Gold Occurrences in Illinois

You might not exactly figure that you could find gold on the waterfront of Chicago or along the many beaches that are found on the shores of Lake Michigan, but that may be a very likely place to look. The USGS reports that there is no minable gold from Illinois even though the same glaciers that brought gold down from the Abitibi region in Canada no doubt affected the state of Illinois to as far south as the Ohio River. There are some old reports that mention lode gold being found in the state that might be credible.

Gold panning in a small stream.
Photo by Sylvia Duckworth

There are some reports mentioning that there was a small amount of gold found from quartz geodes that were discovered while digging a shaft in the dolomite of Stephenson County. This is located in the upper Mississippi Valley lead and zinc mining area. There were also reports into Peoria Star-Journal that are dated August 6, 1975 that a small amount of gold was recovered from a mine shaft dug in Bald Knob a large hill in Union County.

Mostly gold found in Illinois came from the Abitibi Gold Belt and to the north in Canada. This gold bearing region extends from Wawa, Ontario to Val D’or, Qu├ębec and is one of the largest gold bearing regions on earth that since gold was originally discovered in 1909 has produced over 160,000,000 ounces of gold. This not only brought down into Illinois placer gold that is found in the rivers and streams throughout the state, but also there are reports of boulders containing gold that is said to be 
worth as much as $25 per ton.

A $20 gold piece known as a Gold Eagle.

Placer gold has been reported from several localities in Illinois including:
1. The Sangamon River Valley in Macon County,
2. The Mississippi River Valley and a small tributary in Henderson County,
3. The Illinois River Valley in Fulton County,
4. The Spoon River Valley in Fulton County,
5. An outwash plain in McHenry County.
Most of gold found in Illinois is from the northern part of the state including Chicago where most of it is concentrated in the so-called terminal moraines that were left by the glaciers and are recognized by their stomach he appearance. The gold found their death and rebirth and concentrated by the action of flowing water in the rivers and streams that are found in that part of the state. The gold is found is usually just a few flakes or gold dust that are found in the sand and gravel deposits usually in the bed of a stream or river.

With this kind of gold deposits anyone processing a very large amount of sand and gravel may find that recovering gold can be profitable. This is not a job for a single prospector although he can usually find enough gold to show other people what it looks like, and have some bragging rights.

The operators of sand & gravel pits are in a different situation because they are processing large amounts of sand and gravel every day. They could include a sluice box in their processing spread to concentrate gold from sand. If they are washing sand in their normal course of processing they could very easily place a gold trap in their spreads. A feature of placer mining of this type depends on the fact that most placer gold that is found in Illinois occurs in the sand portion of aggregates. This eliminates the need for processing the gravel portion of the product.

Gold is not the only thing that the glaciers brought down from Canada also brought diamonds, rubies, sapphires and zircons. These gems have been found as reported in “Canadian Diamonds,” a special report published during the summer of 2008 by the Northern Miner. Some of these diamond deposits are found in classical kimberlite deposits. Other occurrences are found in ancient gravel deposits that have solidified as conglomerate. The final source is alluvial diamonds and other gems brought down from Canada by the glacier..