During the Civil War, a Union soldier unintentionally panning for gold while cleaning pots and pans in a nearby stream made the first discovery of gold in the area of Maryland outside of Washington, D.C.
After the war, the Maryland Mine Company was founded to prospect and dig in the area. The first shafts were dug in 1867 and active mining in the area continued until 1939. Although trace amounts of gold can still be found in the region, there was never enough gold discovered for the mining operations here to be profitable.
Today the abandoned gold mine, left in disrepair, can be found near the historic C&O Canal. The wooden pieces of the structures have mostly been removed and the stonework is mostly fenced off. Most evidence of the gold mining that once took place here has been removed, but behind the National Park Service’s fences you can see the dilapidated remains of an old water tank’s base, the blacksmith shop, and overgrown sealed shaft entrances. Park visitors can hike the Gold Mine Loop trail through the historic Maryland Mine Ruins.
Know Before You Go
The trailhead for Gold Mine Spur is behind the Great Falls Tavern visitor center. After about a mile this trail meets the Gold Mine Loop, a two mile long loop that passes by the abandoned mining sites. A sign along the side of the trail points up to the remains of the structures. Alternatively, these structures can be seen looking south from the intersection of Macarthur Boulevard and Falls Road, a short way into the forest if you enter next to the Great Falls Park sign.