Actually gold can be found in almost all fifty states. But the states with the highest gold production in the past century are mostly in the West, but there has also been a lot of gold found in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Smaller occurrences occur throughout the Midwest and Northeast too.
This gold may be still embedded in rock, known as "lode gold", or it may have been deposited in a placer (a natural concentration of gold particles in sand or gravel bars) after weathering from the host rock -- or it may be found in plant tissues, or seawater, or even present in minute quantities in beach sand. (Gold is found in copious amounts on Alaska beaches and even in Oregon.) If your interest in gold is more than academic, the trick is to find locations with enough gold to make it worthwhile to try to recover some of it.
The states where gold is found in the largest amounts include Wyoming, Wisconsin, Washington, Virginia, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, Michigan, Idaho, Georgia, Colorado, California, Arizona, Alaska, and Alabama. which taken together with the big producers means that in three out of every five states, you have a decent chance to find a little gold for yourself.
Most other states not listed above, however, still offer the opportunity for amateur prospectors to find gold in one way or another. It’s important to understand that gold can be found in several different forms, and how easy it is to collect is dependent upon where it’s located.
Where in these states should you look for gold? Government records, in the form of geological reports and maps, will tell you where and in what quantity gold has been recovered in the past. Because gold is washed down into placers over time, areas, where a lot of gold has been found by earlier miners, will -- even if the placer was played out -- very likely have gold again. Advance in technology and recent gold deposits continue to allow productive searches for gold-bearing material.
“Lode” gold is still deposited within the raw rock and can be difficult to remove. Much simpler than harvesting lode gold is finding gold that in the form of a “placer” deposit. Placer gold flakes and particles have been weathered out of the raw rock and washed down into gravel or sand. When you go out panning for gold in creeks and streams, you are trying to find “placer” gold deposits. It can take a lot of patience to slowly pan the gold flakes and nuggets out of the sediment and sand in placer deposits.
Identifying where to find gold in your state can take a bit of research and investigation. The best rule of thumb is to always pan for gold in places where people have found it before–it will make your success more likely, and there’s not much chance that all of the placer gold has been removed from that particular stream or creek. And remember: gold flakes, particles, and nuggets are slowly washed down by flowing water over time, so you won’t necessarily be panning the same material that was panned by others a fifty years ago.