Last weekend I had the pleasure of being part of the Summer Adventures Day festivities at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. That event, held on Sunday afternoon, gave visitors (especially kids) the opportunity to sample outdoor activities ranging from canoeing and hiking to flycasting — and gold panning!
Gold panning is where I came in. This year, I carried my gold pans up to the Nature Center where I set up my portable “creek” (a large plastic tub) and then showed kids and parents how much fun it can be to prospect for Georgia gold.
The folks I got to visit with seemed fascinated by it all. We talked about how gold was discovered in Georgia and how prospectors recovered the gold using gold pans.
“What kind of pan is best?” asked one young visitor.
I showed them some of the gold pans I like to use.
“That looks like my mom’s frying pan!” observed another. “Can I use her frying pan to look for gold?”
To that question, my answer was “probably not.”
Then the panning demonstration began. I dumped some potential paydirt into my pan, submerged the pan in my portable creek, and got to work. A few minutes later I’d reduced that panful of dirt down to just a tablespoon or two of concentrates. I swirled the water gently over the remaining material. And there it was…
“Gold!” observed one young man, drawing the word out. “Go-o-o-o-ld!”
We oohed and ahhed over the gold, and then — inevitably — the conversation turned to other treasures from the mineral world.
“I’ve got a piece fool’s gold!”
“I’ve got a quartz crystal!”
“I’ve got a fossil!”
Fool’s gold…quartz…fossils — they can be found right here in Georgia, and collecting them is great fun too! “Rockhounding,” it’s called, and it’s something that I’ve enjoyed for years.
I enjoy it almost as much as I enjoy fishing. In fact, even when I’m fishing, I may have one eye on the ground in case something exciting shows up. So far, I haven’t discovered that fist-sized gold nugget winking at me from the bottom of a creek (though hope springs eternal). But I have found lots of other neat goodies — large sheets of mica, sparkly pieces of quartz and amethyst, rich red garnets and natural crosses of the mineral staurolite (also known as “fairy crosses”). Once or twice, I’ve even found a piece of beautiful blue aquamarine.
And then there are fossils. The first fossil I ever found in Georgia was what’s called a “crinoid,” a creature that lived on the bottom of warm, shallow seas more than 200 million years ago. The one I found came to light in a roadcut up in the northwest part of the state. Since then, I’ve found shell fossils, plant fossils and even trilobite fossils, all right here in Georgia.
Some of the kids and their parents stuck around after the gold panning was done, and we talked about how much fun it can be to collect rocks. I could tell that their imaginations were fired up too.
“But Mr. Steve,” one asked me, “what do you do with them after you find them?”
“I’m glad you asked!” I said.
After each rock hunting trip, I’ll go through what I found and pick out the best one or two specimens. I’ll identify them, writing down the identification on a little piece of paper. Then I’ll put rock specimen and ID label together into one of the compartments of an egg carton. Yep, an ordinary egg carton! The ones sized for a dozen eggs are ideal. They make a great place to store small rock specimens — they’re easy to stack and available for free.
So that’s your homework this week. Round up an egg carton or two.
Then over the next couple of months, as the weather cools, maybe we’ll talk about a few places around Georgia where you too can do a little rockhounding of your own!
Steve Hudson’s book “PROSPECTING FOR GEORGIA GOLD” will help get started on a treasure hunting adventure of your own. Check it out in local outfitters or on Amazon, or order an autographed copy at www.ChattahoocheeMedia.com.