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Where the Gold Stays Buried: 8 American Locations with No Mining Allowed

America’s National Parks are some of the most incredible places on Earth. Because of their natural beauty, many activities that were once commonplace are now prohibited within these parks. Before these 8 National Parks were designated, miners were exploring them for gold. They still contain rich gold deposits even today, but now they are completely off-limits to mining.

The gold will remain in the ground forever…


1. Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming):


The geology of Yellowstone is unlike anywhere else on Earth. It probably comes as no surprise that there are a wide array of valuable minerals within the park boundary that would hold commercial value. In regards to gold, historical documents have eluded to gold being found in a few different areas in and around Yellowstone:

  • Gardiner River: The Gardiner River, which flows near the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, has had some reports of small gold flakes.
  • Lamar River: The Lamar River, located in the northeastern part of the park, has also yielded small amounts of gold, but it is not a significant source.
  • Blacktail Creek: Blacktail Creek, near the northern entrance of the park, has had minor reports of gold deposits.
  • Jardine: The town of Jardine, just outside the northern entrance of Yellowstone, experienced a small gold rush in the late 1800s. Some prospecting and mining activities took place in this area, but they were relatively short-lived.
  • Bunsen Peak: There were historical reports of gold prospecting and mining activities around Bunsen Peak, located in the northern part of the park, but these activities were not highly productive.
  • In recent years there was quite an uproar over a proposed mine development project by a Canadian Company in Paradise Valley just north of the park boundary. Environmental groups sued and eventually won, preventing the project from advancing.


    2. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)


    Gold exists in small quantities all throughout the Colorado, including the lengthy section that runs through the Grand Canyon. Mining has occurred here for almost as long as the first settlers arrived in the region.

    The gold mines along the Colorado River where never very profitable. Most records indicate failed attempts to establish any mines of any significance. Individual miners would use pans and rocker boxes to extract a few ounces of gold from the gravel bars, but they rarely stayed for long. Some reports of early mining operations indicated several hundred ounces were recovered, but the efforts were always abandoned for richer grounds.


    3. Yosemite National Park (California)


    Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in America. It is also part of Mariposa County, one of the richest counties in California and the site of the California Gold Rush. There is gold all throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and there are many gold deposits that sit within the park boundary.

    The two main river systems near the park are the Tuolumne River and the Merced River. Both of these are famous gold-bearing rivers that once had thousands of miners along their banks. The surrounding mountains were famous for their thick quartz veins that contained gold.


    4. Olympic National Park (Washington)


    The many rivers and streams that flow through Olympic National Park once had prospectors searching their banks for gold. A few of the major rivers that are known to contain gold deposits include:

  • Elwha River
  • Sol Duc River
  • Dungeness River
  • Ozette River
  • There was also a thriving beach mining boom along the sandy shores of Washington that was similar to those found at Nome, though not nearly as rich. Shi Shi Beach and the mouth of the Ozette River along the Pacific Ocean have gold in the beach sands.


    5. Death Valley National Park (California, Nevada)


    Despite the incredibly harsh conditions, miners once scoured every corner of Death Valley. Gold, among many other minerals were mined from this remote desert.

  • Skidoo: Skidoo was a mining town located in the Panamint Mountains within Death Valley. It experienced a short-lived but relatively successful gold rush in the early 1900s. The town was named after a popular phrase of the time, “23 skidoo,” and it produced significant amounts of gold before its decline. The Skidoo Mill was a significant gold processing facility in the Skidoo mining district. Today, its remnants can still be seen within the park.
  • Ballarat: Ballarat is another former mining town situated near the Panamint Range in Death Valley. It played a role in the gold mining history of the region, and while it’s not as well-known as some other mining towns, it has historical significance.
  • Rhyolite: While not within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park, Rhyolite was a nearby town that experienced a gold rush in the early 20th century. The town is known for its well-preserved ghost town remains, including the ruins of a former gold mill.
  • Aubrey Mill: Aubrey Mill was another gold processing mill located in the park, near the Funeral Mountains. Like the Skidoo Mill, it is now a historic site.

    6. Glacier National Park (Montana)


    Western Montana has a long and rich history of gold mining. The rugged mountains within Glacier National Park and the creeks and rivers around it have long been known to contain gold. With the establishment of the park, no mining has taken place for many years, but a few areas nearby have been known for their gold deposits.

  • The North Fork Flathead River: This river, which flows along the western boundary of Glacier National Park, saw gold mining activity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Towns such as Polebridge and Belton, located near the park, were associated with mining and prospecting during that time.
  • The Bowman Lake Area: Bowman Lake is located in the northwestern part of the park, and it was near this area that some prospecting and small-scale mining operations occurred during the gold rush era. Old mining shafts can still be found in this area of the park.
  • The Camas Creek Area: Camas Creek flows into the North Fork Flathead River near the park’s western boundary. Historical reports mention small-scale mining activities in this vicinity.

    7. Joshua Tree National Park (California)


    Joshua Tree sits next to the Old Dale Mining District, a major gold mining region in Southern California. Before the National Park existed, miners explored the desert and found many rich gold deposits. Many of the old mines and relics now within the park are popular tourist destinations.

  • Cottonwood Spring: Cottonwood Spring, which is near the southern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park, was the site of some small-scale gold mining activity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This area is known for its historical mining remains.
  • Lost Horse Mine: While located within what is now Joshua Tree National Park, the Lost Horse Mine is a historical gold mine that operated in the park’s early years. The mine is well-preserved and serves as a popular hiking destination and historical site within the park.
  • Queen Valley: Queen Valley, located near the southern entrance of the park, saw some gold prospecting activity during the gold rush era. The remnants of old mining operations can still be seen in this area.
  • Ryan Mountain: The area around Ryan Mountain in the park was also associated with historical mining activity, including gold prospecting.

    8. North Cascades National Park (Washington)


    The rugged mountains of north-central Washington contain a wide variety of valuable minerals. Gold has been mined here since the 1860s. Gold could likely be panned from just about any creek that flows within the park, there are a few noteworthy areas of historical significance:

  • Mineral Park: The town of Mineral Park, located near the present-day western boundary of the park, was a historical mining community that extracted gold and other minerals from nearby mines.
  • Baker River Valley: The Baker River Valley, which is adjacent to the park’s eastern boundary, had small-scale gold mining activities in the past.
  • Skagit River: The Skagit River, which flows through the region surrounding the park, had prospecting and mining activities along its banks during the gold rush era.
  • Eldorado Creek: Eldorado Creek, located near the town of Marblemount to the west of the park, was known for its gold mining activities.
  • More about lost gold:

  • Lost Ship in the Desert: Buried Treasure in Southern California
  • Ruggles Brothers Treasure – Stolen Gold in Redding, CA
  • The Saddle Ridge Hoard – $10 Million Dollar Gold Treasure Found
  • Emperor Maximilian’s Lost Mexican Treasure
  • Butch Cassidy’s Last Job – The Bank of Montpelier Robbery
  • The Lost Gunsight Mine in Death Valley
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