Ready to get your hands dirty and do something really different—like mining for gemstones and gold? If you are, you are in the right place for it! Within an hour’s drive from Applewood Manor are some of the most important mining districts in the world. You can go home with a pocket full of real gemstones including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarine, topaz or even a gold nugget or prehistoric fossil. There are a lot of options. One, for example, is a half an hour away, near the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest, 3338 Asheville Hwy, Pisgah Forest. But the best for your mining adventure is probably Emerald Village, a scenic spot that is home to twelve different mines, where you can mine for gems and gold. The village is about an hour’s drive from Applewood Manor and is located at 331 McKinney Mine Road, Spruce Pine. It is open 7 days a week, but like most area mines is only open from April through October.
You will not need to bring a pickaxe. The mine operator has built a flume—a trough with a bench along its length through which water from a running stream is redirected to run through the flume. You load dirt into your screen-box (a wood sided box with a screen bottom). You let the water run through your screen box and wash away the mud to discover the treasure left behind—any of some 25 different gemstones. Mine operators are there to help with technique and identification. And best of all, you get to keep everything you find—no matter how valuable. Gems come in just about every color imaginable. rubies are silky red. sapphires are usually blue but can come in every other color. Garnets are glassy red, pink, or reddish brown. Moonstones have a flat box shape and are white or gray, as well as peach or chocolate brown. Quartz comes in clear colors like amethyst and citrine or sometimes opaque colors with mica flecks like aventurine. Quartz crystals are clear and smooth multisided. As for gold, I don’t need to tell you what that treasure looks like.
Plan on making a day of it. In addition to mining work at the flumes, you can tour the actual mines dug into the mountain, visit exhibits and gift shops. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds. While you don’t need a pickaxe or shovel, there are some things you should bring along for your mining work–Ziploc bags to hold your gems. No glass is allowed in the flume area. If you don’t want dirt under your fingernails, bring along rubber gloves. And dress for mining—old clothes and tennis shoes or boots. They are likely to get muddy, so you may want an extra pair to wear in the car.
If you catch “gem or gold fever” and want more there are still more mining opportunities. Here are a few:
- Thermal City Gold Mine: An authentic gold mine dating back to the 1800s gold rush. You can pan for gold and screen for gems, and you can even talk to a real prospector. They are open from March-October and are located 43 miles east of Asheville at 5240 US-221, Union Mills.
- Elijah Mountain Gem Mine: Gems include rubies, sapphires, emeralds, quartz crystals, citrine, amethyst, garnets, aventurine, sodalite, opal, fluorite, aquamarine, and others. Their flumes are covered for mining rain or shine. The mine is located thirty miles from Applewood Manor at 2120 Brevard Rd, Hendersonville.
- Gem Mountain: Gems include emeralds, aquamarines, moonstones, garnets, citrine, amethyst, rubies, sapphires, and others. Fresh materials are brought fresh to the flumes daily. It is an hour’s drive from downtown Asheville at 13780 Highway 226 South, Spruce Pine.
- Gold City Gem Mine: Their claim to fame is the 1061 karat sapphire discovered there! In addition to mining gems, you can pan for gold. Gold City provides an optional inside heated flume for cold days. The mine is an hour’s drive from Applewood Manor at 9410 Sylva Rd, Franklin.