Gold Fever in North Georgia
Miners today still find gold gems in Georgia's hills. So can you by panning at several local mines.*
There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!
By Gregory D. McCluney
The Cherokee Indians knew it was there. But when white men discovered gold in the north Georgia Mountains in 1828, all hell broke loose — and America’s first major gold rush was underway.
In 1832, a boomtown named Auraria was created. Hundreds of prospectors and suppliers called it home. Today it’s a ghost town, if you can find it at all.
Its sister gold city, Dahlonega, a few miles away, emerged as the county seat. And, in 1838 the U.S. government established a branch mint there.
The Cherokees were driven west to Oklahoma for those who survived the trip dubbed the "Trail of Tears," as some 4,000 died in the relocation. But Dahlonega prospered as a center for the great eastern gold rush.
Although commercial gold mining is all but over, tourists to this day still pan for gold and precious gemstones, with some taking home a sizeable nugget for their efforts.
State Historic Site
Between 1838 and 1861, the U.S. Branch Mint, now part of the home of North Georgia College, coined more than $6 million in gold in Dahlonega. On the historic square, the Gold Museum (706-864-2257 or www.gastateparks.org), #1 Public Square, offers a 23-minute film on this exciting period in Georgia’s history.
This was among the equipment used by Dahlonega miners.*
Plus, you'll find an interesting display of golden nuggets, mining tools and photos of the mines and people who owned and operated them. Admission for this museum is $4 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under.
Each year on the third full weekend in October, Dahlonega celebrates Gold Rush Days (800-351-3355) and welcomes 200,000 visitors. Voted one of the top twenty events in the southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, “The Rush” features two days of events including a liar’s contest, beard contest, hog calling, gold panning competition and a wheelbarrow race. Admission is free.
The town square is closed to traffic and you'll find live entertainment, pipe smoking, clogging, wrist wrestling, a black powder shoot and 300 booths selling art, crafts and food. But you won’t want to miss the highlight, a buffalo chip throw on the square. Be sure to stay out of the line of fire!
Gold Fever Package
Stop by the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center (800-231-5543 or www.dahlonega.org) on the city square at 13 South Park St. to buy your "Gold Fever" package for just $22 ($17 for children). You’ll get admission to the Gold Museum, including the film and a 45-minute tour of the Consolidated Gold Mine.
At the Crisson Mine, you’ll get one pan of ore for gold panning, one bucket of ore for gemstone “grubbin,” a glass vial to hold your gold, a tour of Georgia’s only working gold stamp mill and a souvenir gold pan to take home.
Let's Go Panning: Crisson Gold Mine
Just a five-minute drive from the square, the Crisson Mine at 736 Morrison Moore Pkwy. is a fourth-generation family operation. It opened to the public in 1970. Instructors will teach you to pan for gold. They'll also advise how to screen what you pan for such gemstones as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
Crisson is open year-round and even has a heated panning area for the winter months. Groups are welcome. Visitors will enjoy a picnic area. The on-site gift shop features 14-carat gold gifts and mining supplies.
Don’t miss the hourly demo of the 124-year-old stamp mill. Admission for Crisson Mine is free, and the panning fee is $5 per person.
For more information, contact 706-864-6363 or www.crissongoldmine.com.
Consolidated Gold Mines
With a visit to the Consolidated Gold Mines, 185 Consolidated Gold Mine Rd., you experience underground Dahlonega with a 45-minnute-mine tour. The tour guides are actual miners who helped excavate 4,000 tons of dirt and ore from the tunnels.
You’ll view actual equipment used in the mine. You'll also receive an introduction to the geology of the gold belt as you walk through the tunnel network.
After the tour, you can pan for gold or mine for gemstones with the instructors and visit the gift shop. Consolidated is open seven days a week, rain or shine.
Admission and the tour is $11 for adults, $7 for children. For information, call 706-864-8473 or visit www.consolidatedgoldmine.com.
After your rush at panning for gold, you might check out these other tourism activities around Dahlonega:
- Waterfalls: You'll discover nine to explore.
- Georgia Wine Country: Head for four operating wineries, all open on weekends.
- Helen: Here's your chance to visit a Bavarian village just 20 minutes away.
- Chestatee Wildlife Preserve (www.chestateewildlife.com), 469 Old Dahlonega Hwy: The area is teeming with wildlife -- more than 120 species. The preserve is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12.
- Outdoor Sports: Visitors might walk, hike, float, climb, float, fish, golf, horseback ride or boat in the north Georgia mountains.
- Dining: Chow down in a winery, country kitchen, fast food establishment or an Italian bistro.
- Shop: The restored and preserved historic town of Dahlonega is a shopper’s delight
For more information and to confirm hours before visiting attractions, call the visitor’s center. It's open daily. Phone is 706-864-3711. Or visit: www.dahlonega.org
Gregory D. McCluney is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. Greg specializes in the world of food, wine, travel and the outdoors. He writes regularly for numerous publications and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association, Society of American Travel Writers and Society of Wine Educators.
Photos used above are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.