Behind the scenes of "America's Backyard Gold." Local residents were featured in a recent episode.
Behind the scenes of "America's Backyard Gold." Local residents were featured in a recent episode.

Area hobby gold prospectors featured in Discovery Channel show

When people talk to Tim Conway about his hobby, they often pose the same question – “Can I get rich?”

Monetarily – no, but Conway counts his blessings in other ways.

Baillie and Tim Conway were featured in a recent Discovery Channel episode of “America’s Backyard Gold.” Courtesy photo

“You can get rich in the fact that you meet a lot of nice folks, get exercise and enjoy the great outdoors,” said Conway, who founded the Augusta, Georgia Chapter of the Gold Prospectors’ Association of America about 20 years ago, and currently serves as its president.

He and his son, Baillie, were recently featured in a Discovery Channel series highlighting backyard prospectors.

“America’s Backyard Gold,” starring Dave Turin who tours the United States in search of gold, premiered in March. The Conways appeared in the second episode, which is now available on multiple platforms including Hulu, Sling TV, Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

“People don’t realize we have an old belt that runs through our area – Saluda, Edgefield, McCormick through Lincolnton,” he said.

McCormick, he said, has several miles of tunnels beneath the city leftover from the days of the Dorn Gold Mine. In the 1850s, William Dorn excavated nearly $1 million in gold from the site before it was exhausted that same decade, according to the South Carolina Register of Historic Places website.

The club rents property in McCormick, where they prospect.

For Conway, gold prospecting is for the fun of it.

While an ounce of gold is about $2,300 in the current market, Conway said it takes a lot of time and effort to find an ounce.

“You’re going to find maybe a half gram to a gram a day,” he said.  

One ounce of gold is equal to about 28.35 grams.

Behind the scenes of “America’s Backyard Gold.” Local residents were featured in a recent episode. Courtesy photo

Membership in the local chapter has had its ups and downs. Conway was actively involved from the early 2000s, but as Conway put more time into his Aiken Art and Custom Framing, he had less time to prospect.

“I had stepped away, but I came back around two-and-a-half years ago,” he said. “The club was still barely there. COVID knocked down attendance. There were only two or three guys still meeting. My son and I brought the chapter back.”

They created a website and social media presence that attracted new members and the Discovery Channel team. Filming for the episode was in September 2023.

The club now has more than 100 members, he said.

Members perform outreaches and do gem screenings and gold panning at events such as a recent home school science fair.       

Conway doesn’t have as much time to participate as he’d like, but he does get to pan for gold a few times a month. Club members try to set up times on weekends when many of them can get together, set up their equipment and divvy up the gold flakes found.

“A lot of people do it individually, but it’s more fun when people get together,” he said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for more than 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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