Pennsylvania Gold

 (Map of the Keystone State.)

One U.S. state I haven't mentioned in terms of its gold potential is Pennsylvania. Yes you heard right. There's gold in the Keystone State, albeit limited in overall quantity. Still, knowledgeable prospectors and small-scale miners could turn up color in their pans and sluices there and some are probably doing just that as I write this post.

 Bad News First and Then the Good

Allow me a moment to get the bad news out of the way first, OK? Pennsylvania was not a signatory of the 1872 Mining Law so any ideas of filing a gold claim in the Keystone State are pretty much out the window right from the get go. Additionally, much (if not all?) of the potential gold ground there lies on private property. Obviously, these two truths make the accessibility factor a major consideration for any small-scale guy or gal looking to recover Pennsylvania gold. Still, where's there a will there's a way or perhaps you're a Pennsylvania land owner. That latter point would settle the access issue quite nicely, providing your property is in the "right" area of the state.

Now for a bit of good news. Essentially, the northeastern, southeastern (known as the Piedmont Region), and northwestern parts of Pennsylvania contain limited amounts of placer and lode gold. Of these three regions, the Piedmont holds the best possibilities for small-scale gold miners. Another plus factor to be considered here is the overall availability of water in the Keystone State, which receives close to 40 inches of precipitation (rain and snow with some hail thrown into the mix!) each year. That's the main reason Pennsylvania is so green when you travel through it in the summertime.

Do Your Research

Historical accounts suggest that mining (in one form or another) has taken place intermittently in Pennsylvania since the early 1700s. The first big finds involved copper ore and guess what? Just about anywhere you stumble across copper ore in the United States (West, South, Southwest, East, etc.) there are usually small amounts of gold associated with the copper. For instance, many large copper mines in operation today produce gold as a "by product" along with the copper they mine, mill, and produce. Bear that in mind the next time you're out prospecting and fix your beady eyes on what you suspect is copper ore. Additionally, gold has been found in Pennsylvania associated with iron, nickel, and zinc ores, something that's not as common here in the Southwest and West (although there are always exceptions to that rule of thumb). The largest producers of gold as a by product in the Keystone State were the Gap (southeast of Lancaster), Wheatley (southeast of Pottstown), and Cornwall (south of Lebanon) Mines.

 (Some interesting mineralization in a Pennsylvania rock quarry.)

This spottily mineralized region lies roughly within the boundaries of a line drawn through the Pennsylvania communities of Allentown southeast to Lebanon; straight south to the Susquehanna River; east to Coatesville and Philadelphia; northeast along the Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey; then northwest back to Allentown. Now that's a huge swath of territory and I don't mean to imply that every acre of it contains gold, or nickel, or copper, or even iron. It just means that the possibility of finding gold in lode or placer form exists there, no matter how small the amount. Got that? So thorough research is your best bet in narrowing down a likely area or locale to explore on your own or with a pard or two.

Gold in Downtown Philly?

Here's what the geologists have to say about gold in Pennsylvania. Most of the precious metal deposits are found in coarse-grained metaphoric rocks ("skarn") associated with limestone. This limestone is typically in contact with (i.e., contact zone) diabase dikes. The diabase itself often contains gold in irregular amounts. The previously mentioned hard rock or lode mines are, for the most part, associated with serpentine country rock. From a gold standpoint, minerals to be on the lookout for while prospecting in Pennsylvania include pyrite, chalcopyrite, and of course, magnetite. Any rock formations composed of gneiss or schist should be given a cursory examination too.

(Pennsylvania placer gold.)

Placer gold has been found in the Keystone State as well. It's source is typically ancient glacial deposits since the gold-bearing lode material in Pennsylvania is not quartzitic like it is farther south in Virginia and other southeastern states. The typcal lode geology in Pennsylvania is much more resistant to elluvial gold eroding out like it does with quartz veins elsewhere. Anyway, placer gold can be found in glacial gravels in the northwestern part of the state as well as in certain gravels or sediments along the Delaware River and in similar gravels and sediments in a few of its tributaries or feeder streams. We're talking loosely consolidated and very fine gold here, for the most part. Two areas you might want to poke around in for placer gold in the Keystone State are in the vicinity of Bridesburg and Yardley. Believe it or not, when street excavations took place in downtown Philadelphia back in the 1800s, fairly substantial amounts of fine placer gold were found. Some undocumented estimates suggest that as much as five-six million troy ounces of placer gold might still lie beneath Philly's streets! Methinks it wouldn't be a good idea to start digging holes in the downtown streets though. Just a thought. Placer gold also exists in certain locations in Pennsylvania's Piedmont Region, so bear that in mind as well.

So there you have it. Gold in the Keystone State.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, Just dig tunnels under the town like they did in "Paint your Wagon!" That worked out well for awhile!! HA!
    Seriously, interesting stuff here. I wonder why it is there is less gold in the Eastern USA than in the West. Australia seems to be the same way. Common sense seems to say it would be scattered equally across the county, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    1. It simply geology that makes more in the West, than in the East. You have to consider the tectonic plates and the type rock that forms under varying forces, such as that which formed the Rockies and surrounding mountain ranges. The West has more gold bearing metamorphic, and more importantly, igneous rock. The geothermal activity still continuing to present day in the West demonstrates the favorable conditions that exist out there. The East is pretty much a dead zone, as far as gold is concerned.

    2. Very astute comments. Thanks !

  2. Born and raised in southeastern Pa. I have spent significany time out there prospecting. I did the research, the old maps, geological surveys, dcnr, etc...spent years hiking this territory, collecting samples and data. JR is absolutely right about the potential of precious metals here in Pa. Thank you for the support and actually writing a small piece on the keystone state.

    1. I grew up in southeastern PA and it is so exciting to hear that people have been researching and working on collecting information for years. I had suspected there was gold near where I lived for years but had always been told by my family that there probably wasn't. I am really excited to start going out to collect data of my own for my location.

    2. Pickering. Contact info. I’m in York

  3. so where do u think is the best place to look for gold

  4. As I said in the post, do your research!

  5. Gold has been found in the creeks that pass through the stone quarries here in indiana/Westmoreland county,pa,

  6. can gold be found in quartz in PA like in peters creek is it possible quartz in that area coul have gold in it or is it just placard gold

  7. More than likely the gold in PA is placer from glacial activity. However, there are known incidences of small lode veins. Look for quartz showing signs of alteration/mineralization.


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