Our family moved to north Georgia in 1996 and quickly went about the task of building a new house. We had learned that the property was situated above an abandoned gold mine, and that there were likely old tunnels running underneath. This information was fascinating and sparked my curiosity about gold mining and prospecting in this region.
The Georgia Gold Rush
Though many people are familiar with the California Gold Rush, most do not realize that Georgia experienced a gold rush of its own. More than 15,000 prospectors descended into the region in the early 1800s when they heard that gold had been found in the streams. This was known as the Georgia Gold Rush. Though there was some gold to be found in the streams, the prospectors quickly realized that there wasn’t enough to make their efforts worth while. The gold would have to mined instead of panned or sluiced. This is how the mines came into existence.
We later learned that the tunnels running through our property were part of the Loud Mine. The Loud Mine is the deepest gold mine in our county at 130 feet. Though the mining tunnels had long been boarded up or filled in with dirt, Loud Mine is still in operation as a gold mining camp even today. It is owned by The Lost Dutchmen’s Mining Association and offers memberships to individuals and families. Members can camp on the property and spend time prospecting for gold. They can also camp and prospect at other properties the association owns throughout the United States. It is surprising to know just how many people do.
After our home was built, it was not much later that we discovered the Consolidated Gold Mine in nearby Dahlonega. It had originally opened in the late 1800s but operated for only about 8 years. It was closed down until the 1980s and eventually re-opened as a tourist attraction shortly after. This mine is more than 200 feet deep which makes it the deepest mine east of the Mississippi River. It has a tunnel system that they estimate to be more than 4 miles in total. The mine is closed except for one portion that is open to the public for tours.
After taking the 40 minute tour sometime around 1998, we were immediately hit with gold fever. The idea of being able to find gold literally in our own back yard was so exciting! We bought metal pans to try our hand at panning for gold in a small spring that flowed through our property. We even considered the idea of buying a sluice that would allow us to “pan” for gold using greater quantities of dirt.
Once we realized how little gold you can find after hours and days of effort, our gold fever dreams were squashed. It was a nice adventure while it lasted and certainly very entertaining to our boys. We were content to say that we lived on top of a gold mine and left it at that.
Digging Our Way to Walmart
More than fifteen years had gone by since I had last been to the Consolidated Gold Mine. I decided last week that it was high time to pay another visit. This time, I was accompanied by my six year old grandson Kayden.
To help him understand the enormity of what we were about to experience, I used the 45 minute drive to talk to him about gold and gold mining. He was immediately fascinated by the idea of being able to go deep underground. Of course, he thought we would be getting down on our hands and knees to crawl, so I had a good chuckle over that. He thought it was astonishing that the tunnel was running directly under the Walmart that was located nearby. I told him that if we stood in the tunnel and dug straight up that we would probably find ourselves digging into the toy department. He giggled with delight. As it turns out, I was partially correct. The tour guide informed us that, according to GPS, we would have been digging our way into the garden section of Walmart, instead.
Consolidated Gold Mine Tour
When our tour began, we were ushered into a little theater to watch a short video that provided us with some basic history and information about the mine. After the video ended, our tour guide brought us through a door that led us down into the mine. They had installed a series of ramps and metal stairways to make the walk more comfortable. We stopped at regular intervals to catch our breath and to listen to the guide. The stories and information he shared were entirely captivating. He held the attention of the young children as well as the adults in our group.
The tour took less than 40 minutes as we wound our way through portions of the tunnel system. We saw the actual tools and equipment that the miners used while they were working in the mine some 100 years ago. It was easy to see that the working conditions would have been hazardous and the lighting was very poor in certain tunnels. The miners would have been inhaling dust and would have been in danger of tunnel collapse, injuries from handling the tools and equipment as well as the potential for drowning whenever the tunnel would be flooded after heavy rains. Even so, we were told that no miners had actually died in the tunnels. That was a relief to know!
Kid Tested and Grandma Approved
After the tour had ended, I asked my grandson what he thought. He had expected to be bored and was surprised how fun it had actually been. Once he stepped inside the mine and saw what it really was, he was in wide-eyed wonder. He listened attentively to everything our tour guide told us and was able to repeat most of it to me in our conversations during the drive home. Kayden gave the experience his seal of approval. This grandma did, too.
Consolidated Gold Mine offered more than just a gold mine tour. It held a souvenir shop that not only offered trinkets for sale but also served as a display for some of the artifacts discovered in the mine. These artifacts included picks and lanterns and other tools.
Beyond the shop was a building where sluices and tables were set up for gold and gem panning. Each tour came with tokens that allowed us to take a turn panning for gold. Had we paid a little extra, we could have also used the sluice to look for gemstones.
More Precious Than Gold
Kayden did the honors, and his pan produced several flakes of gold. These were collected and placed inside a test tube full of water. Kayden was delighted with his gold find and asked me how much it was worth. I told him that the small amount of gold was not worth a lot. The memories we made together were priceless. He agreed. Some things are more valuable than gold.
Until next time! ~ Susan