Author: Nathan C. Verser
Virginia has a very unique landscape, and it is laden with history dating all the way back to Jamestown-the first settlement in the US. We may not have the gold history of many other states, but we still have plenty of riches to find, as well as some fantastic folks and clubs to help you along the way! The first printed report of gold was by Thomas Jefferson in 1782, where he reported on a 4 pound gold “rock” which was found on the bank of the Rappahannock River. Gold was last commercially mined in Virginia in 1947, with an approximate total of 100,000 troy ounces recovered. Gold here is near pure, assaying in at around 22k. Silver, platinum diamonds and gems are also common throughout the gold belt of Virginia. There are a vast amount of abandoned mines throughout the gold belt, some of which are able to be prospected. With all of that said, you can most definitely come to Virginia and have a blast prospecting and detecting!
you are sure to find it all here in Virginia. From large mountains and valleys, to the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. With literary almost everything in between, there are multiple choices for treasure hunting.
Virginia does not have the massive rivers one may find in the western part of our country. Most of our gold bearing waterways are small rivers and creeks that do not see a lot of rapid water flow, let alone gold moving, boulder throwing floods. You can find small -100 mesh gold, up to decent sized pickers throughout our gold bearing areas. Gold will be found mostly in and on bedrock and pay layers. Gold will be coarse, not flattened because it does not travel very far.
Virginia does not have stringent rules against recreational prospecting equipment. Dredges (4 inches and under), high-bankers, sluices and the like are all able to be used. You will only really see equipment restrictions in state and national parks or private land with more stringent rules. Virginia deems anything above the high water mark to be private property, and you are not allowed to undermine the sides or walls meaning actual highbanking is out of the question.
there are a broad assortment of gems that come out of Virginia, and they vary as much as the state does depending on where you are. Gems can be extracted from digging, prospecting, or simply right off of the ground! Diamonds have also been found in the state, and are still being pulled out today.
(gem photo courtesy of Morefield mine)
Metal Detecting Summary
Metal detecting can bring some awesome things to the surface in Virginia, but it can also bring vast amounts of very dangerous munitions! Virginia has an extensive and dated military history ranging from the largest naval base in the world, the surrendering places for the revolutionary AND civil wars, the first National Advisory Comittee for Aeronautics location (NASA predecessor) in Hampton, and Langley Air Force base right next door. Many revolutionary and civil war battles, camps and marches took place in this state.
All of this history makes for an exciting detecting opportunity, but one laden with rules, regulations and danger. With all of the military history, the entire east coast is laden with munitions of all sorts dating all the way up to World War II. There is even an island in the Chesapeake bay that was used as a bomb range. To detect in Virginia, you HAVE to pay very close attention to the rules or you may quite literally wind up in jail for detecting on national/historical park lands, or blown up because you thought you could take a shell home and use it for a door stop! The detecting rules vary not by city and county, but quite literally by the mile. There are various detecting clubs to set you in the right direction.
Pay to play locations
there are no pay to play gold sites in Virginia. There are two parks with gold demonstrations and panning.
those two parks are:
Lake Anna State Park website
This is a state park which has gold panning demonstrations. This is set up as a novelty/educational exercise, and you are not allowed to prospect on your own.
and the gold mining camp museum at Monroe Park website
This is a pretty cool museum. They actually have a gold camp set up, and they talk about and show the history of Virginia gold mining. They have a panning flume, and a store where you can buy pans, snuffer bottles, “pay dirt”(VERY lightly salted pay), and some pretty cool gem pay.
There are a few pay to play gem mines in the state:
Morefield gem mine website
The lucky lake gem and mineral mine website
Scufflin’ acres gem mine Facebook page
Earthen paradise inc. gem mine Facebook page
Central Virginia Gold Prospectors website
This club is very well put together. They have monthly meetings, and you have access to 6 claims for a $100 yearly fee. They have a Facebook page here as well, and they show a great group of folks who are extremely active in their community, with common digs, children activities and the like.
There are other here and there hit and miss clubs throughout the state. Some have disbanded, some do not have any easily retrievable contact information.
contrary creek is a well known creek in VA for gold. It has public access and a small amount of creek available to the public, but there is a lease group/club for the creek that allows more access to the creek. They do a fantastic job of ensuring the creek is well maintained, cleaned, holes filled, etc. so the landowners allow the broadened access. They’re information is here website
There IS a GPAA contact in the state, (link here) but there are no GPAA/LDMA claims in Virginia
Rules and Laws
There is still active litigation in some counties as the regard of waterways being private lands or public. Some creeks and rivers have public access and as any and all Virginia law states at this time, If you can access the waterway via public access, you are able to prospect the waterway up to the high water mark. Virginia regulates their own waterways-navigable AND unnavigable. Again, the dilemma falls onto public access to these waterways. Please understand again, any land ABOVE the high water mark is private property! we have had numerous accounts of people high banking owners banks, and it pretty much ruined access to these areas.
Dredges 4” and under are legal. As stated earlier, you really have to dig and make phone calls to access any real rules and regulations in the state regarding prospecting. There are MANY rules in regards to metal detecting. Please ensure you look into the various cities or counties rules before you go out on your ventures. Even various beaches in one city will have different detecting rules due to historic areas, munition possibilities, etc.
Virginia Prospecting history and other links
VA Dept. of Mines, Minerals, and Energy website
VA Dept. of Environmental Quality website
VA house bill 1720 regarding gold prospecting (link)