Dear Ace: Times are tight right now. What’s the history of finding gold in the area? And do you think it might pay off for me to hit the creek with some panning equipment?—Ain’t-sayin’-he’s-a-gold-digger-but-ain’t-messin’-with-no-broke-rivers-in-Charlottesville
So you want to know whether your auric ambitions will pan out? Fortunately, there are several factors working in your favor. According to GoldMaps.com, various sites in Virginia—particularly near Fredericksburg and Wilderness along the Rappahannock and Rapidian Rivers, as well as around the Fluvanna/Goochland county line—fall into a loose configuration of gold-rich territory that extends from Alabama through the Northeast.
But don’t reach for that trowel just yet. Ace is dreadful sorry to break it to you, but prospectors have been mining and panning Virginian hills and streams for gold since at least 1804, and heavy lode mining began in earnest shortly thereafter, continuing almost without interruption until 1947. So whereas the Commonwealth once produced the stuff in abundance, with mines producing upwards of 160 lbs. of pure metal during Virginia’s gold heyday, you better get used to the fact that prospectors of years past have already picked the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, and then some.
Then again, that doesn’t stop the Central Virginia Gold Prospectors, a non-profit organization of amateur miners that formed in the late 90s around Dillwyn. As of 2008, in a New York Times article, the CVGP boasted seven “claims” or gold-bearing sites, the locations of which they guard as secrets. If you’re new to the prospecting game and looking for direction, or even just a social environment in which to try and strike it rich, then consider catching one of their meetings in Dillwyn, or check them out on cvgp.net.
Other notable gold prospecting organizations in Virginia include the Virginia Gold Prospectors in Warrenton, as well as the Gold Mining Museum at Monroe Park in Goldvein, where according to legend, Thomas Jefferson stumbled upon the first gold nugget in the Commonwealth’s history, along the bank of the Rappahannock River in 1782.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.