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Alabama is one of the best places for rockhounding due to its rich deposits of minerals, rocks, and gemstones. This state also has a stunning diversity of fossils, including giant prehistoric whales. Although the whole country has a wide variety of minerals, some counties are especially rich in exciting specimens. So where to rockhound in Alabama, and what can you find?
Counties such as Coosa, Madison, Clay, Cleburne, or Jackson contain deposits of different gemstones such as star blue quartz (the state’s official gemstone), garnets, tourmaline, and beryl, agates, emerald, or jasper. An excellent place for rockhounds and those who still suffer from gold fever is the Alabama Gold Camp.
This is where you can pan for gold and find interesting minerals such as citrine or red garnets. Other minerals that can be found in Alabama are hematite, marble, coal, limestone, or gneiss. Southwestern Alabama is the right place to find fossils and dinosaurs’ remains. Now that we saw how many exciting things we can find in Alabama let’s pack our stuff and start rockhounding in Alabama!
If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding tools you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Best Places for Rockhounding in the State of Alabama
What are the best places for rockhounding in Alabama? This is an excellent question with a very complicated answer since the Yellowhammer state is so rich from a geological perspective. Let’s see the best places for rockhounding in Alabama!
Coosa County is located in the east-central part of Alabama, and it is probably the best place for rockhounding in the state if you are interested in finding gemstones.
Actinolite-tremolite, beryl, tourmaline, muscovite, aquamarine, or emeralds can be found here. The region is also known for its cassiterite deposits, hornblende, gneiss, kaolinite, or feldspar.
n interesting fact to note is that Coosa County has many areas where gold was discovered. If you want to find gold, the right destinations for you are Hatchett Creek, Weogfuka Creek, and the areas around Rockford.
Talladega County is known for its rich deposits of marble, calcite, and pyrite. Sylacauga, the Marble City, is located in this county.
Other minerals found in Talladega County are hematite, kaolinite, copper, quartz, magnetite, limonite, hornblende, silver, or gold.
Over 180 mines are listed for Talladega County, the majority being for trace amounts of iron.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
What Gemstones are Found in Alabama?
Now that we discussed the best places where to rockhound in Alabama, let’s see what gemstones, minerals, and rocks can be found in this state. We will start with the gemstones.
A wide variety of gemstones can be found in Alabama. The state’s official gemstone is star blue quartz found along the Flint River in Madison County.
Other gems found in Alabama are amethyst, beryl, onyx, agate, staurolite, tourmaline, turquoise, opal, andalusite, jasper, or garnet. Check out the table down below to see what gemstones are found in Alabama and where!
|Star blue quartz||Along the Flint River, Chambers, and Cullman Counties|
|Beryl specimens (emerald and aquamarine)||Within the Piedmont geological area (Coosa County)|
|Tourmaline||Cleburne, Chambers, Coosa counties|
Now let’s take a look at what sedimentary rocks you can find in Alabama and where.
TIP: Emerald is one of the most popular gemstones known to people. Fewer people know that mineralogically emerald is a variety of beryl group minerals. Find out more in the article below:
Beryl vs. Emerald: 7 Key Differences (Are They The Same?)
What Sedimentary Rocks You Can Find in Alabama?
The sediments left behind by the ancient oceans and swamps have great economic importance for Alabama.
Alabama has essential deposits of limestone, chalk, sandstone, and shale. These sedimentary rocks are economically important and develop fertile soils and make up the 20 major aquifers.
The below table shows you what sedimentary rocks you can find in Alabama and where to look for them.
|Chalk||Coastal Plain area, along the Tombigbee River|
|Sandstone||Northern Alabama, |
Jefferson County (Hartselle Sandstone),
Southwestern Alabama (Tallahatta Sandstone)
|Shale||Green County, Tuscaloosa County, Jefferson County, Jackson County|
Apart from sedimentary rocks, Alabama has a wide variety of metamorphic rocks. Let’s see where you can find them.
What Metamorphic Rocks are found in Alabama?
The majority of metamorphic rocks in Alabama range in age from Precambrian to Devonian.
Most of the metamorphic rocks in Alabama are found within the Piedmont Upland area and consist of schist, gneiss, quartzite, or marble. Let’s check out the below table to see what metamorphic rocks are found in Alabama and where.
|Marble||Middle eastern and southeastern parts of the state: |
Talladega County, Coosa County, Jefferson County
|Schist||Clay County, Tallapoosa County|
|Quartzite||Lee County, Clay County|
Now that we discussed sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in Alabama let’s see if igneous rocks are also present here!
What Igneous Rocks can You Find in Alabama?
The igneous rocks represent the oldest rocks in Alabama, dating back to the Precambrian.
These volcanic rocks are found mainly in the Piedmont Upland located on the east-central side of Alabama. Among the igneous rocks found in this state, we must mention granite, pegmatite, or diorite.
Various metallic and non-metallic minerals have been successfully mined from these igneous rocks. Check out the below table to see what igneous rocks are found and where to look for them!
|Pegmatite||Cleburne County, Coosa County|
|Diorite||Coosa County, Tallapoosa County|
We have seen what rocks and gemstones can be found in Alabama, but maybe you are more interested in finding gold. Let’s see where you can find gold in this state!
TIP: Do you know how to identify igneous rocks? It can be tricky sometimes so I sum up the six main characteristics of igneous rocks for better identification. Find out more in the article below:
Simple Explanation: 6 Main Characteristics of Igneous Rocks
Where to Find Gold in Alabama?
Alabama was no stranger to the Gold Rush. Significant amounts were mined from Alabama, making this state one of the major gold producers from the Mississippi River’s east.
In Alabama, gold was found in both lode and placer deposits in many counties such as Talladega, Tallapoosa, Chambers, Clay, Coosa, Chilton, Elmore, Cleburne, and Randolph.
One of Alabama’s biggest gold producers is the Hog Mountain District in Tallapoosa County, while the nearby creeks have placer gold. Other vital mines are the Riddle Mine and Story Mine, located in Talladega County. Placer gold can be found in Talladega Creek and Talladega National Forest.
Gold is also abundant in Coosa County. Gold Ridge Mine produced gold as a byproduct of copper mining. In this county, the placer gold can be found along Hatchett Creek, Weogufka Creek, or the Rockford placers.
I know you would love to find some gold nuggets but let’s see if it is legal to pan for gold in Alabama.
Is it Legal to Pan for Gold in Alabama?
Gold panning in Alabama is not illegal; however, you may need a permit depending on the district.
Many former gold mines are now open to the public, and the nearby creeks contain placer gold. One thing to consider, though, many of these creeks pass by private properties, so asking for permission is a must.
Of course, you can always visit the Alabama Gold Camp, where you can pan, sluice, or try to detect metals for a decent fee. Remember not to be deceived by the fool’s gold, pyrite that can be found in Clay County.
If gold is not your thing, you may rockhound for the star blue quartz, Alabama’s official gemstone.
TIP: You need to be careful and choose carefully where you go rockhounding. You can not be allowed to dig anywhere. Find out more about the legal aspects of rockhounding in the article below:
Is it illegal to take rocks from nature? You Should Know This
Where to Find Star Blue Quartz in Alabama?
The Star Blue Quartz is Alabama’s official gemstone since 1990. Although quartz is a common mineral, the blue variety is quite rare.
In Alabama, the star blue quartz can be found along the Flint River in Madison County. In case you don’t want to chase the beautiful star blue quartz, you can check if what they say about the Alabama marble is true.
Where to Find Marble in Alabama?
Alabama marble is famous all over the world due to its white color and crystalline structure.
Marble, the state’s mineral since 1969, is found in Talladega County. The wealthiest deposits were found in the town of Sylacauga, which is known as the Marble City.
Considerable marble deposits can also be found in Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Coosa, Jefferson, and Shelby Counties. However, the Sylacauga marble is the best.
You can convince yourself by attending the Magic of Marble Festival held in the second week of April in this town. Alabama is also rich in mineral deposits. Let’s see what an amateur geologist can find!
What Minerals Can You Find in Alabama?
Alabama hosts over 190 mineral species all over the state. These minerals played an essential role in the state’s development.
Some of the most important mineral deposits can be found in the Piedmont Upland region of Alabama. Most minerals are found in Chambers, Coosa, Randolph, Tallapoosa, Clay, Cleburne, and parts of the Elmore, Lee, and Chilton Counties.
The Alabama state’s official mineral is hematite. Check out the below table to see what minerals can be found in Alabama and where.
|Hematite||The central and northeastern sides of the state, along the Red Mountain, |
|Muscovite||Randolph, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Cleburne, Clay Counties|
|Pyrite||Clay, Limestone, Talladega Counties|
Where Can I Find Fossils in Alabama?
Alabama is a great place to visit if you are interested in finding fossils. Numerous sites throughout the state reveal fossils from the ancient Cambrian period to almost modern-day sediments.
The state’s official fossil is Basilosaurus cetoides, a toothed whale whose discovery in Alabama helped scientists learn about this paleontological species.
This state is a great place to go fossil collecting. You can also check the extensive collections from several museums such as the Anniston Museum of Natural History, McWane Center in Birmingham, the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, and the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.
TIP: It’s rockhounding time now! Just to be sure you have all the needed tools for rockhounding, check out my recommendations in the articles below:
Recommended Tools and Equipment for Rockhounding