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Top 10 States for Serious Gold Miners

Top States for gold Mining

Where to Live if You Want Good Access to Gold Mining Areas

I already know that someone out there is going to get some flack for this article. Someone is going to point out they live in ~insert random state~ and are finding a bunch of gold.

I am writing this article for the average person with ideas of doing some small-scale prospecting. One thing this requires is a place to go, generally on public land, that has available gold. Lots of states don’t offer this.

For example, there are some good gold-bearing states in the East. However, almost all of the good ground is on private lands, and getting access is a challenge. Short of buying property or sweet talking a landowner to give you access, the places that you can prospect are limited.

The same goes for some other states that have relatively small areas that are rich with gold, but they are well-known and heavily claimed by corporate mining companies.

Therefore, this article admittedly favors the western states. I have loosely ranked them, but honestly a skilled prospector could successfully recover gold from any of these states if you know what you are doing.


1. Nevada


Miner in Southern Nevada

Nevada is the largest producer of both gold and silver in the United States. This can be attributed to several large commercial open-pit mining operations found throughout the state.

There is still lots of opportunity for the small-scale prospector though. In fact, I would have to rank Nevada as the best state for the average prospector simply due to the large amount of public lands that are open to mining.

There isn’t much water in the state, so most of the time you will be limited to the types of mining you can do. Metal detecting for gold nuggets is probably the most popular technique used here.

Also Read: 15 Spots in Nevada with Fossils and Petrified Wood


2. California


Metal Detecting California Gold Nuggets

The “Butte Nugget” was found in Northern California in 2014. It sold to an undisclosed buyer for $400,000!

I can already hear the frustrated California miners. Yes, there are a lot of challenges with mining in California today due to the restrictive regulations that have been put in place in recent years.

Still, I would still say that California is one of the best states in the country for a gold prospector. Even though suction dredges are currently banned, you can still pan, sluice, highbank and metal detect in most areas.

California is just so rich with gold! Exploring the old mines and placer workings, particularly throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains, can result in some really good gold.

Also Read: Metal Detecting in California – Coins, Relics & Buried Treasure


3. Alaska


Gold Nuggets found in Alaska.

There are lots of places throughout Alaska where big gold nuggets like these are still being found.

We all know that Alaska is a rich gold state. It is almost the polar opposite of California because regulations here are very miner-friendly compared to most any other state.

Still there are challenges with mining in Alaska. Even thought there are vast amounts of public lands, access is very difficult. The average person can’t get out and explore much past the roads will take them.

Alaska is also heavily claimed in the richest gold-bearing areas. Since most of the gold mining areas are well-known, much of the best ground has been claimed up for generations.

Also Read: Alaska’s Mining Country – A Land of Big Gold!


4. Arizona


Gold from the Mojave Desert

Some nice desert gold nuggets. All these were found with a metal detector in Mohave County, Arizona.

This is a very popular state for “snowbirds,” and with the harsh weather in the summer, almost all of the mining is done in the winter months.

I know lots of prospectors that mine in places like Idaho, Montana and Alaska during the summers. Then when the snow starts to fly they head south to mine in Arizona.

There isn’t much water in Arizona, so nearly everybody either uses drywashers or metal detectors to find gold here.


5. Oregon


Oregon gold nuggets

An old photo of natural gold nuggets and specimens found in the goldfields of Eastern Oregon.

Oregon is a really good state for gold mining. The primary areas to search are in the far southwest region (Grants Pass/Medford area) and in the Eastern Gold Belt (Canyon City/Sumpter/Baker City).

Although regulation have gotten more challenging in recent years, a person can still do some suction dredging here which is a good way to recover good gold. Southern Oregon is also known for “pocket gold” where very rich sources of gold have been found that are extremely rich for the finder.

Read: 7 Rivers in Oregon that are Full of Gold Nuggets


6. Idaho


Gold in Idaho rivers

Idaho is another great state for gold mining. For one thing, there is ample public lands here which are open to prospecting. There are thousands of old mines scattered around the state.

Gold is found all through the state from the Owyhee Mountains in the south to the rich mines of Wallace and Murray in the north.

Read: 19 of the Richest Gold Mining Towns in Idaho


7. Montana


Butte Montana Mines

Nearly all of Montana’s best mining areas will be found in the mountainous western 1/3 of the state. Anywhere from the Continental Divide over to where everything “flattens out” is good. Some of the richer discoveries include those at Bannack, Virginia City, and Butte.

Check out this 26-ounce gold nugget on display in Butte.


8. Colorado


Gold in the Arkansas River, Colorado

The mountainous western half of Colorado is where you will find the rich gold and silver deposits. This is another state that is absolutely covered with old abandoned mines.

Colorado doesn’t usually produce big gold nuggets (although there are exceptions). Most of the gold is recovered from lode mines and is locked up in hard rock. There is also good gold in many creeks and rivers, which is almost always fine textured dust and flakes.


9. New Mexico


New Mexico Placer Miner

New Mexico is one of those states that doesn’t get all that much attention from miners. That isn’t to say there isn’t good gold here though.

This state is similar to Colorado in that very rarely is the gold very big. Although there are a few exceptions, most mining districts produce fine gold dust. Sizable nuggets are rare, so drywashing works best, or a sensitive metal detector like the Gold Bug 2.

Private property is also challenging here, and lots of very rich mining areas are owned by private ranches, so you will need to do your research to find a good spot.


10. Wyoming


Carissa Mine

Most of Wyoming is fairly poor for gold mining when compared to the other states in the West. One exception would be the South Pass City area, which was one of Wyoming’s richest gold mining regions.

There have been other discoveries scattered around the mountains in smaller deposits.

Also Read: 9 Rivers in Wyoming Where You Can Find Gold


Honorable Mentions


There are certainly other states that deserve an honorable mention, but they simply didn’t make the cut for this “Top 10” article.

Washington is worth mentioning. Washington doesn’t have a lot of super-rich mining areas (Liberty is an exception) but there are still lots of places that have good gold.

South Dakota is another place to mention. Of course the Homestake Mine was the richest gold producer in the entire United States. The Black Hills still hold a lot of gold, but access for small-scale prospectors is pretty difficult.

A few states in the Southeast are certainly worth mentioning as well. Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have all been very rich with gold. The challenge today is finding places to go since most of these states are private property. If you do research and talk to landowners you will still be able to find some good ground though.


Next: Gold Prospecting in the USA – Find Gold in all 50 States


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