- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Long after the days of the Gold Rush, the glitter of gold still lures a new kind of prospector, including those from the North Dakota Gold Prospecting Association.

Now in its fourth year, the NDGPA includes 35 members, including families and children, who spend weekends searching for the elusive heavy metal.

“If you plan on making money, stay home,” Derle Marchus, co-claims director of the NDGPA, told the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1EBGVJT ). “It’s truly like any recreation or sport. It’s purely for fun.”

Gold prospecting is an active recreation involving group outings in the summer to gold-laden areas of North Dakota and South Dakota, usually on creeks and rivers with quartz outcroppings.

Association president Terry Hoerer said recreational gold mining includes digging under rocks and running the minerals into a sluice to break down the materials.

Prospectors shouldn’t expect to get rich from the activity, according to Hoerer.

“Unless you’re a big operation with big equipment, you’re pretty unlikely to find a nugget,” he said.

Recreational prospectors are looking for flakes or specks of gold, said Ed Walker, co-claims director, and often throw away the big materials, which was surprising to him when he first saw gold flecks after digging a well.

“I thought I hit the mother lode, just to find out it was fool’s gold,” he said.

Gold is 19 times heavier than water and twice as heavy as lead, Walker said, which means that a big piece would be easy to recognize.

“The gold sinks, and everything else washes off,” Marchus said. “The gold stays, the rest goes.”

The prospect of quick money isn’t the appeal of gold prospecting, according to Hoerer, because it’s unrealistic.

“It’s about having the opportunity to slow your life down and relax,” he said. “It’s not about finding gold, it’s about doing something other than sitting on the couch.”

The group prioritizes being out in the community as well as remaining flexible to members who don’t need to show up for every meeting and are welcome to bring kids, according to Hoerer.

The NDGPA sets up booths at local events, including the Capital Coin Show, and provides opportunities for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn badges by attending one of its events.

The group also does metal detecting and will be organizing a trip to Heart River within the next month.

“We want to let people know that there is a club and there is something different to do,” Walker said. “If they are interested, we are willing to teach everything we know.”

The NDGPA’s focus is on acquiring a claim on federal or state land that would grant mining rights for the group to use whenever it wants.

The association is still looking for a location in South Dakota with enough available gold before filing the claim.

They are also planning a raffle to raise funds for local youth groups seeking sponsorship.

For more information, call Ed Walker at 701-400-2305.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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