Have you heard about Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC? The very first gold ever discovered in the United States was at Little Meadow Creek and what would soon become the Reed Gold Mine. Visit Little Meadow Creek, tour the underground gold mine, and try your hand at panning for gold. Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site is an amazing place to visit. Admission is totally free. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your own visit to Reed Gold Mine.
History of Reed Gold Mine
Where was the first gold in the United States discovered? Right in Cabarrus County, NC at Little Meadow Creek. Really! In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed skipped church to go fishing at Little Meadow Creek where he found a 17-pound gold nugget. He brought it home to his father but no one realized it was gold for another 3 years when Conrad’s father, John Reed brought the nugget to Fayettville and sold it to a jeweler for just $3.50, a single week’s wages for the farmer, even though it was actually worth $3,600. Shortly after this John Reed partnered with some of his neighbors and started mining operations at the creek and surrounding area.
The whole thing sparked this country’s first gold rush. Who knew!? I love discovering new things with my kids.
Seriously cool history happened at Reed Gold Mine and you can see it for yourself!
Things to See When You Visit Reed Gold Mine
When you first arrive at Reed Gold Mine you’ll pull into the gravel drive and park in the large lot. Then, head to the Visitor’s Center building. Here you’ll be able to grab a free map for a self-guided tour of the mine, both above and underground. If you are interested in panning for gold, this is also where you can purchase tickets for gold panning.
Panning for Gold
If you’d like to try your hand at panning for gold, purchase your tickets at the Visitor’s Center upon arrival. Tickets are $3 per pan of dirt. We were told about 1 in 7 pans actually contains gold. But, each of my 4 kids panned and 3 of them had gold in their pans!
Just take your tickets down the gravel path the short distance to the panning area. There you’ll be given a pan of dirt from Little Meadow Creek. While you won’t find any 17-pound chunks of gold like Conrad Reed, there is still gold to be found and a lot to learn.
The gentlemen who helped us with the panning were a wealth of knowledge about panning for gold and the mine. For example, did you know the phrase “get down to the nitty-gritty” comes from gold mining? The “nitty-gritty” is the pile of rocks and gravel, and maybe gold, left after the dirt is washed away. The gold is denser than the dirt, so even small flakes stay with the “nitty-gritty” as the dirt is swirled and rinsed out of the pan. That makes the nitty-gritty the important part in your pan, hence the saying “get down to the nitty-gritty.”
If you do find gold in your pan, the gentlemen at the panning area will put it into a small vile for you to bring home!
The Reed Gold Mine Tour
Pick up a FREE self-guided tour brochure at the Visitor’s Center. It has an easy-to-follow map of the underground and surface mining areas of Reed Gold Mine, with numbered stations. Just read the short text at each stop and you’ll be learning a lot of gold mining history.
On your tour, you will actually be able to go 50 feet underground into the mine. There you’ll see quartz veins that were followed in search of gold as well as old mining equipment. You’ll also learn about how mining was done in Reed Gold Mine and North Carolina. The self-guided tour page will be extremely helpful as there is nearly no explanatory signage within the mine beyond labels that match the tour sheet.
Things to Remember in the Mine
A note for parents: This is NOT a place to let kids run on ahead. There are old sections of the mind blocked off with boards such that you can see into the old tunnels, but small kids could squeeze through. Stay together.
Worried about being underground? I am not a fan of small spaces so, I was a little worried about going underground. But, really, it was so cool, I didn’t care. The mine is well lit, the paths are gravel and clearly marked, and you don’t need to be underground for a really long time to see everything. That said, I was glad to see the sun again, and it did make me think about the people who spent many hours underground mining quartz veins for gold right in that very spot.
When we are in the area again, I’m definitely going back.
Continue the Reed Gold Mine Tour Above Ground
The tour continues on the surface with a trail that takes you past the surface equipment at the top of the mine shaft, through the area where the small mine town of Brunerville stood, and past mill stones and a stamp mill showing how mining in methods at this site changed over time.
The Visitor’s Center
Inside the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find a small but informative museum on gold, mining at Reed and in the area, as well as other types of mining. It’s not a hands-on type of museum but it’s very informative and interesting to see examples of the equipment used for this work over time. The museum is also free to explore.
A small gift shop is located at the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and restrooms are located just outside the museum and Visitor’s Center.
What we loved about Reed Gold Mine & Things to Know
- The grounds and the mine are very well maintained. And, the self-guided tour is extremely informative and interesting. This site would be excellent both as a family adventure or a group field trip.
- Gold panning is amazing. Even if you don’t find gold, you’ll learn so much science and history about gold mining!
- Allow about 2 hours to visit everything, more if you really want to take your time.
- There is a picnic area on site. No food is available for purchase, so do plan to bring your picnic or snacks to enjoy.
- Admission is free. We LOVE free things to do, especially educational free things to do. Even if you choose to pay for panning, it’s a very inexpensive place to visit.
Reed Gold Mine Hours:
Tuesday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm
Panning is available from April through the end of October.