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VILLA RICA, Ga. -- Although you can still find gold in Georgia, it isn't very valuable. It costs about $20 to get $2 worth of gold.

Ted Hall took a One Tank Trip to the Pine Mountain Gold Museum in Villa Rica to learn the history of Georgia's gold rush.

He met with Carl Lewis, who has tried to pan for gold in Carroll County. Nearly 200 years ago, it was a profitable venture.

"We call it Georgia's forgotten gold rush," said Villa Rica Deputy City Manager Jeff Reese.

In fact, some maps claim Villa Rica's gold rush precluded a more famous Georgia gold rush -- the one in Dahlonega -- by two years.

But solid proof in the 1800's is hard to come by. Back then, gold mining was a bootleg operation. Law stated that any gold found wasn't the finder's to keep.

At the height of the gold rush, 3,000 miners were hauling rocks out of Villa Rica's glory hole. Today, about 5,000 people visit the site and the Pine Mountain Gold Museum to try their hand at prospecting.

The museum contains one of only three rock-crushing stampers in the East, as well as the ruins of the actual gold mine from the 1800's. Lewis donated the land to the city. It's now a $6 million park, built for less than $1 million using inmate labor.

Lewis was Villa Rica's last active gold miner in the 1990's. He learned the hard way that gold mining isn't always the way to get rich.

"I lost money, maybe $60,000," he said. "Don't quit your day job."

The park is free to visit. It costs $5 to tour the museum or pan for gold and gems.

MORE ONE TANK TRIPS
* Athens
* Ga. Aquarium Sea Otter Encounter
*Senoia
*River City Rush
*Historic Banning Mills
*Consolidated Mine

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