Get Outside, Georgia

The antidote to traffic: Gold

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Okay, I admit it. I like TV shows about prospecting for gold.

The show begins, and you meet the heroes. They pack their gear and head to the hills, where they shovel dirt and sweat a lot and scoop drinking water from a creek. They always have great adventures, face great trials and sometimes even find a little gold.

It’s fun to think about being a prospector, though I’m not sure that I want to be a serious prospector. That sounds like a lot of work. Besides, I prefer air conditioning and iced tea to sweat and muddy creek water.

So is there any option for someone like me? Say, perhaps, a place to go gold prospecting that happens to have an air-conditioned restaurant close by for lunch?

As it turns out, there is. North Georgia offers lots of places where I (and you) can do a little grassroots, seat-of-the-pants prospecting of our own, and some of those places are not too far away.

First, a little science. Georgia’s gold comes from a belt of gold-bearing rocks that runs more or less northeast-to-southwest through the northern part of the state. Imagine a swath from Villa Rica up through Dahlonega and beyond, and you’ve got the idea. You won’t find gold at every spot in the gold belt, but once in a while…

A week or so ago, gold fever struck hard while I was sitting (along with several tens of thousands of my closest commuter-type friends) on one of those great concrete ribbons optimistically known as expressways. With nothing else to do, I started daydreaming, and from there it was just a short mental hop to gold.

So I made plans. And that’s how I came to find myself, just the other day, hunkered down in a little creek on the east side of Lake Allatoona in Cherokee County, gold pan in hand.

As it happens, many of the creeks which feed that lake’s eastern side hold a little bit of alluvial gold - that is, gold which is found in the gravel bed of a creek or stream.

Which particular spot was I in? Ahh, now there’s the question. No good prospector names precise locations because that takes all the fun out of the search!

But I will say this: If you do a little research, and check out the lake’s feeder streams, you just might find yourself on the right track.

The Corps of Engineers allows recreational gold panning in streams located on Corps land. “Recreational panning” means prospecting with a gold pan only; devices such as sluices or dredges or metal detectors are not permitted. You’re also limited to the gravel streambed itself – in other words, don’t dig dirt from the creek’s banks.

You can learn more about prospecting on Corps land by poking around at sam.usace.army.mil/Portals/46/docs/recreation. Then locate some Corps of Engineers land and set aside a morning or an afternoon to see what you can find. And take your kids! Even if you don’t find any gold per se, you’re sure to bring back all sorts of other treasures – not the least of which is a day you’ll never forget.

But I digress. Did I find any gold on my post-traffic excursion? Yes, I did. Did I find a lot of gold? No, I did not. Take it from me: there’s no danger that I’m gonna get rich panning for gold (though I know folks who have). But I’m going to have a great time trying.

And whether I find any gold or not, I’m sure I’ll find treasure of another kind – an antidote to all that traffic.


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