By Sue Rodman
Past the strip malls and new housing developments, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the lively town of Dahlonega, Ga. Dahlonega is the site of the country’s first gold rush and there is still gold in them there hills, although it’s more of the tourist variety now, than the shiny yellow metal.
We began our visit with a stop at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau on the Dahlonega Square and picked up the Gold Fever Tour package. The package includes admission to the Dahlonega Gold Museum that is housed on the square in the old courthouse; a tour of the Consolidated Gold Mine, an underground mine just outside of town; and a tour of the Crisson Gold Mine. In addition, the package includes gold and gem panning.
The Gold Museum is an excellent place to start and really gives an overview of the gold rush and the different types of mining in the area (placer, hydraulic, and hard rock), as well as information about the history of the town of Dahlonega. The package includes tours of both Consolidated and Crisson mines. I recommend seeing both, if time and budget allow. Crisson had more equipment (plus a genuine moonshine still) and we felt better panning. However, I’d skip the wagon ride ($2.50) extra. It’s ok and you see a hydraulic hose, but it’s not worth the additional money in my opinion. The underground mine tour at Consolidated was unbeatable. The tour takes you down into an actual mine and does a great job of telling how gold was hard rock mined and what it was like to be a miner. If you can only manage one tour, either for time or money reasons, hit Consolidated. They also have panning and gem mining and it’s the only place to actually go into a hard rock mine.
When you go, budget some time to spend roaming around Downtown Dahlonega. On Saturday afternoons from 2 -5pm in late April – early Oct., locals bring their banjos and fiddles and gather at the Gold Museum for the Appalachian Jam. The General Store is a great place to find everything from panning equipment to toys to homemade jam. We had several restaurants recommended to us and settled on Connie’s Ice Cream Parlor and Sandwich Shop – mainly because I love ice cream. We also headed out of town and ate at the award winning Smokin Gold BBQ. I would recommend the brisket – Mmmmm it was Gooood.
Dahlonega is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The start of the Appalachian trail is right outside of town and there are eight waterfalls within Lumpkin County and the surrounding areas. If you’re only hitting a few of the waterfalls, go with the big ones like Amicalola Falls State Park and Anna Ruby Falls. We tried to find Dick’s Creek Falls and had some difficulty, plus although pretty, it wasn’t as spectacular as the other two.