Searching for and finding, precious and semi-precious gemstones is known as rock hounding. You can often go rock hounding on almost any public land (some national parks limit what you can remove.) In addition to gemstones, you can also extract reasonable amounts of invertebrate fossils and petrified wood. In many ways, rock hounding is like prospecting except that you are not allowed to sell the specimens you find without a permit. Rock hounding can be a fun activity to share with family and friends. We, at the Lodge at Red River Ranch, have compiled a short list of the top places people go rock hounding in Southern Utah.
Caineville Region – Caineville is the town between Capitol Reef and Hanksville. It is best known for its specimens of petrified wood, agate, and jasper. The area also contains many sedimentary rocks from the late Mesozoic era.
Delta Region – The area west of Delta is literally a textbook collection of trilobite fossils. These Delta trilobites are from the mid-Cambrian era, and range in size from about one-eighth of an inch to two inches. There is a nominal fee to rock hound in this area.
Topaz Mountain Region – This is the most popular rock hounding location in the state. Despite the many years of extraction, you can find good quality samples of topaz – Utah’s state rock, by the way. There are also excellent specimens of amethyst, calcite, chalcedony, hematite, garnet, red beryl, and many others.
Rock hounding is a great way to get outdoors, spend time with others, and see the country. Plus, you get to keep what you find. Be aware, however, that national law forbids you to remove some specimens. These include any vertebra fossils, Native American artifacts, and human remains. Our thanks to the Utah Geological Survey and Utah.com for some of the above information.