If you’re looking for the thrill of striking real gold in North Carolina, then Catawba River in Burke County provides an opportunity for the public to search for gold in the state that prides itself as the first in North America to enjoy a gold rush.
The year was 1799 (way ahead of the famous California gold rush) when the first gold discovery in the United States was made in Midland, Cabarrus County – a massive 17-pound gold nugget pulled out of a creek by a 12-year-old boy. This discovery opened up North Carolina to a frenzy of activity from gold prospectors.
And it didn’t end there; more gold was discovered in other counties including Burke County where the gold rush started around 1828. By 1829, dozens of mining operations were underway with thousands of gold prospectors. The initial epicentre of activity was at Brindletown in Morganton.
The volcanic rock found in this region coupled with the topography that feeds the Catawba River (the largest waterway in Burke County), the possibility of finding substantial gold deposits in the stream sediments is high. This is reinforced by the many tributaries whose actions deposit gravels containing gold into the Catawba.
Catawba River’s presence in Burke County starts from Lake James and flows on the outskirts of Glen Alpine, through Morganton. It then meanders northeast to Rhodhiss Lake, then through Rhodhiss on the boundary of Caldwell and Burke counties before exiting Burke county as it enters the town of Hickory.
What makes Catawba River a treasure for gold prospectors?
Catawba River flows through some of the richest areas for gold mining in Burke County. While any drainage in the county has the potential of containing some gold, the major drainages with placer gold deposits in the county pour their waters into the Catawba. The topography of the areas along the Catawba River provides the ideal scenario for any surface drainage to flow into the river. Most of these drainages originate in some of the most productive mining regions including;
Catawba tributaries of interest to gold prospectors
Other creeks that may yield placer gold
Public Gold Panning along the Catawba River in Morganton
The area around Morganton has been known to have substantive gold deposits. Some of the early locations were in the area known as Brindletown, 10 miles southwest of the county seat. The Brown Mountain Mine on the other hand is only 13 miles north of the town.
In Morganton, the Catawba River Greenway (part of the Morganton Greenway System) offers 4.4 miles of paved accessible trail along the river with a gold panning area. In this section you can pan for gold in the sand or bedrock as long as you follow some simple rules which include
Points to note
Remain alert along the Catawba for rises in water levels due to releases from Lake James.
Increase your chances of finding gold by looking for:
The Catawba River has placer deposits both in its main course and the numerous tributaries that pour into it within Burke County. Panning for gold along this river provides a real opportunity to strike the gold.