We Found Gold in Nugget Lake, Wisconsin
Written By: Janette Locke | Posted: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
"We're going to get rich for free!" thousands of people raged as
they feverishly rushed from their homes and scattered to California, Alaska and the Yukon Territory in 1849. Gold had just been discovered and was free for the taking if you could get to it before everyone else did and if you didn't die while searching for it. But after several years, the American Gold Rush passed and the raging gold fevers cooled down as people returned home. Despite the end of America's great Gold Rush, gold's allurement didn't die. Small gold mines continued operating for several years after the thousands of money-hungry, frantic searchers had dissipated, and prospectors continued roaming the country. They enjoyed the thrill off digging money out of the wild and keeping it as the valuable fruits of their labor.
Many years after the Gold Rush, Jared Hanson, a hobbyist gold prospector from Augusta, found gold in Nugget Lake. In fact, he discovered it within the last two years. He hasn't found very much, but it's enough to keep him searching for more. Why did he start looking for gold in the first place?
He said, "I like the outdoors; I like rugged wildernesses which is where you have to go to get the really good gold. And I like the idea of digging money out of the ground. Money that's never been seen before; it's putting something new into the economy."
The only problem with his searches for gold? It's not enough.
"I haven't found enough gold to make a living at it, not even close, but I have found specks. I can go out for three or four hours and find maybe $3 to $4 worth of gold. So it's not a money making venture in Wisconsin, from my experience. And as far as I know, no small time operation has ever made a profit or even tried to make a profit with gold. In the past, when they first discovered gold at Nugget Lake, there were a few people that did produce gold 'commercially', but, no, you can't make a living at it."
If you can not profit from searching for gold, then why spend the time and energy looking for it? The same reason you would pursue any other hobby whether it's profitable or not.
Jared has some big dreams about gold prospecting and he describes what made him interested in the valuable particles and nuggets in the first place.
"I've always had this sort of romantic notion about gold from reading about the 49er's and the gold rushes in California, Alaska and the Yukon Territory. That notionhas been there for a long time, and then I found a cable T.V show about gold prospecting and started watching that and realized that it could be a realization for me to actually get out there and do some stuff. That's where I got started. I saw the techniques and realized, 'Hey, this is something anybody can do' and I joined a prospector's association made up of 3, 000 American prospectors across the country.
"Gold isn't simply sitting out there in the open waiting to be snatched up. So, if an average Joe decides to go searching for gold, where would he start? Jared tells how he found Wisconsin's few golden spots.
"This book that I got from the prospecting association that I joined had a very small section on gold in Wisconsin. It mainly talked about the glacial drift. Theoretically, the gold was brought down from the glaciers and as the glaciers receded they dropped the rocks and with the rocks they also dropped gold. The natural way gold collects is by streams and waterways so the focus would be fast-running waterways that drain out of glacial deposits. That book was the start of the information I found and then there were three or four other websites that pinpointed some locations that are within two or three hours driving distance from here. It named right down to the sections in the townships so I could go to those very sections."
The Coulee region seems to be sparsely supplied with gold because of the way it's naturally formed.
Jared said, "Generally speaking, in the Coulee Region, no, you are not going to find a lot of gold if even any at all. It would take a lot, a lot of time to prospect to find even the smallest amounts of gold simply because of the way gold occurs. When gold occurs, geologically speaking, it occurs typically in granite, limestone and quartz and you don't have a lot of that in the Coulee region. Mostly you have sandstone, hills and cliffs and there's just no gold associated with that."
He continued on describing one of the places where he did discover some gold, "Nugget Lake is an exception (to the rest of the Coulee Region) because it appears to be a meteorite impact zone. It's about a four mile diameter crater, and you have to really look close to be able to pick out the edges of the crater, but its there. As you are driving to Nugget Lake the conventional way, you come over the one crest of the hill and you can see that from all directions it slowly pours down into a valley that these two creeks run through. It's been studied hundreds of times by several geology students from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota, and their conclusions are that it's a meteorite impact
crater which would have created the processes necessary to form gold and to create whatever gold needs in order to occur in the area."
Besides Nugget Lake, there are a few other areas around Eau Claire that have the right conditions for gold to appear, and people have found gold in these areas.
Jared said, "With the glacial drift areas, the main focus (in Wisconsin) is going to be streams and rivers that drain out of the glacial areas. You think of rivers like the Rush River, even the St. Croix River, the Flambeau River, the Chippewa River, the Yellow River, the Popple River and the Pine River