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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gold Occurrences in Maryland

You can probably find gold under the capitol dome!
YHistorically there have been several active gold mines in Central Maryland that have produced both lode and placer gold; this also includes the District of Columbia  There is a gold belt that runs across the middle of the state where today there are no active gold mines presently, but there are plenty of people panning for gold.  This panning activity takes place in several rivers and creeks including the Potomac River as it flows through Washington as far south as Georgetown.

Georgetown is located across the Potomac River from Washington, DC so we have to assume that gold is in our nation’s capitol. Just think of that the Capitol United States is built on a foundation of gold. That is probably a novel idea since most of the gold diggers in Washington seem to be in the Capitol itself.

Crystalline gold.   USGS

Before it was closed during WW II there was an active lode4 gold mine located at the Great Falls of the Potomac in Maryland. All gold mining activity was banned by the government nationwide as it was felt the manpower to operate a mine would be better used in the war effort.  It was originally planned to reopen the mine after the war was over, but it never did.

There is ongoing placer mining and prospecting in the center of the state reportedly with a great deal of success.  This placer mining takes place on the rivers and creeks found in the area.  This gold mining belt extends across the state ending in Baltimore; can’t you imagine panning for gold on the banks of the Susquehanna River right in one of the Baltimore’s city parks!

The gold in Maryland was originally discovered by an Irish Union soldier while on KP duty, during the Civil War, that was washing frying pans on the banks of the Potomac River.  One of the ways to clean an army frying pan is to use sand as a cleaner.  The soldier probably had filled the frying pan with sand and gravel from the river that he sloshed around to clean the pan and found gold in the bottom of the pan.  It has been reported he was a member of a regiment from California.  If that was the case he was already familiar with the process of how to pan for gold, and was probably goofing off on his KP duty.

One of the precursors of gold is the presence of greenstone in the gold bearing belt thought by geologists familiar with gold deposits to be the source rock from which it is percolated by the action of hot groundwater.  The first chromite produced in the United States came from these same greenstone belts. The hot gold bearing groundwater that has percolated through the greenstone removing its gold content also carries many other dissolved minerals.  One of the principle minerals is silica that is deposited from the water at about the same temperature as gold.  Gold in quartz ore is often found together in veins making it one the most common forms of lode gold.

Kuff, Karen, Cold in Maryland, 1987,
Prospecting for Gold near Washington, DC,


  1. What about a nigget the size of my pinky nail. There is a set of three water falls where a part of the cavert formation crops up. Not to many people know about it, but its off goverorsbridge rd. In davidsonville. It's the clearest stream around and has vary deep pools under the waterfalls and even looks as if it has a under water cave because the water goes under a cliff also, its filled with huge green rocks its beautiful!

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