Gold in the Midwest: Illinois
Gold from Glacial Deposits
As in the case of its neighbor Indiana, placer gold in small amounts can be mined and recovered in Illinois. And like Indiana, the placer gold in the "Land of Lincoln" has its origins in glacial deposits that drifted south from Canada during the Pleistocene epoch.
Gold Prospecting Books
Although no commercial gold mining per se has been conducted in the state, incidental quantities of glacial placer gold have been recovered in Illinois from sand and gravel operations as well as in mining operations for lead, zinc, and fluorite.
The presence of placer gold in Illinois goes as far back as the late 1800s when reliable reports stated that gold had been recovered as a byproduct from a dolomite shaft in Stephenson County. Another report around the same time stated that small amounts of glacial gold were recovered from the Bald Knob area of Hill County.
Try These Locations
If you are a resident of Illinois or just passing through and want to try your hand at recovering some glacial placer gold there, the following locations have been documented as having produced small amounts of gold for panners and sluicers:
Fulton County: streams and tributaries in the Spoon River Valley area and in and along the Illinois River.
Macon County: major streams and tributaries in the Sangamon River Valley area.
Henderson County: ditto for the Mississippi River Valley and a few small (unnamed) streams in the area.
McHenry County: here small amounts of gold have been recovered some distance away from current streams in what are termed "outwash plains" consisting of compacted gravels resting above bedrock.
A Good Starting Point
As in the case of regular gold placers elsewhere, your best bet for recovering decent Illinois glacial gold values will be just above or directly on bedrock. However, having spent some time in Illinois myself, I suspect that any overburden covering bedrock will be fairly extensive and quite deep.
So if you can locate any exposed or shallow bedrock in one or more of the locations listed above, that may prove a good starting point for your panning or sampling activities. Also remember that bedrock is not a must and that particles of glacial gold in Illinois can be found at any depth or level providing the gravels are glacial in nature (Note: As far as I can determine most of the glacial gold recovered in Illinois comes in the form of "fines" and very small flakes. But who knows? A decent nugget or two may be lurking somewhere. J.R.)
Respect Private Lands and Get Permits
I suspect that a good deal of the property that contains glacial placers in Illinois is probably private. So please respect private lands and ask permission before you try panning or mining on someone else's land.
Additionally, check with the appropriate local, state, or Federal authorities before you attempt to set up and operate motorized mining equipment like suction dredges or highbankers. I tend to think some sort of permit will be required for their employment and use (if they are allowed at all).
Gold Panning in the Shawnee National Forest
Lastly, the State of Illinois does not allow panning, sluicing, or any other aspect of gold mining in state parks (and perhaps regional parks as well). The only Federal area open to panning is the Shawnee National Forest, where you can only use a hand trowel and a gold pan to recover gold (Note: Have you ever tried to dig deep or effectively using a hand trowel? Sucks, to put it bluntly. So have fun my friends. J.R.)
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At any rate, those of you in Illinois with "gold fever" can try alleviating that condition by trying your hand at recovering some of the state's glacial gold.
Good luck out there!
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "2 Basic Rules for Recovering Fine Gold from Concentrates"
(c) J.R. 2009
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