Idaho provides some of the best gold prospecting opportunities of any state in the U.S. Gold can be found in almost all sections of the state, so regardless of where you live there is a good chance that you are close to some productive areas.
Silver City was a famous lode mining district in Southwest Idaho. Although the major resource was silver, plenty of gold was also recovered here. Actually, most of the gold found here is actually classified as “electrum”, a natural alloy of silver and gold much lower in purity than typical placer gold. Jordan Creek is the main drainage here. The DeLamar Mine is a large open pit mine just west of Silver City that produces gold, silver, and a variety of other minerals.
Almost all of the mountainous parts of Central Idaho have gold present in the creeks and rivers. This is a huge area geologists call the Idaho Batholith, composed of granite and encompassing an area of remote mountainous terrain. There have been gold discoveries throughout this region of Idaho, which includes some of the most remote ghost towns in the U.S.
On the southern extent of the Idaho Batholith, the richest gold region in the state can be found within the Boise Basin. This is a large area that can be found north of Boise, which includes the historic mining towns of Idaho City, Placerville, Pioneerville, Centerville, and Quartzburg. Millions of ounces of gold were found here, with large swaths of land churned up by bucket line dredging during the early days. No doubt there is plenty of gold let to find in this area.
To the east, up the Middle Fork of the Boise River is the remote mining town of Atlanta. Reaching this area requires several hours of driving along winding, rough roads through the Idaho wilderness. Numerous mines can be found near Atlanta, which lies within the southern extent of the famous Sawtooth Mountains. The towns of Pine and Featherville were also old mining towns. If you visit the area you will see evidence of mining along many of the creeks. Any of the tributaries of the Boise River are worthy of investigating with a gold pan.
On the north side of the Sawtooth Mountains, many rich placer gold areas can be found. The town of Custer produced significant amounts of gold; nuggets were almost nonexistent, but thousands of ounces of fine gold have been found and more is still in the ground. Further north, the historic mining towns of Yellowjacket and Leesburg produced plenty of color too. Gold can be found in the Salmon River throughout its entire reach.
Other gold bearing areas worth mentioning in Central Idaho include Stibnite, Burgdorf, Warren, and Florence. The Salmon River continues to flow through the remote Frank Church Wilderness, and then near the present day towns of Riggins and Whitebird. Fine placer gold can be found throughout the Salmon River.
Continuing north, many of the waters around Elk City and Pierce are very rich with placer gold. The Clearwater River has gold as well, and suction dredging can be very productive if a rich deposit can be located.
Up in the Panhandle region of Idaho, the Coeur d’ Alene area has some very rich mineral resources. In fact it is considered one of the richest silver regions in the world, but plenty of gold has been found in association with these deposits. The areas near the towns of Kellogg, Murray, and Wallace all have gold.
The least productive part of Idaho in regards to gold mining would be the southeastern part of the state. The closest significant mining near this area can be found in the Wood River Valley, and up toward Mackey and Gilmore.
There have been a few lode mines that have produced gold in Southeastern Idaho including the Black Pine Mine in Cassia County. The Snake River, which flows across the entire length of Southern Idaho, is actually full of very fine placer gold, but the gold is so fine and widespread in the river that profitably mining it has been unsuccessful for the most part. There has actually been quite a bit of dredging throughout the Snake River over the years, but most of it was done in association with gravel production with gold as a byproduct. It is unlikely that you are going to strike it rich gold prospecting the Snake River, but there is definitely some gold there that might satisfy the recreational gold miner.