Gold Panning in Dahlonega, Georgia

This small town is the site of the nation's first gold rush

finding gold
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Dahlonega, Georgia might not be the first place Americans think of when they hear the words “gold rush,” but in fact, gold was discovered here two decades before prospectors found it in California. And the town embraces that history, offering visitors a real gold-mining experience. 

History of Gold Mining in Dahlonega

Once part of Cherokee country in what’s now Lumpkin County, Dahlonega became a focal point of gold mining after the precious metal was found here in 1828.

According to local history, a deer hunter named Benjamin Parks literally tripped over a gold rock a few miles south of the town center. Much like they would do later in California, thousands of would-be miners and prospectors descended on this small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to try their luck. Gold was so plentiful in Dahlonega during the 1800s that it was visible on the ground, according to the historical society.

And like in California, a U.S. mint was established in Dahlonega, and its “D” mint mark can be seen on gold coins produced between 1838 and 1861 when it was finally shut down. 

Today, Dahlonega embraces this heritage, with restaurants, small stores, and festivals that offer hands-on gold mining experiences, including panning in the river.

Here's how to find gold when you visit Dahlonega, Georgia. 

Consolidated Gold Mine 

This mine offers a gold rush-themed tour.

It takes a little less than an hour to see all of the underground mine, complete with old rail tracks, bats, and the famous "Glory Hole.” Visitors learn how gold was extracted 150 years ago, and although it’s fun for kids, since the mine is underground the tour route can get pretty dark.

There are also several sets of authentic but rickety steps, so this attraction is probably not suitable for children age 3 and under.

After the tour, visitors have the chance to pan for gold.

Crisson Gold Mine

This open pit gold mine (as opposed to an under opened in 1847), was still in commercial production into the 1980s. They still have a lot of antique equipment, some of which is still in use. Crisson has a bigger focus on panning than touring, so for smaller children, this might be a better option than Consolidated. 

After a demonstration, visitors can pan for gold and gemstones in their large panning room. The gemstone panning is the big payoff for kids. It's easier to do, and they'll go home with a small baggie of colorful gems.

Serious gold panners go to Crisson as well, since it offers professional equipment like trommels, but it has plenty of activities for everyone.

The cost of a ticket to Crisson includes one pan of gold ore, a two-gallon bucket of gemstones and sand, and a wagon ride.

Dahlonega Gold Museum 

This museum provides in-depth details of the town’s gold rush, with gold nuggets, gold coins, equipment and interactive exhibits on display. It’s housed in what used to be the Lumpkin County Courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the oldest courthouses in Georgia.