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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gold Occurrences in Washington State

Although Washington State has never been noted as a major gold producer it has however produced over 2,000,000 ounces of gold. It has been reported that the state still possesses many unexploited virgin placers as well as lode gold where it is still possible for a prospector to make a profit. The state Department of Natural Resources, Geology and Earth Resources Division in Olympia has produced a bulletin titled, “Inventory of Washington” by Marshall T. Hunting that you will find invaluable in the search for gold.

Mt Olympus on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

Many of the counties of Washington were gold is already been found include Ashotin, Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Grant, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Stevens, Whatcom, Whitman and Yakima. In many of these counties the discoveries include both placer and lode gold.

In the state of Washington the major gold producing areas are pretty well limited to the northeast corner where the gold is found in the Okanogan Highlands that expense offered from British Columbia, and contains the second largest gold mine in the United States, the Cannon Mine that produced most of the lode gold found that Washington. A far greater amount of gold has been produced from placer deposits far exceeding the amount of lode gold that has been recovered.

The state of Washington is actually composed of several different so-called suspect terranes that have been plastered onto the West Coast of the United States so the bedrock back of the state resembles a patchwork quilt. Some of the best places to recover gold is in aureoles around volcanoes that are found in the state in abundance. The driving force behind all of this volcanic activity is the “Juan de Fuca” plate that is being thrust under the state of Washington creating a range of mountains to the west of Puget Sound that are called the Olympic Mountains. It is the same plate that further inland is creating the Cascade Range that includes several volcanoes including Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens.

The southwest corner of Washington is covered by the Columbia Plateau basalts that are over 3000 feet thick. The basalt flows were in place during several different episodes possessing a magma that was quite runny. It is beneath these flows that they have discovered natural gas, and there is a good possibility that gold may be found in the older rocks under the basalt covered. At the present time however we just don't have the ability to prospect for the gold because it is buried so deep under the basalt.

A typical beach on the Olympic Peninsula where gold may be found.
Photo by John Hunter

There are many reports of gold being found in the rivers that drain the Olympic Peninsula as well as the beaches facing the Pacific Ocean where fine gold has been found in the beach sands, and has produced many profitable claims. It would be advisable to check the regulations imposed on gold mining along the state beaches before you start mining. Most of the gold found on the speeches is very fine, but periodically is renewed by the action of storm waves making for a practically never ending supply.


  1. Are there any potential areas of recreational prospecting that one might look for in Grays Harbor County? I am interested in beginning to prospect some streams and rivers, however would like to know the best possible places to start. thank you

    1. I'm currently in Grays Harbor and there is both lode mountain gold and beach flour gold within half hour drive in all directions, good luck!