MORGANTOWN — Rising gold prices are sparking an Indiana gold rush as prospectors pan for the precious metal in the state’s streams.
Gold finds have been reported in 20 counties, and membership in the Central Indiana Gold Prospectors Association of America has grown from 25 in 2008 to 280 in June. Several businesses have sprung up around the state catering to amateur and experienced prospectors.
“They call it gold fever,” said Alan Oden, 62, who lets prospectors pan for gold in Pike Creek on his 32-acre property near Morgantown.
But even with gold prices hitting $1,200 an ounce this year, Indiana residents shouldn’t expect to strike it rich.
Most nuggets found in Indiana are worth an average of $25 — about enough to cover the cost of renting trowels and pans. Occasionally, prospectors will find a nugget worth as much as $70.
Streams in Brown, Monroe and Morgan counties are popular sites for prospectors because they contain glacial gravel from the Ice Age.
State guidelines dictate where and when prospectors can work. The rules were adopted in December in response to a 2007 incident in which seven prospectors were cited by the Department of Natural Resources for extracting minerals without a permit in the Wabash River in Cass County.