Most people are unaware that the very first Gold Rush in the US was in Monroe County, Tennessee, right in the area of Coker Creek. Gold was first discovered here in 1827 but the land was owned by the Cherokee nation at the time and the boom was considered as unofficial.
The “official” boom didn’t start until around 1836 when it became clear that the native Cherokee and other tribes would not lay claim on the gold since they were being deported on the infamous “Trail of Tears” ordered by Congress and President Andrew Jackson, in defiance of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.
As soon as it became clear that all potential problems were cleared, the Gold Rush began. By then, however, the “first official” Gold Rush had already started in Dahlonega, Georgia.
The Gold belt lies within the Cherokee National Forest and surrounding areas. Gold panning is allowed throughout the forest, but to dredge or sluice you need a permit. Contact the Tellico Ranger District, 250 Ranger Station Road, Tellico Plains TN 37385. Phone 423-253-8400.
Contact the local GPAA chapter (Gold Prospecting Association of America) to find out where to obtain tools for prospecting, i.e., prospecting supplies, gold pans, metal detectors and gemstones. They may refer you to a local member who can let you try “backyard sleucing” for Tennessee gold and gems for a small fee. Check out the resources at www.TNGold.com.
You might also be able to pan for gold at The LOST SEA off Highway 68 just south of Sweetwater, TN and Exit 60 off I-75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville. In addition to the largest underground lake in North America, these folks have a regular pioneer village and General Store on hand where you can discover gold in many forms. They used to have have an authentic mining sleuce on site for visitors, but I would advise you to call ahead to make sure before making the trip.