Gold Occurrences in New York State

Although gold is known to occur in New York State a law dating back to the birth of the United States in 1776 dictates that any gold found in the state will remain the property of the State of New York. The effect of this law that is still on the books has acted as a damper on any efforts to find gold. Even if you were to find gold in your own backyard if you read the fine print on your deed you will find that gold does not belong to you but to the state. Efforts are now being made to change that law to date it is still in effect. Not only gold is affected by this law, but so is silver. Plainly the law says all gold and silver deposits found in New York will remain the property of the state. This law has been amended several times over the years allowing the finder of a gold deposit a period of several years to work his claim.

This is what gold looks like in the form of the Latrobe Nugget on display in the London Natural History Museum.
Photo by Gump Stump

Looking at a geological map of New York State it is easy to see that there are several environments in the state that are likely to contain both lode and placer gold. Probably the most likely place where you can find lode gold is in the Adirondacks, and the second most likely place is in the Hudson Highlands, and strangely enough right in New York City. These are areas in New York State where the bedrock is made up of crystalline rocks that may, or may not be the host for gold.

There is a lineation associated with the west bank of the Hudson River called Logan's line that marks the westernmost part of the Taconic orogeny. Anywhere to the east of this line it may be possible to find gold especially in the quartz veins found in the Slate belt of eastern New York along the border with New England.

This is how you pan for gold.  USGS

Two of the counties gathering attention are Columbia and Saratoga counties. Although the particulars of these deposits are not clear from examining the geology found in those counties it is apparent they are probably lode deposits.

Another potential source for gold is found in the conglomerate of both the Schwangunks and Catskills where it was weathered out of high mountain ranges that light to the east. The rocks that are found in the Schwangunks were deposited in the Queenstown Delta, and the conglomerates that are found in the Catskills were eroded from another later mountain range that light even further east. These ancient conglomerates could be the host of fossilized placer deposits similar to the Witwatersrand Reef in South Africa, the world's largest deposits of gold.

It may look like Manhattan, but there is likely to be gold under its streets.
Wikimedia Commons

There is likely to be gold found in placer deposits across the length and width of New York that were brought down by the action of continental glaciers in at least three glaciations in the past 1 million years. Immediately to the north of New York State lies the Abitibi Gold Belt of Québec and Ontario. This extends for over 500 miles from Wawa, Ontario to Val ‘Dor, Québec. The scouring action of the glacier removed any gold that was loose in the soil of these provinces and took it south to be deposited across the width of New York State.

Just to the north of the Pennsylvania State line is the terminal moraine of the last glacier. This is an area that would be no doubt be good for prospecting in the many streams and rivers that cut through the glacial deposits. The action of running water would tend to concentrate any gold that was deposited in this area by the melting of the glaciers.

The plunge pool under Niagara Falls probably contains gold if you can find a way to get it!
Wikimedia Commons

The other big terminal moraine in the state is Long Island, there is the possibility that a small amount of gold was brought down from New England by the glaciers forming deposits in the sand and gravel.

Although you may not get rich hunting for gold in New York State at least there is enough that may be found to at least see what it looks like. Maybe someday the state assembly will change the law about the possession of gold to where the average New Yorker will be able to keep any gold that he finds.