In 1799, the first authentic gold was found in North Carolina. Since then, prospecting for gold has been a part of the state's culture, both commercially and recreationally. Considering that most commercial gold prospecting companies have staked claim on the major areas of the state that harbor gold enriched soils, there are quite a few prospecting laws in place to protect landowners and provide conservation for certain government-owned properties.
Privately Owned Land
Gold and other minerals that are dug up on private land are considered property of the landowner. If you are intending to prospect for gold anywhere in North Carolina, consult with the land owner before entering the property. If you do not, any gold found could be confiscated, and you could be arrested or fined for trespassing. To find out about a certain property's owner, contact the county's courthouse; it will likely have the deed on file.
Federally Owned Property
The federal lands of North Carolina are mostly composed of forested national parks, which do now allow gold prospecting. However, there are certain circumstances where you can get your hands on a temporary prospecting and exploration permit for commercial use.
Commercial and recreational gold mining or prospecting of any kind is strictly prohibited in any state-owned forest preserves, parks, geological sites and archaeological sites.
Rockhounding and Gold Panning
Rockhounding, which essentially is rock collecting, and gold panning along national park streams is generally considered harmless by the government because of the low probability of finding any significant amount of gold. As long as no machines or explosives are used in an effort to dig up an area, any North Carolina native or tourist would be allowed plenty of leeway in exploring national parks or forest for recreational prospecting purposes.
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