Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Finding gold in the Carolinas

All three boys have rock collections. At first, it was piles from pockets turned inside-out after a hike, later secret stashes in their rooms discovered during spring cleaning. Recently we purchased several compartmentalized fishing lure containers, and the boys have taken to labeling their finds; if they can’t identify the stone, we’ll at least add other information such as where it was found.

Our area is rich in mica, the glossy sheets often found in combination with quartz crystals, as good as treasure when found on a hike. What started as research into rocks, minerals and the geology of the region has evolved into more; in addition to the rock collections, the boys also enjoy ‘panning for gold’. First, a book we found at the local library (How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush: An Adventurer's Guide to the Fabulous Riches Discovered in 1848), later, a gold panning kit that allowed Lauris to become a pyrite prospector. However interesting working with a kit can be, the boys prefer to ‘pan’ creekbeds, looking for gold but more realistically mica, quartz and other treasure. They’ve even traded fossils at the Minneapolis Science Museum, and get just as excited about cracking geodes as trading sports cards with their friends.

A friend of mine out in Colorado has started a YouTube channel chronicling his adventures in the mountains. The episodes play out like a list of ‘most exciting adventures ever’ for the boys: Colorado River gold dredging, arrowhead hunting, old mine exploring, and finding gold in a frozen river (see below). If your kids enjoy rocks & minerals, they will love watching these videos! And while the kids delight in the adventure and the thrills, I appreciate the spectacular backdrop of the Colorado Rockies. Let me know what you think...

Recently things kicked up a notch when Santa sent Lauris a bag of Leadville paydirt for Christmas. (Paydirt is literally sand/rocks that can be panned to reveal gold flakes.) We quickly discovered that panning for gold is much easier when there is real gold in the mix; mica and quartz don’t exhibit the same tendencies to separate out during the panning process. I watched open-mouthed as Lauris picked out gold flakes from his pan and proudly placed them in a display case, now one of the most prized pieces of his collection. Colorado-gold-camp on eBay offers two different sizes of paydirt, a smaller one that is perfect for kids, and a larger option that gives everyone a turn panning. And if you're on Instagram, you can follow their adventures there: Colorado Gold Camp.

Panning an Upstate creek

This gold fever has prompted me to dig around a bit to learn more about the gold mines and prospecting and panning areas of South Carolina. There is a gold belt that extends from Central Alabama to Northern Virginia, and there is a cluster of gold mines and prospecting & panning sites near Rock Hill, York and Gaffney. The famous Haile Gold Mine is near Kershaw in Lancaster County, and Reed Gold Mine in NC is the site of the first documented gold find in the US. One source said that South Carolina's largest gold producing counties include Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union, and in recent decades, South Carolina has been a major producer among the Appalachian states. You can bet we’ll be doing some more research on finding and panning for gold, and that come warmer temperatures the boys will have their prospecting equipment with on hikes!

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