgia. (Thanks to most of the land being closed.) If you have a water discharge… such as with a highbanker, the discharged water must fall into the waterway and NOT land on the bank or nearby grounds. Any run off from “near bank” settling pools or direct erosion is illegal and can be heavily fined. So… set up your highbanker at the water’s edge and allow the water to fall directly into the creek or stream. (Just wanted to be clear on that.)
Important note… if you run a large amount of material you should consider moving your equipment from time to time. Why? Your discharge may change the “water’s edge” into a “bank”. Meaning that when you started it was water, now it’s dry ground. Explainable yes, but again, better safer than sorry.
Can I Mine / Dig Up My Own Land?
If you dig up soil / dirt for the purpose of extracting metals or minerals, you are surface mining. If you are surface mining you must be permitted by the state of GA. You must apply for a permit and submit plans, maps, etc. This also includes reclamation plans for when you are done mining. You must also post a “bond” on a per acre basis which is held by the state the entire time you are mining and until they sign off on your reclamation work. This whole process does take time. Water from surface mining must be contained to a collecting pool and not allowed to “run off” in any form. It is HIGHLY advisable that you retain an attorney to help you with the paperwork. It simply makes things go a lot “smoother” in GA. Also the “bond” is about $1200 an acre so spending a small amount for an attorney is well worth it.
“Pay to Play” and Clubs.
There are a few “pay by the day” operations as well as a few clubs. These are the BEST ways to prospect. No worries, you know the rules, and the experience is just like being in the wild. Gold n Gems in Cleveland, GA is one of the best we have found for the daily pay type. Lots of creeks to work, open all year, camping, and a natural environment. The Weekend Gold Miners club has a few properties around and is VERY reasonable to join. However, you must be a MEMBER. Something like $30 a month after the membership fees. Both have websites so just Google them
Links to Regs and more info:
National forest info on panning and rock hounding: HERE