Is There Gold in Pennsylvania? (And If So, Where?)

Pennsylvania may not top the list of must-see spots for prospectors, but there’s a surprising amount of gold mixed in with the iron and coal the state is famous for. While much of it is a byproduct it can still be found in streams and rivers across the state, allowing those with a pan to try and find their own treasure.

So, is there gold in Pennsylvania? Where’s it at? Let’s take a look!

Related: Best Gold Panning Kit for Beginners

Is There Gold in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has some impressive mineral resources, but gold isn’t often listed high among them. Despite this, thousands of ounces of gold have been pulled as byproducts of the iron industry in the state and there have been some sizable pieces found in the state. 

The largest nugget that’s known to have been found? Over 11oz, a massive nugget unearthed in 1938.

While there’s certainly some coarse gold (meaning nuggets), the majority of the gold found here is the same as in other states. Deposits in the sands and gravels of waterways are the rule in this state, there doesn’t seem to be any hard rock mining to be had.

Likewise, the gold is generally very fine when found which makes it a bit harder to pan than in some regions. That said, in some parts of the state it’s almost harder to hit a stream that won’t show color than one that will.

And that’s the rub of it: while there is gold found in Pennsylvania, and found in many locations, it’s not easy to separate it from the rest of the gravel and sand due to its small size. Consider it a hobby rather than a way to strike it rich, not every great expedition needs to end with you finding gold after all.

Most of this gold was brought down by glaciers from deposits far to the north, churning over centuries and bringing gold from what is now Canada. I’m unaware of any serious deposits of gold within the state, but the large amount of past geological activity means that there’s gold across a wide portion of the state in minimal amounts.

Related: Best Sluice Box for Gold Prospecting

A Word About Prospecting in PA

Prospecting in Pennsylvania has more challenges than in many other states. Due to local laws, it can be much harder to find a spot to legally dip your pan than you’d expect.

The big thing is that state public lands generally don’t allow for panning.

Your best bet is always going to be private property. That generally means contacting the owners of the property with the stream you want to access and trying to see if they’ll let you come out and take a look.

It appears that you can also be granted permission to work on specific pieces of public land as well, but you’ll need to call the regional office to see if they’ll let you go for it.

That means one of the valuable resources you’re left with is in the National Parks System. National parks almost universally allow for casual gold prospecting. That means simple panning, not running anything more advanced like a sluice box. For that, you’ll need to acquire a permit.

That said if you can acquire permission or find a spot where it’s legal the places in the following section are all known for producing gold to one degree or another.

Where to Find Gold in Pennsylvania

The following regions are all known to host gold to one degree or another. This is hardly an exhaustive list, however, as the alluvial gold deposits in the state are far-flung and widespread. Your best bet when checking out somewhere is to see if there were any local mines that produced gold as a byproduct, which generally means that alluvial deposits can be found downstream from the area.

1. York County Streams

York County is probably your best bet for finding gold in this state. This Southeastern County is the best known for gold production, and to this day it seems that many of the streams bear at least a small amount of placer gold waiting for prospectors to find. Past mining will give you good clues about where to go, depending on the land you have access to.

The area around Dillsburg and Grantham seems to be particularly rich, at least in that portion of the county. To the South, there are also deposits of placer gold near Winterstown and Shrewsbury. Muddy Creek is often seen as a viable area to look for gold, with some of the smaller offshoots being particularly rich in the yellow stuff.

There may also be some gold in the diabase in the northern part of the county. A small amount of this rock appears to house gold, although not enough for commercial mining, and seeking out streams that run in and over this rock may be a good way to find a flash of color at the bottom of your pan.

2. Lancaster County

Coming in second, Lancaster County also appears to have quite a bit of gold based on the experiences of past prospectors. In particular, the area around Quarrysville seems to have something to offer to those who are dipping their pan.

 In particular, the Susquehanna River and associated waterways seem to be relatively rich in gold. Another location that often shows up with gold is Peter’s Creek. In both of these locations, small nuggets of platinum also show up on rare occasions, making it an even more desirable area to find a prospecting spot.

The Haile Gold Mine is in this county, so searching areas nearby should prove fruitful. It’s still a matter of luck, but flour gold can often be found here for those who are dedicated to looking for it.

3. Wyoming County

While not known in particular for housing the most gold, Wyoming County offers good prospects for those in the Northeastern portion of Pennsylvania. This all appears to be gold brought down by glacial deposits from Canada and other northern areas.

The area around Tunkhannock is often a great spot for prospectors to explore, the area where the Susquehanna River passes through is particularly rich. It should be noted that Susquehannah carries gold throughout much of the state, even in counties that aren’t mentioned in this article.

For many, Wyoming County is a great place to begin their search. The surrounding counties all seem to bear gold as well in different quantities, so it’s worth exploring the region if you’re a dedicated prospector. Otherwise, you just need to find a place where it looks like dense material can settle.

What’s the Best Way to Find Gold in Pennsylvania?

While we can explore the area in theory all day, Pennsylvania presents a couple of problems for the newbie prospector. The small size of the gold is one, and the lack of access to land is another. Most of us aren’t simply going to be able to start calling people to get river access for panning.

Instead, if you’re a local then you should consider joining the Gold Prospector’s Association of America. These folks have their own claims that can be mined and often take several outings per year in order to explore and have some fun.

I strongly recommend any would-be prospector joins a local chapter of this club, but in Pennsylvania, it’s doubly important due to the restricted land access that you’re left with.

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