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There are many locations within Iowa where gold can be found. In general, the gold in Iowa is relatively fine (flour gold) compared to other states, but it does exist none the less! Gold is present from glacially deposited material that covers much of the state. It is supposedly from Minnesota and Canada, with the glaciers eroding those gold rich rocks, mixing them with other rocks and depositing them in Iowa. The largest concentrations are along rivers and streams that cut through these glacial deposits. Focus on deposits of "black sand" and especially in areas of dark red, iron oxidized and hematite rich areas above creek banks...these will typically always provide the richest returns with occasional flakes! (I'm still hunting for a nugget...I'm sure some are there...somewhere!) Here are some locations gold has been reported:
Adel: Flour gold can be found along the Racoon River and tributaries near Adel in Dallas County. (NTO can confirm this, having found fine glacial gold in nearby tributaries.)
Bush Creek & the Volga River: Fayette and Clayton Counties.
Des Moines River: Near Pella, Douds and Farmington. Fine gold has been found near the Pella-Harvey bridge just North of Harvey. The fine gold is usually found in the sand layer in the river bank.
Douds: Check local bodies of water, rivers and streams. Especially the Des Moines River.
Eldora: Gold was reportedly found 7 miles north of the town along the Iowa River and also south of town. It is also the site of one of the few minor "gold rush" areas in the state. READ THIS fine article.
Farmington: Check local bodies of water, rivers and streams, especially the Des Moines River.
Fayette County: Glacial deposits of gold can be found along the Volga river.
Hardin County: Gold was reported found in this area around 1877 by old prospectors and there are also reports that they buried their gold nuggets along the Iowa River.
Iowa River: In Hardin County around Iowa Falls. Fine gold has been found about 2.5 miles Northwest of Le Grand at the Three Bridges County Recreation area. The area has been on the north side of the river, just west of the old 1880s bridge found in the center of the park.
Little Sioux River: Klondike in Lyon County (One of Iowa's only commercial gold mining ventures).
Okoboji: Gold can be found in the various Lakes in the area. (NTO can confirm this, having found some very fine glacial gold on a shoreline.)
Otter Creek: Near West Union. In 1904, the Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report XV stated that $1-$1.50 worth of gold could be panned from Otter Creek by a patient washer in a day. (Gold was around $20.50 an ounce at that time).
Skunk River: Some flake gold has been found in the South Skunk River, Southwest of Newton and near Highway 14.
Steamboat Rock: Hardin County.
Wadena: 4 miles west of town off of a gravel road.
Yellow Banks State Park: Located near Altoona. Gold supposedly found nearby.
Bayard: Green County. In the 1960's, several boys are to have discovered some old fruit jars that contained $11,000 in cash and gold coins. Many began searching their backyards with a variety of claims and counterclaims ensuing. There may have been more out there. The property where it was found was owned by one Mr. Rosenback.
Bellevue: Near the southern edge of town, Mississippi River pirates from the 1880's are said to have buried loot in a cave before being hunted down by vigilantes.
Buffalo: Between $35,000-$50,000 in gold was stolen during a train robbery west of Davenport at Buffalo along the Mississippi River. The loot was reported to be buried in a 3-acre lot just off the railroad tracks and a highway near a creek in the area.
Cerro Gordo County: Thomas Nelson buried his hord of wealth and gold coins somewhere on the Winnebago River between Wheeler Ranch and the Horseshoe Bend area in a 3 foot deep hole. He was never able to located the exact spot again.
Clayton County: Reportedly a large army payroll was buried by Miners Creek near Guttenburg. See Guttenburg.
Clinton: A wealthy lumberman is said to have filled an iron cooking pot with stocks, bonds, and gold coins and buried it near the banks of the Mississippi River at what is now River Front Park.
Coralville: Numerous caches may be in the area from Mormon migrations. Hand carts were made here to travel west to Utah.
Council Bluffs: Jesse James is to have buired $35,000 in gold coins a few miles north of Council Bluffs on a farm.
Dallas County: Bonnie and Clyde are said to have buried a large amount of loot (believed around $4,000) at some point in the 1930s. It was reportedly located 3 miles north of Dexter in a wooded area overlooking the Raccoon River.
Decorah: There are stories that buried treasure is associated with Cold Water Cave, about 25 miles from Decorah on the 1935 Gaul farm.
Dubuque: Kelly's Bluff is said to have a miner, Tom Kelly, who buried his personal fortune of gold and valuable in a chest. It is believed to be some $200,000 in gold and silver located somewhere behind Saint Raphaels Roman Catholic Church on Bluff Street in downtown Dubuque.
Eddyville: 3 one-gallon ceramic jugs filled with gold nuggets is buried somewhere North of the cemetary near Eddyville on the Des Moines River. Three prospectors returning from the Black Hills camped at a turn in the trail about one mile north of Eddyville. One of them was killed and his body was reportedly burned and buried at the center of the jugs' burial site. In 1920, a road crew working on the old wagon trail north of Eddyville reportedly uncovered a skull which appeared to have been burned...which possibly adds some validity to this treasure tale.
Eldora: In 1893, a farmer named John W. buried $50,000 in gold coins in casks on his property...which is located some 4 miles from Eldora. He was unable to remember exactly where he had buried his treasure.
Guttenburg: Supposedly an army payroll wagon was robbed around 1842 and an old Indian stated that the gold coins were buried along Miner's Creek near Guttenburg.
Harcourt: Around 1863, there was a grove of trees about 1/2 a mile Southeast of Harcourt on the Orville Anderson Farm. An outlaw reportedly buried his loot there.
Hardin County: Gold was discovered in 1877 and reportedly there are many gold nuggets buried by prospectors who worked the area. Located about 7 miles North of Eldora on the Iowa River.
Redfield: Dallas County. The Barrow's buried some $65,000 in loot along the Racoon River nearby...though this is highly debated. Seek the The Confession of William Daniel Jones for extensive information.
Sabula: Jackson County. Supposedly some horse thieves buried $40,000 in gold coins along the banks of the Mississippi River somewhere North of Sabula where the State Highway 64 bridge crosses the river to Wisconsin.
Shenandoah: Page County. Around $70,000 in gold coins is reportedly hidden by the west bank of the Nishabotua River, north of Shenandoah.
Sioux City: Numberous caches are supposedly buried in Stone Park and in the hills overlooking the bend in the Missouri river at Sioux City.
Stone Park: Woodbury County. Numerous pirate treasures are said to be hidden in Stone Park which overlooks the bend of the Missouri River in Sioux City. Several hundred American silver dollars were reportedly found by a park worker in 1957.
Stratford: The "Banditos of the Plains" outlaws from the 1800's are said to have buried all their stolen money in an Indian mound by a thicket of oak trees somewhere close to where the John Lott Monument now stands. The headquarters were reportedly located at the mouth of the Boone River, 2 miles north of Stratford.
Sunbury: Large sums of money and stock certificates were supposedly buried by the Ives Brothers on their farm near Sunbury. In the 1900's two brothers stole a large sum of paper money from a bank in Sunbury, the loot was never found.
Terre Haute: Decatur County. Located 4 mjiles south of IA-2 on a gravel road, 1 mile West of I-35. A graveyard is nearby. There was a mill and boat traffic on the Thompson Fork of Grand River. There was a trading post upriver about one mile. Copper pots were supposedly buried by Pottawattamie Indians who would return each spring to make maple syrup up until 1880.
Terril: In the 1800s, Red Brussels lived in a log cabin on an Island in Trumbull Lake near Terril. His cache of money and valuables suppsedly remained there.
Ghost Town Sites
Adams County: A town built by the Icarians dates to around 1858. Several buildings can be seen today. It is located around 4 1/2 miles Northeast of Corning.
Albany: Davis County. The town was 5 miles south of Blakesburg on the Blakesburg/Unionville Road at the intersection of the present lake road.
Andersonville: Marion County. Also known as the Anderson Mine. This site was located 3 miels North of Pershing on 165th Avenue where the gas pipeline crosses the road.
Angus: The town was located 4 miles Northwest of Perry on the Boone and Green County line. It was a coal mining town in the 1880's, remembered for many saloons. In 1878 coal was discovered in the area and it became a boom town named Coal Town with over 7,000 residents. In 1881 it was renamed Angus after Richard Angus of the Manitoba & Gulf Railroad fame. There were 9 different coal companies in the area covering a three mile radius and at one time became the leading coal producing center in the state. The Eagle Coal Company was owned by the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad and mined coal for their own power needs. Climax Coal Company had three different mines shipping around 80 carloads of coal a day. A roundhouse, turn table, depot, storage yards, and a huge coal dock were all constructed in the area that headquartered both the MSTL and Des Moines & Fort Dodge crews. In 1905 a miners strike turned violent and the state sent in the militia to stop the uprising. It succeeded, however it caused the demise of the mining industry at this location. From 1905-1920, the MSTL ran four passenger trains daily through Angus. A grain elevator and a few houses remain.
Beaver Island: Clinton County. Located next to Clinton on the Mississippi River. Reportedly settled in 1840 and had 128 residents at ist peak. There was a short fight over which township owned it in 1842, Clinton or Fulton.
Bloomington: Story County. The town was located 1 1/2 miles North East of Ames. It was established in June 1857 and had a schoolhouse.
Buxton: Monroe County. A 1920's coal mining camp. Once one of Iowa's largest with a population around 6,000 at its height.
Cleveland: Lucas County. A mining town around 1880-1908 that had a two story school, company store, post office and a tavern. The town of Lucas is to the west.
Coal Town: See Angus.
Dillon: Marshall County. Take US Highway 30 east out of Marshalltown. Turn South down county road T-31 (called Dillon Road). Head South for 3 miles. You can take 30 to Le Grand and turn down state highway 149 right as you get into town. Head out of Le Grand three miles. The second gravel road is the one you will want to take...head down the gravel road 2 miles and you will end up in Dillon. A few residents still ive in the area which has a railroad track.
Eagle City: Hardin County. A few residents still reside here. It is located next to the Iowa River and located along a gravel road. "Eagle City Access" is a canoe entry spot. At the town is a monument with an eagle on it and an explanation of the history.
Edinburgh: Jones County. A reconstructed village from the pioneer days that includes twelve building on the site of what was once a town. Located Northeast of Anamosa.
Elwell: Story County. At one time it had a post office, ticket office and store. It was a railroad town located 3 miles eats of Cambridge.
Fansler: Guthrie County. A few country homes remain. it is located 5 miles north of Guthrie Center on IA-25 and 2 miels east on gravel road P-18. A few foundations remain and a few old buildings and small coal slag piles. It was located on the banks of the Middle Raccoon River at the headwateres of Lake Panorama. It had a dance hall and small community on the east side of the river. There is a cave/storm cellar built into the river back just above the water level on the east side north of the P-18 bridge.
Floyd City: See Floyds Bluff City.
Floyds Bluff City: Woodbury County. Located near Sgt. Charles Floyd's grave of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It's existance was recorded in 1853 and also known as Floyd City, Thompsonville, and Thompsontown. A trading post and cabin were on the site and teh first recorded murder in Woodbury County is said to have occurred here.
Fort Atkinson: Built in 1832 and abandoned in 1848. While active, U.S. Army troops were stationed here. Located north of Atkinson off State Highway 24.
Fort Defiance: Built in 1862 to protect settlers from Sioux Indians. It was abandoned in 1864. Located off of State Highway 245 about 1 mile Southwest of Estherville.
Fort Dodge: Webster County. Built in the year 1850 for the use of the U.S. 6th Infantry Dragoons who were there to protect settlers from Sioux Indians. It lasted only 3 years. A replica of the fort stands about 1 mile from the original site. Located near the junction of US 20 and US 169, close to Fort Dodge.
Goshen: See Iowa Center.
Hastings Bottom: See Motor.
Hicks: Black Hawk County. Located in Lincoln Township about 2 miles south and 4 miles west of Hudson. Two lines of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad intersected here. The old wagon road from Waterloo to Eldora passed nearby.
Illinois Grove: Story County. It is located Northeast of Zearing close to the Marshall County line. It had a post office in the mid 1800's.
Indianapolis: Mahaska County. Currently farm ground with a sign and a brief history and cemetary. It was home to the first Christian church, a school, a general store, and several blacksmith shops.
Iowa Center: Story County. On SR S27 3 miles North of Maxwell. N41 degrees 55.723'W93degrees 24.317'. A few old houses remain. It was once called Goshen. Originally laid out in 1855 and peaked around 1881. There are signs for Iowa Center on S27 North of Maxwell.
Iowa Phalanx: Mahaska County. Located on the Des Moines River about 16 miles Northwest of Oskaloosa. The town was founded in 1845 by a religious group, and the settlement did not last for very long.
Janice: Monona County. It is located West of the Whiting exit and 3 miles South on the river. It was a farm community in the late 1800's.
Jordan: Boone County. It is located 3 miles East of Boone on a county road located next to the railroad tracks and has a large grain elevator which is visible from some distance. A few residents still live in the area. It was nearly destroyed by an F-5 tornado.
Kossuth: Reportedly this site has more than 300 buildings intact that date back to the late 1800's. Located off of State 61, 2 miles East of Mediapolis.
Mackey: Boone County. It still has a church and cemetary. The site is located a mile over the Boone/Story county line on a paved road in some hills and trees. It reportedly had a meat locker.
Malta: Marshall County. N41degrees 58.289'W93degrees 06.704', 4 miles North of Melbourne. It is on the South side of 265th Street just East of Gerhart Street. It was on the Iowa Central Railroad.
Minerva: Marshall County. Take country road S-62 North off of County Road E-29, about halfway between State Center and Marshalltown. There is a sign for Minerva. Go up S62 a few miles and the road will dip down into a valley. It has a few residents, a few houses and a church. It once had a railroad.
Motor: Clayton County. It has a motor mill, coop, ice house, inn, livery stable and iron bridge. In the 1860's a grist ill, sawmill, far and town at Hastings Bottom near the Turkey River.
New Albany: Story County. Located about 2 miles Southwest of Colo. The townsite is now a field.
New Philadelphia: Story County. It was located in Washington township near Ames and laid out in 1856.
Ormanville: Wapello County. All that remains is a cemetary and a sign with a description of what was once there. It existed around the 1850's.
Ortonville: Dallas County. Located at the intersection of US Highway 6 and County Road R16 about 3 miles East of Adel. It was a circus village where the Orton Brothers wintered over. The old elephant ring was still visible up until the early 1990's.
Otsego: Fayette County. Heading East on Highway 3, turn right onto the gravel Neon Road. Drive about 2 blocks and the cemetary will be on the left, and an occupied house is on the right. It was a stagecoach station. The house that remains used to be the post office.
Owego: Woodbury County. Head South of Sioux City about 20 miles on I-29 to the Salix exit, then go East 6 miles and South on D-48. It is off to the South on a gravel road. Three walls of a two story school remain. It has stories associated with a school fire in the 1930's that killed several children. It also once had a little store and is now a wetland conservation area. Ghost stories are associated with the site also, however local residents do not claim to have seen this.
Peoria City: Story County. Located 4 miles Southeast of Maxwell on the East side of 112th Street just North of where 164th street Intersects at a T from the West at N41 degrees 51.665'W93degrees 22.017' Created in 1852 when originally settled on the East side of Indian Creek. The Peoria Methodist Church and a cemetary are about all that is left.
Petersville: Clinton County. Located in a remote country area on two gravel crossroads. A few residents live in the area and a feed store was once there.
Preparation Canyon State Park: Within the park is a ghost town from a Mormon settlement called Preparation. Only two houses are said to still stand. Located 19 miles North of State Highway 75 and where County 183 junctions.
Quick: Pottawattamie County. Located on Highway 6 about 8 miles East of Council Bluffs at the intersection with County Road L52. A few residents live in the area. It had a post office from 1890-1904 and also had a school and dance hall. The quick store sits on the South side of the highway and a Mason lodge is across the road to the North.
Ramissa: Clinton County. Located on HIghway 30, 2 miles West of Low Moor on the South side of the highway before the railroad tracks. It was halfway between Clinton and DeWitt. Legend has it that trains would fill with water here after comming out of Clinton. Reportedly, a train engineer and the fire man had a fight with local individuals, and after throwing a bucket of hot coals on the trains wooden platform, it burned down the whole town.
Red Rock: Marion County. Covered by Lake Red Rock with the construction of the dam in 1969.
River Sioux: pottawattamie County. Located on the Sioux River, 24 miles north of Missouri Valley. Opposite another ghost town named Malta (see above). It only prospered for around 10 years in the mid 1800's.
Shipley: Story County. Located 2 miles South of Nevada. An old brick school and railroad track remain.
Smaysville: Story County. Located 2 1/2 miles Northwest of Colo. Located where two farms are currently located. It once had a store and several houses. There was a cheese factory or creamery.
Strahan: Mills County. Take Highway 34 East from I-29 about 15 miles to County Road M16, head past the town of Hastings and approximately 5 miles South. A former railroad depot located on the former Wabash Trace Railroad.
Terre Haute: Decatur County. Located 4 miles South of IA-2 on a gravel road, 1 mile West of I-35. A graveyard is nearby. There was a mill and boat traffic on the Thmpson Fork of Grand River. There was a trading post supposedly upriver about 1 mile. Copper pots were reportedly buried by Pottawattamie Indians who would return each spring to make maple syrup up until 1880. There was also a school which burned.
Thompsontown: See Floyds Bluff City.
Thompsonville: See Floyds Bluff City.
Van Cleve: Marshall County. Take County Road E-63 East out of Melbourne a few miles and the road will turn North. At this turn, there is a Van Cleve Park. Turn right (South) at this corner, you will be in Van Cleve on its main street. It was a stop on a railroad track that ran from Newburg to State Center. Several abandoned buildings remain.
Vandalia: Marion County. Located East on County Road 163 from Des Moines and South on a dirt road. During the late 1800's, Vandalia was a prospering agricultural center before it was abandoned.
White Oak: Polk County. Take Northeast 46th Street North out of Elkhart. Go North about 5 miles. The road will turn West for another few miles before turning North again and heading into Story County. On the section of road that heads West, this is White Oak. One abandoned structure reportedly remains.
Zenorsville: Boone County. Located West of Gilbert just over the Boone/Story county line. Take Highway 69 to Gilbert and turn onto the road that goes into town (E-23). Go through Gilbert and keep heading on the road until you reach the junction with R-38 at the county line. Go straight, and the road will turn to well maintained gravel. The road will dip down into a valley and will come back up a steep hill. At the top, there will be an intersection of two gravel roads. This is Zenorsville. Reportedly it was a small mining town.
Surrey: A settlement supposedly two miles west of Angus (see above).
"Unknown": Dallas County. A ghost town is believed to have been located a few miles outside of Granger. A Circus Settlment. (If you know the name or history, please let me know!)
Red Rock: Marion County. This town was covered by Lake Red Rock with the construction of the dam in 1969.
Old Red Rock Indian Line Sycamore Tree: Marion County. It is located within Lake Red Rock. It was reportedly a boundary line marker associated with the 1842 Sauk and Mesquakie treaty cession. The tree is dead, but reportedly still standing in 10 feet of water.
West Okoboji Lake: Lloyd Cunningham has a great website with various things he has found in Lake Okoboji. Learn more HERE.
Devonian Fossil Gorge - Located in Coralville. Explore the spillway to view a wide array of Devonian age fossils. No collecting here (See Rockford below for collecting Devonian Fossils).
Grotto of the Redemption - Located in West Bend. Constructed of a wide array of rocks and minerals. A mineral and fossil specimen display/museum is also at the premise.
Maquoketa Caves StatePark - Located in Maquoketa. A nice State Park with various caves ( Caves currently closed: ...white nose reason, though the bats do just fine passing that between caves themselves with their interaction with other bats.)
Rief Family Mineral and Rock Display - A room full of minerals from various locations, especially from various Iowa localities. There is a small fee to view the collection. Located inside the Visitor Center.
Rockford Fossil & Prairie Center - The old Rockford Brick & Tile Co. pits provide a wide range of devonian age fossils to be freely collected! Great fun for anyone who enjoys collecting marine fossils.
Voas Nature Area & Museum - Located in Dallas County, just west of Minburn. This museum houses a wide array of various mineral specimen, including a fluorescent display, and also has examples of coal mining equipment used in Iowa's past.
H&P Minerals and Gems - Located in Columbus Junction
K&S Detector Sales - Located in Waterloo
Sunray Detectors - Located in Hazleton
Black Hawk Gem & Mineral Club - For those in the Quad-Cities of Iowa and Illinois. Meetings are held September thru May on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 pm at the Hauberg Civic Center, Rock Island, Ilinois. See site for dues.
Cedar Valley Research & Recovery - Located in Cedar Rapids. A group for those who enjoy metal detecting.
Cedar Valley Rocks & Minerals Society - A society for all those interested in rocks, minerals, and geology. They meet the third Tuesday of every month September thru May at 7:15pm at the Rockwell Collins 35th Stree Plant, Cafeteria (Building 140) in Cedar Rapids. See site for dues.
Central Iowa Mineral Society - A society for all those interested in rocks, minerals, fossils, and geology. They meet the first Friday of each month September thru May at 7:30pm in Meredith Hall on the Drake University Campus in Des Moines. See site for dues. (No website at the moment)
Yahoo Groups: Iowa Metal Detecting - An online Yahoo Group of Iowa treasure seekers.
Illinois and Iowa Treasure Hunters Club - Reportedly meet the first Thursday of every month at the Herbert D. Goettsch Community Center, 2204 Grant Street, Bettendorf, IA.
Here is where you can find other individuals to treasure hunt with...perhaps in your area! The e-mail to the associated individual is hyperlinked. Listings are alphabetical by city/town. If you would like your name added here, simply CONTACT me with the name you wanted listed, your state, your city/town, and your preferred e-mail.
Michael S - Waukee (Detecting, Minerals/Fossils, Geology)
Videos and Multimedia
Explore more information and history through these various resources
Laws and Regulations
Laws and Regulations are constantly changing. It is your responsibility to verify this information is still accurate. If you notice anything that needs changed, added, etc. please let me know!
Metal Detecting is prohibited in State Parks and State Recreation areas except as outlined in the Iowa DNR guidelines. (Always verify this, as information may change!)
1.) Designated beach areas. From May 22 to September 7 each year, metal detectors may be used on designated beach areas from 4:00a.m. to 11:00a.m. each day. From September 8 to May 21 each year, metal detectors may be used on designated beach areas from 4:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. each day.
2.) Drained Lakes. When an artificial lake has been drained or the water level lowered for any reason, metal detector use may be allowed from 4:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. only after the lakebed has been thoroughly surveyed for archaeological resources and a survey report has been completed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Office. Check with Park staff to confirm this has been done.
Tools used for digging are limited to: Probes not over 12 inches long, one inch wide and on-qwuarter-inch think. A sand scoop or sieve not over 10 inches in diameter. When digging is done, the excavation shall be limited to three square inches when using probes and 10 inches in diameter when using sand scoops or sieves. The disturbed area is to be restored as close to original condition as possible. A litter apron or bag is required to be worn or carried during metal detector use. All items found are subject to the provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 644.
Read the DNR Site information for guidelines and rules related to Geocaching in State Parks.