If you fancy yourself a modern-day prospector or just want to get in touch with the rich history in Clear Creek County, you could strike gold at the Phoenix Gold Mine in Idaho Springs.
Phoenix Gold Mine Tours and Panning offers year-round tours of the underground mine and lessons on how to pan for gold. In the spring, participants can pan for gold in the Rocky Mountain Creek on site and keep what they find; it's naturally stocked with gold and minerals, according to owner David Mosch.
“People actually have over the years found substantial pieces,” Mosch said.
By substantial, he estimated pieces of gold that could fetch around $500.
The mine, which has been family-owned since 1968, still has the permits and abilities to mine. Though Mosch explained his long lineage of prospectors fell more in love with the educational aspect of the mine.
“One thing led to another, and we started making more money showing people the mine than actually mining,” he said.
Phoenix Gold Mine estimates that it has produced over 100,000 troy ounces — the system of weights for precious metals and gems — of gold.
Mosch estimated that Idaho Springs has produced a million troy ounces of gold, but not much since the 1950s.
According to Mosch, the old folk story of how panning for gold came to be comes from a man camping along a creekside. The story goes that he was scouring his pan with gravel from the creek, and as the rocks fell away, he was left with pieces of gold.
The method has long been one of the cheapest and most accessible ways to find gold, and at the Phoenix Mine, you can still do it today.
While much of the “strike it rich” gold is long gone with the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of the late 1800s, Mosch explained that many private streams, including the one on the property of the mine, will continue to have gold for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.
“As long as the mountain slowly runs away, a little bit of gold dust comes off the hillside,” he said.
So while you may only find some flakes, you can join the long-standing history of mining and panning in the county still today.
Tours of the Phoenix Gold Mine are open year-round, seven days a week. The mine offers online reservations but also accepts walk-ups when available. The mine is family and dog friendly and does school trips. Learn more and book online at https://www.phoenixgoldmine.com/.