Did boy strike gold in Gore Creek?
VAIL ” Jacob Rhea had his own gold rush on Gore Creek.
The 10-year-old Florida boy who panned for gold in the creek recently came away with nine gold-colored morsels.
“Nobody thought there’d be gold in the middle of Vail, so I was surprised,” said the boy, Jacob Rhea of Orlando, Fla. “I was just amazed.”
For a couple of days last week, he panned for gold using a kit he had bought at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville.
“Someone told him that there was gold in all of the creeks,” said his grandmother, Barbara Rhea of Winter Park, Fla.
That piqued Jacob’s interest, and he started looking in Gore Creek near the International Bridge. He found a few flakes, and then started finding little gold-colored rocks.
“My fastest time was four in an hour,” Jacob said.
The family got a visiting jeweler at the Squash Blossom, a Turkish man who goes by the one-name moniker Gurhan, to verify that it was, in fact, gold.
Gurhan could not be reached for comment Friday, apparently having returned to Turkey.
Pete Modreski, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, said it’s much more common for people to find tiny gold flakes and bits of gold the size of a pin in Colorado rivers.
“That would really be exceptional” to find nine pieces of the size Jacob found, he said.
But Modreski took a look at a photo of Jacob’s finds, and, based on the shape and the color, said they look like gold, not mica or iron pyrite.
“From what I can tell, it looks like the real McCoy,” he said.
Sam McGeorge, director of the Leadville mining museum, said he wasn’t surprised to hear of the boy’s discovery.
“There’s a fair amount of gold in the area,” he said. “Nuggets are a little rare but small pieces are relatively common, in the Arkansas River and several streams around here.”
In fact, McGeorge said, there was a gold boom in Leadville in 1859, when some people found “placer gold,” or gold in a stream.
That boom lasted just three years, and one gold mine, in Cripple Creek, remains in Colorado. Gold panning is pretty popular here, McGeorge said.
“It’s something that people in the area like, part of the Colorado experience,” he said.
One longtime resident, Bob Ruder, whose family homesteaded the Gore Creek Valley, said he’s never heard of anyone finding gold in Gore Creek, and it’s more likely iron pyrite, or fool’s gold.
“It looks like a little piece of gold,” he said.
Quite a lot of iron pyrite was found in the nearby Gilman Mine over the years, Ruder said.
Meanwhile, the town of Vail seemed taken aback about the prospect of gold.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of anything like that,” said Kris Friel, a spokeswoman for the town of Vail.
“Gold Medal fly-fishing, yes,” she added, referring to the Gore Creek’s designation as one of Colorado’s top fishing rivers.
Jacob’s brother and father got into the act, too, each eventually finding a piece. As for Jacob, he had found nine by the time he was done.
They are now on display in his room in Florida. He has no plans to try to sell the rocks. (Gold now goes for $670 an ounce.)
It was certainly the highlight of his trip, Jacob said.
“On my next vacation to Colorado, I’m definitely going down there,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.