New England Gold

This morning I was rowing on my erg in the basement.  As I usually do, I took off my gold wedding ring, did my rowing and then slipped the ring back on.  I was struck first by how cold the ring was when I slipped it back on, but then how quickly heat conducted back into the ring and warmed it back to my body temperature.  Gold is one of the best conductors they say, and this was my own little experiment that proved it.  It makes gold an attractive material for PC boards, but also for jewelry.  I carry to bits of gold with me, the ring on my finger and somewhere deep in my finger a small gold splinter from when I inspected PC boards for Hewlett-Packard as a summer job in college.

People don’t think of New England as a great place for prospecting for gold.  That’s something you hear about our west, where the mountains are higher and younger and the gold veins run fat and deep.  Not so much in New England, where our mountains are much older and veins of gold aren’t prevalent.  But there have been a few gold strikes in this region that have caused minor rushes.

Lyman, New Hampshire had a minor gold rush in the middle of the 19th century at the old Paddock Mine.  There are still enthusiasts who hike into the woods there and pan the streams looking for granules of the evasive gold.  As with everything there are those who would invest heavily in the process, and instead of panning for gold they bring motorized dredges into the streams that disrupt the integrity of the stream and create a lot of noise.  New Hampshire allows panning for gold in streams on public land but you can’t bring a shovel into the stream with you to dig out the bed.

Rhode Island had its own minor gold rush in 1738, but it too proved to be short-lived.  The Durfee Gold Mine in Providence County caused a minor stir at the time, and there are still people looking for gold in that area.  Vermont seems to have some minor gold placers in the Ottauquechee River.  Connecticut has some gold placers in the Farmington River and there will probably be people out there panning for gold in that river this year.  Massachusetts has gold placers in the Deerfield and Westfield Rivers, and likely in other Berkshire rivers that feed the Connecticut River.

The trick is to actually find the stuff if you’re so inclined.  As with most gold prospecting, you have to ask how much is your time worth?  Time is a priceless commodity, and there’s just not much of a return on investment in panning for gold in a New England river.  It’s a bit too needle in a haystack random to be worthwhile.  Then again, I do buy a lottery ticket once in a while.

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