Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gold Rush in the North Georgia Mountains!

Dahlonega Gold Museum
With the holiday season now here, the ideal place to look for a nice piece of gold this year might be a stream in the North Georgia mountains!
It is a little known fact that 20 years before the California Gold Rush of 1849, the mountains of Georgia were the scene of America's first major gold rush. Residents of the area around what is now Dahlonega called it the "gold fever" and within just months of the discovery of the first nugget, thousands of men made their way in from all over the United States to search for the elusive yellow metal.

There was so much gold in the North Georgia mountains that Dahlonega was made the site of a U.S. Branch Mint by Congress. Between 1838 and 1861, the mint there turned out $6,000,000 in gold coins. And the face value of those coins was based on the early 19th century evaluation of gold!

Panning for Gold in North Georgia
USFS Photo
The gold rush began in the winter of 1828-1829 when a bit of gold was found in an area about 30 miles north of the Georgia town of Gainesville. This was the area that is now part of Lumpkin County and in the vicinity of the soon to rise boomtowns of Dahlonega and Auraria.

Within just three years after the discovery, an estimated $212,000 in gold was brought out of the North Georgia mountains (in 1831 dollars!). Based on the current prices, that amount of gold today would be worth $18,586,900.

Gold Stream in North Georgia
By 1831, Georgia was America's top gold producing state. The boom days continued until 1849, when news spread east of the strike at Sutter's Mill in California. The departure of so many miners for the west prompted concerns at the U.S. Branch Mint in Dahlonega. Dr. Matthew Stephenson, an assayer for the mint, took to the steps of the Lumpkin County Courthouse (now the Dahlonega Gold Museum) to urge miners to stay.  Pointing at surrounding ridges, he correctly prophesied that millions of dollars in gold remained to be found there.  It is said that he was the first person to use the now well-known phrase, "There's gold in them there hills!"

There is still gold in those hills. As gold prices have soared over the last few years, a whole new generation has begun panning the streams of North Georgia.

To learn more, please visit

While there, be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the page to Dahlonega, the Dahlonega Gold Museum and the U.S. Branch Mint at Dahlonega.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ichetucknee Springs State Park - Fort White, Florida

Head Spring at Ichetucknee Springs State Park
While most people head to the mountains in search of fall color, Florida offers a chance to see fall and winter color of a different kind!
Take Ichetucknee Springs State Park, for example. Located at Fort White the park is only 20 minutes from I-75 at Lake City. The blue color of its water on sunny fall days is absolutely remarkable.

Ichetucknee Springs (the name is said to be an Indian word meaning something like "place of the otters") is actually a group of seven large springs that are among the most remarkable in the world. They pour out an astounding 85 billion gallons of crystal clear water each year, straight up from the Floridan Aquifer.

Interpretive Panel at Ichetucknee Springs
Fall and winter is actually a great time to visit the park because the swarms of people that flood there to swim, tube and canoe during the summer tend to vanish after Labor Day.  When I stopped by Ichetucknee in late October, I saw only two other people the entire time I was there.  If you like peace and quiet and scenic beauty, now is the time to go.

The springs are also rich in history. Hernando de Soto passed through the area in 1539, taking a Timucuan Indian chief and his daughter hostage and forcing many of their followers into slavery.

Clear Blue Water at Ichetucknee Springs
In 1608 the Mission San Martin de Timucua was established at Fig or Mission Springs in the park. Consisting of a church, convento (friar's home), plaza and cemetery, it was associated with a large village of Timucuans.  The Franciscan friars worked at Mission San Martin until 1656, converting many of the villagers to Christianity, before the mission was destroyed in an uprising by its inhabitants.

In later years Florida's famed Bellamy or Pensacola to St. Augustine Road passed by the springs and they were a popular stopping point for visitors making their way through the wilderness of Territorial Florida.

To learn more about the history and natural beauty of Ichetucknee Springs, please visit

Saturday, November 5, 2011

National Naval Aviation Museum & 100 Years of Naval Aviation

World War II Aircraft
2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the year that the U.S. Navy first took to the air.  That entire span of history can be viewed at the outstanding National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Located on board Naval Air Station, Pensacola, the museum preserves aircraft and artifacts from all eras of Naval Aviation. Exhibits range from displays of the earliest types of aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy to the reconstructed deck of an aircraft carrier to artifacts from the exploration of space. It is a little known fact that the first American in space, Alan B. Shepard, was a naval aviator.

Jet Fighters
The museum offers a chance for visitors to get up close to some of the most powerful weapons of war ever created. Fighter planes from all eras of the 20th century are on display, along with trainers and other aircraft. From jet fighters that saw service around the world to World War II planes recovered from the deep and even the biplane trainer flown by President George H.W. Bush, the aircraft displays are remarkable and fascinating.

Visitors to the National Naval Aviation Museum can also experience what it is like to fly in some of the U.S. Navy's top aircraft thanks to MaxFlight 360 flight simulators. These remarkable simulators offer the chance to "fly" in 3D and feel what it is like to be in air to air combat.

The museum also preserves and displays artifacts and exhibits that tell the stories of heroism exhibited by some of America's finest pilots and crews in conflicts including World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East campaigns.

To learn more, please visit