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7 Rivers in Virginia that are still Full of Gold!

Virginia Gold Panning Places

Virginia was one of the richest gold mining states in the Appalachians. In fact, prior to the California Gold Rush it garnered more interest than just about anywhere in the USA.

While most of the gold found in Virginia was from hard rock mines, small bits of raw gold does accumulate in the river beds too, which can be recovered with a gold pan.

Here are 7 rivers in Virginia known to contain gold and are still producing even today.


1. Dan River


There is decent gold in the Dan River in both Floyd and Patrick Counties. Several rich clusters of mines are also located in Fluvanna and Goochland Counties. These were predominantly hard rock mines, but the gold that erodes from the rock finds its way into the river.


2. Willis River


An old report from the Virginia Division of Natural Resources mentions discovery of several 1-ounce gold nuggets coming from Tongue Quartz Creek, one of the tributaries of the Willis River. Other large gold in quartz has been found in this area including a 9-pound chunk of gold in quartz!


3. Rapidan River


There are many creeks on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains that are good for gold panning. The Rapidan River is one major waterway where gold can be found. The hills around here were mined extensively back in the 1800’s.

Of particular note is Culpeper County, which has many old abandoned mines and prospects. The Culpeper Mine is about 3 miles west of Wilderness.

This map shows the abundant mines that were once active in the Rapidan and Rappahannock River Valleys.


4. Rappahannock River


This is another gold-bearing river worth checking out. Most gold is fine textured so use careful panning technique to sift the gravels in search of those elusive specks of gold.

The Franklin Mine is situated just east of Morrisville. It was one of Virginia’s richest gold mines, and the region is drained by many small creeks that flow into the Rappahannock River.

The area north of Richardville is also known to have gold in some of the smaller tributaries draining into the Rappahannock River as well. Bring a pan with you in your travels and take some sample pans at various locations in the area.

One of the first references to gold in America was by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote of a 4-pound rock containing just under 1 ounce of gold. It was found on the Rappahannock River about 4 miles below the falls.

Virginia would eventually be credited with approximately 170,000 ounces of gold production. The actual amount was likely much higher than this, as much of the finds were not recorded in those early days. Mining primarily took place in decade prior to the gold strikes in California.


5. James River


This is a major river that flows through Virginia and has historically had lots of mining activity. A place known as the Carolina Slate Belta rich gold-bearing region that runs in a line through the entire state of Virginia – is the source of the gold found in the James. Cumberland County is one of the best areas, but gold can be found in other places too if you get out and prospect!

Also Read: Historic Mining Towns of the Georgia Gold Rush


6. Potomac River


Quantico Creek is one of the richer creeks that flows into the Potomac River, feeding the placer gold deposits. Major mines near the river include the Bull Neck Mine, Cabin Branch Mine and the Crawford Mine. Neabsco Creek is another tributary to the Potomac that is very rich.


7. Shenandoah River


Small amounts of very fine gold can be panned throughout the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah. Research areas where the old gold mines were located and pan stretches of the river that are nearby. You’ve got a good chance of finding a bit of “color.”

Gold from Virginia can be quite large and coarse. While fine gold dust is most common, it isn’t unheard of to find nice pickers and nuggets too.

Focusing time and effort around the known gold-bearing creeks and rivers is critical to ongoing success as a gold prospector. Basically all of the old mines in Virginia are now abandoned and long forgotten, but research can help you find these areas that can still produce gold today.

Learn more about the gold discoveries on the East Coast below:

  • Eureka! Big Gold Nuggets Found in North Carolina
  • Natural Gold Occurrences in Maryland
  • 8 Best States to go Gold Panning on the East Coast
  • Prospecting for Gold in Pennsylvania
  • Historic Mining Towns of the Georgia Gold Rush
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