NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Strike It Rich at Lake Anna State Park

By: Michelle Harper

Panning for gold at Lake AnnaLake Anna State Park, located off Rt. 208 in Spotsylvania, Virginia is well known for boating, fishing and swimming. Surprisingly, the great water wonderland known as Lake Anna was initially formed to supply water coolant for the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant located 5 miles southeast of the park but in 1971 Lake Anna was given to the state of Virginia for recreational use and in 1983 Lake Anna State Park was established. In addition to its natural beauty, the park's 2,058 acres also include a lesser known treasure - gold (at least the remnants of a rich history of gold mining in Virginia).

Lake Anna BeachIf enjoying nature is your goal, the park offers a swimming beach complete with a concession stand, boat launch, scenic picnic areas and 11 hiking trails. Canoes, kayaks, fishing boats, pontoon boats, paddleboats and aqua cycles are also available for rent. In addition to these activities, the Visitor's Center offers many natural and historical exhibits on the area, as well as interpretive programs.

If it is treasure you seek, visit the park during the weekends between April and October. At this time, special programs are offered on the history and methodology of gold mining, as well as a pontoon boat tour of the lake. For a mere $7.00 per person and 3 hours of your time, you can you can take a relaxing cruise, pan for gold and tour the ruins of the 19th century Goodwin Gold mine.

I have to admit that it was the faint remote promise of riches that made Lake Anna State Park our "Destination" for the month of July. With gold fever on our brain, we dreamed of an early retirement. (It seemed like better odds than the lottery). We loaded up and headed out to make our fortune.

Our pilotWe were the first to arrive at the Visitor's Center and eagerly signed up. After a relaxing pontoon boat ride around Lake Anna, we were ready to get dirty and pan for gold. Our guide explained gold mining techniques, as well as the history of gold mining in the area. We were informed that from 1830 - 1849 Virginia was the nation's third leading gold producer. That was, until the California gold rush hit and crushed Virginia's gold mining future as all the mining resources moved west to seek fortune.

In its heyday, Spotsylvania County, located in the heart of Virginia's Gold Pyrite Belt contained over 20 working gold mines. Unfortunately, Virginia's gold mining tradition all but evaporated in 1947 with the closing of the last commercial gold mine. Today, all that remains of the Virginia's golden past is the ruins of Goodwin Gold Mine, which now amounts to a few caved-in shafts and brick piles - a poor testament to a very rich heritage.

Kent trying for a new truckYet, there still had to be gold remaining to be discovered (or so we hoped). During the gold panning demonstration, we began furiously swirling mud and rocks around against the riffles (ridges) of our gold pan. As we worked away, our guide informed us that it takes and average of 8000 pounds of ore to produce and ounce of gold. Not to be discouraged, we decided that we would just need to set our sights a little lower as we searched carefully through the muddy water for any gleaming flecks. We were taught the true test to determine whether it was true gold or gold pyrite (fool's gold) was to press down with your finger nail. If it dented, it was the real thing. If it shattered, it was gold pyrite.

Gold! - Not.Though we learned quite a bit about gold mining, we didn't find our fortune. In fact, all we ended up with were dishpan hands and a fingertip full of "fool's gold". It looked like we were going to have to go back to work on Monday after all. Though we struck out with the real stuff, the memories were golden. So pack your fishing pole, your bathing suite, your picnic lunch and your dreams and head out to Lake Anna State Park. No matter how you look at it, this place is a real treasure.

Fees and Event Times:
Parking: $4.00
Swimming all day: $4.00
Pontoon Boat Tour 1:00 PM: $2.00
Panning For Gold 2:00 PM: $2.00
Gold Mine Tour 3:00 PM: $3.00

Space is very limited (maximum of 12 people in some programs) and is reserved on a first come first served basis. Sign up at the Visitors Center (opens at 11:00 AM)

For more information visit:
Lake Anna State Park
6800 Lawyers Road
Spotsylvania, VA 22553-9645
Phone:(540) 854-5503

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