Rockhounding and mineral collecting is a great way to teach kids about geology. It’s also a great way for the whole family to spend time outdoors. It doesn’t cost a lot of money or require many resources to get started. Here are some tips to get your rockhounds underway.
What You Need
Having the right tools will make rockhounding easier and safer. You don’t need a whole lot of materials to get started, here are a few essentials:
- Crack hammer: for breaking open rocks or hitting chisels.
- Hand chisel: pointed or wide end chisels work fine for cracking rocks.
- Safety goggles: to protect your eyes when cracking.
- Small trowel: for when you want to dig for specimens.
- Small paintbrush and toothbrush: these are used for cleaning samples.
- A sifter: for when you’re gold panning or sifting dirt.
- Backpack: for carrying gear and finds.
- Collecting bags: for fragile samples.
- Field guide: to help you identify rock types.
Get Out to a Rockhounding Site
Jump into your Dodge Journey or similar appropriate vehicle and drive out to a rockhounding site. There are great locations throughout the country. Where you go will depend on the type of minerals you are looking for. For example, if you want to find fallen meteorite material, you need to find meteor craters, such as the ones near Winslow, Arizona. If you’re hounding for fossils, there are public fossil hunting sites throughout the US from California to New Jersey. Gold panning is also fun for rockhounds and you might track down a nugget or two at one of the many panning sites in California or Georgia.
Head to the Beach
The beach is a great place for rockhounding, especially for younger children. Use your sifter to examine samples at the edge of the tide, or dig deeper into the sand above the shoreline. You can find all kinds of treasures at the beach including gemstone like agates, sea glass, volcanic rocks and stones that have been ‘sculpted’ by sea creatures.
Advice for Beginner Rockhounds
- Sign up: Label all your finds straight away so you won’t forget what it is and when and where you found it.
- Write up: Catalogue your specimens with information including: a unique specimen number, mineral name plus varietal names, country, state, town and mine specifics (if applicable), Year it was mined, how you acquired it, and the price you paid (if applicable).You can get software to document this info.
- Gen up: Get a good reference book on minerals.
- Meet up: Join your local mineral club. That way you can meet fellow rockhounds, compare collections, learn tips and go rockhounding together.
Enjoy your rockhounding hobby. There’s nothing wrong with purchasing minerals. Remember, if you do buy specimens to add to your collection, make sure that they are the best quality that you can afford. Don’t be tempted by a ‘good deal’ that leaves you with a poor sample. Happy rockhounding!