gold panning in montana

Gold Prospecting In Montana

gold panning in montana

Gold panning in Nelson Gulch near Helena, Montana. Source: Library of Congress.

While there are some stories of Native Americans making bullets out of gold, by some Catholic missionaries in the 1840’s, the first “official” gold was discovered in Montana by white men in 1852, and first mining camp was built around ten years later. Now, some hundred and fifty years later, there is still gold to be found in Montana. Not much has changed, gold mining remains very hard work, but a few things have and it is now even easier to hit the gold fields ready to find your gold nugget.

Today you can purchase everything you need, including a full on mining setup and even a gold claim on ebay, and do not forget that today’s technology can save you a lot of time, such as using metal detectors and mechanized panning systems. There is lot less gold to be found these days than back in 1800’s, but lot of people believe that there might still be few strong veins just waiting to be discovered.

Gold Mining & Prospecting in Montana

gold dredge for placer mining montana

Gold dredge in Madison County, Montana. Source: Library of Congress.

Montana’s public land is still subject to the Mining act of 1872 which recognizes the right to file a claim on public lands belonging to either state or federal government. However, many of the old gold bearing streams are now private property or patented, so it might take bit of research to find a spot to place your claim on. Be sure to NOT trespass or claim jump!! These are very serious offenses against man’s inherent right to property.

How To Find Gold For Prospecting In Montana

Two main ways of prospecting for gold in Montana are gold panning in the Missouri River, which can also result in finding some sapphires, and mining ore in Western Montana Mountains (most of which are National Forest). Currently most popular places in Montana for prospecting gold are Confederate Gulch draining out of the Big Belt Mountains into Canyon Ferry Reservoir north of Townsend, Nine mile Creek drainage east of Missoula/Frenchtown,

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Gold mining camp along creek in vicinity of Granite Montana. Source: Library of Congress.

upper Libby Creek (where there is a public panning area (no power tools or sluices)), Rock Creek, Wolf Creek, Upper Fisher Creek, Little Cherry Creek, Troy (Yaak River), Noxon, the Crazy Mountains, Bridger Canyon and Virginia City /Alder.

Choose Your Level of Gold Prospecting Activity

Some people prospect gold just for fun, happy that they made few bucks worth of gold over the weekend. But the memories and experiences with family and friends are priceless, whether or not

gold mining camp in montana prairie

Gold mining camp in Madison County Montana. Source: Library of Congress.

you actually find gold!

Others take it bit more seriously and work full time at it. With current price of gold skyrocketing, it might be a worthy pastime, but remember…the best way to make a small fortune in gold mining or prospecting is to start with a big fortune 😉

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