Long before the Gold Rush drew millionaire hopefuls to Sacramento in 1849, a strip of gold-enriched land between Washington, DC, and Montgomery, AL, was the main source of gold in the U.S. The states through which this vein runs still draw gold panners and dredgers today, as do California. Some of the locations are established "camps," while others are just wide spots along a river or creek known to show a lot of "yellow." Grab your gold pan and go--there's still "gold in them thar hills."
Alabama Gold Camp
The Alabama Gold Camp in Lineville, AL, sells visitor passes that allow you to pan, sluice (wash the soil through a box with ridges on the bottom to collect gold), and use metal detectors. Dredging (excavating underwater to dig up gold deposits) and high-banking (the use of a high-powered, self-feeding sluicer) are also permitted for an additional fee. Dredge and high-banker equipment is available for rental at the camp. They offer sites for tent camping or full-hookup RV camping.
Alabama Gold Camp 1398 County Road 5 Lineville, AL 36266 256-396-1389 alabamagoldcamp.com/home
Roaring Camp Mining Co.
Roaring Camp was a "49ers" camp but it was so hard to get to it that most of the gold is still there. Until recently, you could only get to it on horseback. There's an operational mine on the site, and visitors can try their hand at panning, sluicing, dredging, or dry washing. There are cabins and tent-camping areas available; the price includes mining instruction classes and a Saturday night barbecue.
Roaring Camp Mining Co. 13010 Tabeau Road Pine Grove, CA 95665 209-296-4100 roaringcampgold.com
Crisson Gold Mine
Crisson Gold Mine in Dahlonega, GA, was a commercial open-pit mine from the mid-1800s until the early 1980s. They have a stamp mill that's over 125 years old that they use to crush the gold-containing quartz rock that they then sell in 5-gallon buckets. You can pan the gold there or take it away with you.
Crisson Gold Mine 2736 Morrison Moore Parkway East Dahlonega, GA 30533 706-864-6363. crissongoldmine.com
Reed Gold Mine
A 12-year-old boy, Conrad Reed, found the first gold nugget in the United States--a 17-lb. "rock" that his family used for three years to prop their door open. His discovery sparked the first American gold rush, and you can still pan for gold at the mine that was named after him. Panning is allowed from the spring until the fall; entrance to the park is free.
Reed Gold Mine 9621 Reed Mine Road Midland, NC 28107 704-721-4653 reedmine.com