Gold Occurrences in Wisconsin

There is gold to be found in Wisconsin in the forms of placer deposits in just about any county in the state that were brought here by the many glaciers that have come down from the gold bearing regions of Canada. It should be remembered by prospectors that Wisconsin is divided geologically into two different parts that are nearly equal in size. In the southern part of Wisconsin the basement rocks are buried under a deep deposit of sedimentary rocks that in some places can be miles deep. The northern part of the state is a continuation of the Canadian Shield.

Bedrock map of the Lake Superior region.

Gold found in the northern part of Wisconsin comes from both small lode deposits as well as widespread placer deposits. The placer gold is found in just about any stream or river in the state as well as the beaches along the southern shores of Lake Superior. The deposits lode gold all discovered in several places up to this point none of them found were economically viable. There are several mines in the northern part of the state that are producing both iron and other base metals. Geologically there is no reason why gold should not be associated with these deposits. Just across the border in Michigan there is working gold mining that is produced gold for many years. Of interest are the copper mines that are found in the northern part of the state where the operators of these mines were well aware of the presence of gold, but for economic reasons they just didn't raise the issue.

Throughout the whole state of Wisconsin there are glacial deposits of placer gold brought down from Canada that by being reworked by running water for placer deposits. These deposits are found in the rivers and streams wherever there is a sudden change of velocity in the running water, or on beaches of the many lakes in the state where the gold is concentrated by wave action. Gold of this nature is usually found in fine grains and what is termed flour gold that forces the prospector to become very skillful in the use of the gold pan recover this gold.

Glacial Deposits
Photo by Richard Webb

The gold isn't the only thing the glaciers brought down from Canada; they also brought down several gemstones including diamond, ruby, sapphire and zircon. Weight for weight the stones are actually worth more than gold with the exception of zircon. Deposits of these gemstones are often found in placer gold deposits because there are also concentrated by the action of flowing water. Like gold the glaciers scattered these gemstones across the whole state.

A glacier.
Photo by Kristan Hutchison

Anyone in Wisconsin is allowed to do what is termed recreational gold panning without having to have a license as long as the stream banks and bottoms are not harmed or large amounts of silt and other waste products is not released into the waters of the State. Any gold you find belongs to the person that holds the mineral rights on the property where you found it. You must get permission from the property owner before you do any panning by reaching some sort of agreement with the holder of any mineral rights before you start gold recovery.