Gem Mining Trips – Time to Plan One
Spring is officially here and its time for those who are crazy about rocks to plan their next trip. I plan to make at least one trip to Franklin, NC this year and can hopefully fit in a second trip later in the year.
Some of the mines in Franklin open around April 1st this year. Others wait until closer to May 1st. Why the difference? My personal opinion is it depends on how hardy the mine owner is. You see, just because the temperature outside is well above freezing, it in no way means the water temperature of the flumes won’t make your fingers numb after a while of playing in the water.
In my younger days, it would not have bothered me to spend all day with my hands in 45 degree water. Now however, I wait for the water to warm up a little before spending a day playing in the mud while gem mining.
How much does it cost?
That depends on how long you plan on staying, how far away you live and what you choose to eat while you are there. From my home town, it is only a 2 hour trip to get to Franklin. So I can get up early in the morning and be there about the time the mines open. That saves 1 nights stay in the hotel.
I spend the day at my favorite mine, the Cherokee Ruby Mine. Head back to the hotel when they close and go to another mine the next day for another all day long trip of gem mining. Most of the hotels have kitchenettes with a small fridge and microwave. I bring along a few Tv Dinners and some sandwich materials, bottled water and tea.
By doing it that way, I can go for the 2 day trip for less than $200 including gas, hotel costs, and mining fees. Of course if you are going with additional people, there would be additional costs involved for every part of gem mining.
Expenses at the actual mines vary depending on what type of buckets you are going to search and how many buckets you decide to search. Almost every mine in Franklin has a website these days. I suggest you search for “Franklin NC Gem Mines” and check out each one before you go.
What to Bring
I strongly suggest you bring old clothes and junky shoes. Trust me, you will get wet and muddy. Some flumes are covered and some are not so if you are sensitive to the sun like me, I suggest bringing some strong sun block. The Cherokee mine is NOT covered, but you can rent a big umbrella for about $3 and that is what I do.
I usually put a 5 gallon bucket in the back of my SUV. If I find something I know is just a plain old hunk of granite rock, but I really like the shape of it. I tend to keep it to make rock scenes out of. A nice flat river rock with some moss, trees used in model railroading and perhaps a small deer or two makes cute little mementos. I have even sold a few occasionally.
I also bring a few zippered plastic bags and some plastic grocery type bags to hold wet clothes. Of course bring whatever food you want and you will need some cash as most of the mines do not accept debit or credit cards. Some of the mines associated with gem stores will but most of those don’t have native dirt, so keep that in mind.
Other Nearby Fun Places
Gem Mining is a lot of work. I am usually pretty sore by the end of the 2nd day, but of course I am an old lady, lol. If you are worn out from mining but not ready to head home yet, Cherokee NC and Dollywood are both close enough to spend a day at before heading home.
I am not a big gambler but you can always go to the Casino at Cherokee if you like that sort of stuff. I’ve gone to Maggie Valley several times too. If you are into caving with trails anyone in reasonably good shape can walk, there are many in the surround areas. That is one part of these trips I miss since the accident. My old legs just won’t hold up to it anymore.
This Years Trip
I haven’t decided exactly when I will go this year. Probably in May, before school gets out. They tend to not be as crowded then. I will definitely go the The Cherokee Mine. After that, I haven’t made up my mind yet. I am leaning towards spending the first day at Cherokee Mine, the second just sight seeing all throughout the area while working my way over the Hiddenite, NC and spending the next day at the Emerald Hollow Mine. I have never been there before but have been told it is very nice.
Emerald Hollow is the only working emerald mine in the world that is open to the public. They offer Sluicing, Creeking, a combo of Sluicing and Creeking and a combo of sluicing, creeking and digging. You can bring your own tools or rent from them.
Buckets of dirt start at just $5 for a salted 2 gallon or a native 2 gallon bucket and go up to $1000 for the REALLY big bucket with guaranteed museum quality pieces. I’ll probably do one of the $50 surprise buckets to make sure I have some goodies to take home, then spend the rest of the day with just native dirt. I think they are the best value because there is always a chance of getting a REALLY nice cuttable stone worth far more than the whole trip costs you.
Of course I will be sure to take lots of photo’s no matter which mines I go to. Don’t forget to like us on our Facebook page so you can stay updated on everything that goes on here.