Panning for gold was not only a pastime of early settlers in the Black Hills, but it was a way of life and a way of making a living. Big Thunder Gold Mine has capitalized on that lifestyle to bring you a great activity for you to do while on your Mt. Rushmore vacation. Located just a short drive from Powder House Lodge, it's the perfect way to spend an afternoon with the family.
The first trace of gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 on Battle Creek and French Creek. Believe it or not, Big Thunder Gold Mine was discovered in 1892 by two German immigrant miners, W.B. Krupp and J.A. Engle. They started the mine as a way to pan for gold and gems found in the beautiful Black Hills. The mine was originally named Gold Hill Lode. Back in those days, mines were created by drilling holes using hand tools, and then using powder in the drill holes to blast the rock loose. Due to Big Thunder Gold Mine's solidity and safety, it was also used as a bomb shelter during times of war for the residents of Keystone.
Now, Big Thunder Gold Mine serves as an activity for residents and tourists alike. You and your family will love to get a taste of what placer mining is and what it takes to get some gold through gold panning. Using the technique of placer mining, you'll be able to pan for gold among the sand and gravel in the creeks. Looking for a bit of a bigger adventure? Head out for a claim panning adventure. For half a day or a full day, you can go out on a panning adventure with one of our guides and search for real Black Hills gold and whatever you find, you get to keep.
Not only can you pan for your own gold, but go with one of our tour guides and get a tour of the old mine and learn some history about how this mine came to be. You'll be given a hard hat with a light to see, but be prepared to do some walking and ducking to see the true magnificent size of the old gold mine.
Big Thunder Gold Mine is open daily, although reservations are required for off-season tours. Powder House Lodge is located just a short drive away.
Hours of Operation
June, July, August
8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Last tour leaves at 7 p.m.
May, Sept. - Oct. 31st
9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Last tour leaves at 5 p.m.
Interested in an off-season tour? Call (605) 666-4847 to make your reservations November through April.