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Tank of Gas: Dahlonega Gold Mines

July 23, 2021 - 00:00
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As the 2020-21 school year has ended and things are finally starting to open back up, more people will be looking forward to traveling this summer. Lake Oconee News general reporter Lance McCurley has compiled a list of things to do away from Lake Country in the summer series, ‘A Tank of Gas.’ All the recommendations are for places or destinations that will, in fact, only take one full tank of gas to visit. Enjoy.

The city of Dahlonega is a treasure in and of itself. If you haven’t spent much time up in the little mountain town, it’s highly recommended, especially because of all the outdoor activities in the surrounding area in Northeast Georgia.

Dahlonega surely is a place where someone can get lost in terms of being amazed by its beauty. However, the quiet little escape in the mountains of Georgia has a history that’s not known by some and it’s quite important.

Did you know that North Georgia was the first major destination for gold mining in the United States? If so, kudos to you, but if not, it’s an important thing to learn and part of what has helped shape the state of Georgia.

There is one place in North Georgia around Dahlonega that is a haven for this kind of adrenaline rush. You have to check out Consolidated Gold Mines in Dahlonega for this once in a lifetime experience.

A brief history

Gold was first discovered in Dahlonega in 1828, which was two decades before the California gold rush. In fact, the gold found in Dahlonega around that time was completely a fluke expedition. ConsolidatedGoldMine.com tells a complete story and the happenings of how it was found.

“When it was discovered it was completely by accident – when a deer hunter, Benjamin Parks, tripped over a rock 2.5 miles south of what is now Dahlonega,” ConsolidatedGold says. “He got to looking at it and it was full of gold.”

Now that it had been discovered, more than 10,000 miners made their way to the North Georgia mountains to find and mine the gold.

“At that time there was so much gold in and around Dahlonega that it laid on top of the ground, washing off the mountainsides for centuries,” ConsolidatedGold.com says. “The first miners were the lucky ones, being able to pick the gold up by hand. But pretty soon all the easy gold was gone, so the miners went to the streams and rivers in search of more easy gold.

But all they had at the time was the gold pan. At first the gold pan worked pretty good, but after a while it became nearly impossible to make any money with it. The gold pan then became a way of testing first to see what was there.”

New developments in gold-mining technology

A sluice box was then developed, which is a single section pan-like object that was 12-feet long. It was a device similar to a gold pan, but a lot more sturdy, and it was easier to use. The sluice boxes were laid down in the streams and weeded out all the water so harder materials could be found. The device would block sand and other debris, but it would also catch rocks, which were dusted off to see if any gold was visible.

With that many miners digging and panning, new ways had to be adopted to find the gold.

“In 1845 Nathan Hand got the idea that there had to be a better way and he found one,” ConsolidatedGold.com says. “Using a series of pipes and ditches, gravity flow water pressure could be used to wash away mountains and get more material to feed into the sluices. The main hydraulic system involved a pipe and ditch system that spanned 26 miles.

“Shooting all that water through a five- to six-inch nozzle (a water cannon or hydraulic giant), it was shot up at the mountainside to create a mud-slide bringing the goldbearing material, washing down directly into the sluice boxes lined up at the bottom. A series of reservoirs were also built. When one reservoir was used up it was time to clean the sluices while the water was building back up.”

The business begins

According to their website, around 1880, hard rock was discovered on what is now the Consolidated Gold Mine property.

“After several years of testing by Capt. Ingersoll, Antonio and others determined what was providing the gold to the outside world,” ConsilidatedGold.com says. “Not veins of gold but veins of quartz containing gold. Theory has it that even the solid rock is layered by weight when still in a molten state. The heavier metals like gold and iron stayed with the heaviest rock of the area – quartz. Most quartz veins containing gold run an average of two to three inches thick, if that big. The largest at around eight inches thick. On the Dahlonega side of the mountain, a man named Knight found an area where several extremely large veins were running together forming one giant vein.”

Allegedly, there was one piece that wasn’t measured in inches, but in feet. It was 22-feet thick, which is still one of the largest veins of quartz found in the world today containing gold.

“Soon the huge vein system was found to be going downhill at a 45 degree angle heading deeper underground and below the water table,” ConsilidatedGold.com says. “After a brief hiatus, mining of the Knight or ‘Glory Hole’ vein continued when a group of northern investors bought up 7,000 acres of land around the discovery site, and all the smaller mines with it, forming the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Co. in 1895. Out of business in 1906, the Consolidated has been reported to be the very first attempt at systematic, deep underground mining in the east and quickly became a legend even in its own time.

“Whatever the reason: price of gold too low; being below the water-table the gold stuck inside the iron making it too expensive to mine; material not produced fast enough for the 120-stamp mill; or scamming among the investors, the tunnel system was totally abandoned for 75 years until new life was instilled by a coal mining family from Kentucky wishing to change occupations after several generations.”

Business today

Now, visitors can make the trip to Dahlonega and witness the tunnels firsthand on a guided tour. The business is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The business is located at 185 Consolidated Gold Mine Road Dahlonega, GA 30533. Their telephone number is 706-864-8473.

Besides the underground tours, there is gemstone mining, gold panning, and a gem studio.

It is perfect for all ages.