Vermont Gold Rush Still Going Strong
via Burlington Free Press, Abbey Gingras ARLINGTON — Gold prospecting in Vermont has experienced a resurgence of interest since Tropical Storm Irene exposed gold deposits in 2011 that were previously buried. And the lure of finding treasure has more people trying the hobby.
At the Martha Canfield Library on Saturday morning, a group of 20 people learned about gold prospecting history, equipment and techniques at a class put on by Vermont Gold Mountain Prospecting, a gold prospecting equipment supplier.
Nelson Illinski, owner of Vermont Gold Mountain Prospecting, hunts for gold with his wife Ashley and their young son. He said it’s a good activity for children.
“It’s a great experience for kids to get out there after they watch things like ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Indiana Jones,'” he said to the class. Several attendees had children and grandchildren with them who were eager to hunt through dirt and rocks for flakes of gold.
Gold prospecting has been happening in Vermont since the “Vermont Gold Rush” of the nineteenth century. The gold rush went like so many others in America at the time; one person found gold, then another; soon, people were swarming to the brooks and rivers of Vermont with dreams of getting rich. Some places still bear names from this period, such as the Gold Brook in Stowe.
The key to prospecting is knowing where to look — along the sides of creeks, pebbly beaches on waterways and in the bends of rivers are good places to start. Each year, more gold is revealed from erosion all over the state. The most well-known site is Buffalo Brook in Plymouth.
The brook still has remnants of long-abandoned gold mines on it, and Camp Plymouth State Park manager Chris Saylor said he sees people almost every day panning for gold.
“Some of the same people come back, but a lot of them are new and exploring the area for the first time,” he said.
In Arlington, most of the students were not lifelong gold diggers. Some, like Bennington resident Melissa Frechette, hoped to make gold panning a hobby for the whole family.
“This will be our first time panning,” Frechette said. She attended the class with her two young sons. “I met Nelson (Illinski) at a farmer’s market, and it seemed like a fun pastime.”
With an ounce of gold worth about $1,300, small flakes add up. But getting that much gold can take months by hand panning, rather than with tools such as sluices that speed up the process. And sluices, while efficient, require permits from the state.
Kim Greenwood, director of the environmental compliance division at the Agency of Natural Resources, said permits are required to protect fragile environments around Vermont’s waterways. People caught sluicing without permits are subject to fines, which happened three times in 2015. But Saylor said he doesn’t see illegal sluicing as a problem.
“Most people pan by hand,” Saylor said. “If I ever see someone with a sluice, which is rare, I can stop them before they get to the water.”
With the exception of the gold pan itself, most panning tools are items people already own. Gardening gloves, hand shovels, hammers, putty scrapers and paint brushes are all useful for finding riches.
All that’s left is getting outside and being patient.
“Once you find gold, it’s addictive,” Illinski told the group. “You want to get out there every chance you get.”