Who hasn’t heard the expression, “There’s gold in them thar hills!”. Well, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the really is gold. And you can learn all about it, and maybe take some home with you, at Big Thunder Gold Mine.
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Big Thunder Gold Mine is located in the picturesque town of Keystone, SD. The town is home to over forty different gift shops, and offers accommodations in the form of nine hundred hotel rooms. It is situated just three miles from Mount Rushmore National Monument, and just twenty miles from Rapid City. And one of the main attractions of the town itself is its own gold mine.
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Big Thunder Gold Mine started life as the Gold Hill Lode, when it was discovered in 1892 by two German immigrant miners. It may have started life as a productive gold mine, but now functions as an ideal educational tool about the Victorian mining industry. The mine tours are universally accessible, with well-lit and easy to traverse pathways. Here you can learn about mining, and gold panning, from knowledgeable guides. All ages will enjoy the experience.
Next, you can pan for your own gold. Expert gold panners provide instruction in panning techniques. The lessons can take from forty-five minutes to an hour or more, depending on how committed you are. Raw material is available for a fee for each pan, but the pans may be shared among your group, if you don’t want to hog all the riches for yourself.
In addition to the mine and the panning experience, Big Thunder Gold Mine also has a charming gift shop, offering souvenirs and crafts from the surrounding Black Hills. You can find everything from tee shirts to gemstones. You can even do a bit of wine tasting! And the restaurant on-site offers up local fare, serving everything from hot dogs and burgers to miners’ stew and game.
The Big Thunder Gold Mine is a great place to visit if you want to familiarize yourself with the local gold mining traditions. (Or simply want to take a bit of treasure home with you!) The facility is open from April through October, with tours during the winter months by reservation. Check it out! Even if you don’t find gold, you’ll be richer for the experience.