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Rockhounding in Kentucky: Best Locations & What to Find

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Kentucky might not be filled with crystals, minerals, or a great diversity when it comes to gemstones and rocks; however, it does have its fair share of fossils and some other specimens that collectors would enjoy rock or fossil hunting.

Places such as the Mississippi or Tennessee River Valleys, Powell, Jackson, Jefferson, Breckinridge counties, or the Kentucky River, and Warsaw-Salem and Fort Payne formations are great for rockhounds in Kentucky. You can find geodes, obsidian, agates, freshwater pearls, flint, shale, diamonds, and more.

In general, the south-central regions of Kentucky are the best for rockhounding, and gem hunters should also consider the big rivers and their tributaries. Let’s see exactly where you can rockhound in Kentucky and what you can find!

If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in Kentucky you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

Rockhounding in Kentucky: Best Locations & What to Find
Rockhounding in Kentucky: Best Locations & What to Find

Public Gem Mining in Kentucky: Best Rockhounding Locations

The best rockhounding locations in the state of Kentucky include the Tennessee & Mississippi River Valleys, Jackson, Powell, Estill, Rockcastle, Madison, Jefferson, Caroll, Spencer, Nelson, Bullitt, Crittenden, Woodford, Boyle, Livingston, Breckinridge, Lincoln counties, the Borden Formation, Warsaw-Salem, and Fort Payne formations, the Green River & Kentucky River and their tributaries.

When it comes to public gem mining, the best places include the Columbia Mine and the Lafayette Mine in Crittenden county, the East Faircloth Mine in Woodford County, or the Huston Mine in Livingston County, or the Lost River Cave.

In these places, adventurers may find quartz crystals, fluorite, and geodes. Let’s talk in particular about some of the best places for rockhounding in Kentucky.

Crittenden County

The western county of Crittenden is among the best places for rockhounds interested in finding fluorite, cerussite, galena, goethite, greenockite, hemimorphite, kaolinite, pyromorphite, quartz crystals, smithsonite, or sphalerite.

You can find fluorite in the Columbia Mine, Eureka Mine, or the Lafayette Mine. Quartz crystals are also available in these locations in Crittenden County. In the Lafayette Mine, you can also find pyromorphite, galena, and hemimorphite. When it comes to the Columbia Mine, cerussite, greenockite, kaolinite, smithsonite, and sphalerite.

Some other noteworthy locations for gem hunters in Crittenden County include the Hickory Cane Mine or the Old Jim Mine.

Kentucky River & Green River

The famous Kentucky River, and Green River, are the best places to collect geodes, and some other cool rocks, such as agates. If you visit these regions, be sure to check the riverbeds, exposed benches, and the tributaries of these big rivers.

Tennessee River Valley & Mississippi River Valley

The Tennessee River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley are the best places to collect freshwater pearls in Kentucky. Most people believe that only clams produce them; however, oysters and mussels do as well.

Pearls are pretty valuable and highly sought after, so if you are looking for a bountiful adventure, the Tennessee and Mississippi River Valleys must be on your list.

Lincoln Country

Lincoln County is another excellent spot for rockhounds that visit the state of Kentucky. Here you can find anatase, barite, calcite, Celestine, cerussite, chalcedony, chalcopyrite, dolomite, galena, jamborite, malachite, marcasite, millerite, pyrite, quartz crystals, smythite, and sphalerite.

Visit Halls Gap in Lincoln County to find anatase, barite, calcite, cerussite, chalcedony, chalcopyrite, dolomite, galena, jamborite, malachite, pyrite, or quartz crystals.

Kings Mountain is another excellent area near Lincoln County where you can find quartz crystals or Celestine.

TIP: There are many different types of hammers that people use while rockhounding. The most often used hammers are rock and brick hammers. Do you know how to use them properly? Find out more in the article below:


Rock Hammer vs. Brick Hammer: Explained Usage for Rockhounding


What Kind of Rocks are Found in Kentucky?

Most of the rocks that you can find in Kentucky are sedimentary, such as shale, sandstone, or limestone, among others. However, there are some places where you can find cool rocks, such as geodes, flint, peridotite, or agates.

In the table below, you can see where you can find some of the most famous rocks in Kentucky.

SpecimenLocation
GeodesWarsaw-Salem & Fort Payne formations, Green River, Kentucky River
FlintLouisville, Sonora, Fort Payne
PeridotiteElliot County, Livingston County, Crittenden County
AgateJackson County, Borden Formation, Rockcastle County
The most common rocks you can find in Kentucky

Geodes are abundant in the south-central regions of Kentucky. The creeks at the Warsaw-Salem and Fort Payne formations are the best places to find geodes in Kentucky. Around the Kentucky River and the tributaries of Green River, geodes have also been found. Some other locations include Hardin, Lincoln, Boyle, Bullitt, Green, Maeda, and Pulaski counties.

Three types of flint can be found in Kentucky, namely the Hornstone Flint, Fort Payne Flint, and the Sonora Flint, each alluding to their respective regions. The Hornstone flint comes in grey-blue colors, while the Fort Payne flint is grey to dark brown. The Sonora flint comes in a variety of colors, from light grey-blue to dark purple.

Peridotite is an igneous rock similar to obsidian. They occur in the sills and dikes located around Elliott County, Caldwell, Crittenden, and Livingston counties. The peridotite in Elliott County is exceptional, and it is called kimberlite. It comes in dark green to black colors, and the mineral olivine is the one responsible for the greenish colors.

Agates are easy to find in Kentucky, hence the reason why they are the official state rock. Agates are mostly found in counties such as Madison, Jackson, Powell, Rockcastle, or Estill, among many others. The exposed areas of the Borden Formation near creeks and drainages are also abundant in agates.

BTW: Do you want to know more about rocks and minerals identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):

What Gemstones are Found in Kentucky?

Freshwater pearls are often founded in Kentucky
Freshwater pearls are often founded in Kentucky

There are quite a couple of gemstones that you can find in Kentucky, such as freshwater pearls, Kentucky agates (in the regions mentioned above), amethyst, malachite, or chalcedony, among others.

In the table below, we have highlighted the areas where you can find the most popular gemstones in Kentucky.

SpecimenLocation
Freshwater PearlsTennessee River Valley, Mississippi River Valley
AmethystNatural Bridge Gem Mine, Hardin County KY 313 road cuts
MalachiteWoodford County, Lincoln County, Breckinridge County
The most common gemstones you can find in Kentucky

Freshwater pearls are found in Kentucky in the Mississippi River Valley and the Tennessee River Valley. These regions have plenty of hotspots where pearls can be found; however, take note that pearls are not only found in clams but oysters and mussels as well. They are the official state gemstone of Kentucky and are highly prized.

Amethyst is a rarity in Kentucky; however, there have been some findings in the Natural Bridge Gem Mine, and even in Hardin County, at the KY 313 road cuts.

When it comes to malachite, you can find them in Kentucky in areas such as the East Faircloth Mine in Woodford County, in calcite specimens. Still, the best regions are the Halls Gap in Lincoln County and Irvington in Breckinridge County.

TIP: Have you ever tried to polish your rocks? I found this activity very relaxing and the results are just beautiful. But it is important to use the right tools. Find out more about the best dremels for rock polishing in the article below:


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What Minerals are Found in Kentucky?

There are some beautiful minerals, and some quite valuable, that can be found in Kentucky, such as fluorite, diamonds, coal, calcite, dolomite, pyrite, and Celestine, among others.

In the table below, you can see some of the most popular minerals in Kentucky and some places where you can find them.

SpecimenLocation
FluoriteCrittenden County, Woodford County, Boyle County
DiamondsElliott County, Crittenden County, Livingston County 
CoalPike County, Muhlenberg County, 
CalciteWoodford County, Livingston County, Scott County
The most common minerals you can find in Kentucky

Fluorite can be found in several places in Kentucky, such as the Columbia Mine or Lafayette Mine in Crittenden County, East Faircloth Mine in Woodford County, the Hutson Mine in Livingston County, or at Irvington in Breckinridge County, among other places. 

When it comes to diamonds in Kentucky, you can find them in certain places. However, your best bet is to first search for the igneous rock peridotite in Elliott County, Livingston County, o Crittenden County. This is because diamonds can be found in the peridotites known as kimberlites.

Coal is very abundant in Kentucky, so much even that it has been designated as the official state mineral. Kentucky is among the top three coal producers in the US, with the two significant coalfields located in Western Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. You can find this mineral in places such as Pike County or Muhlenberg County, among many other regions.

Calcite is found in Kentucky in plenty of regions, such as in Danville in Boyle County, the East Faricloth Mine in Woodford County, in Halls Gap, Lincoln County, at the Hutson Mine in Livingstone County, in Georgetown in Scott County, at Irvington, Breckinridge County, at Owingville, Bath County, or in Springfield, at Washington County.

TIP: Cleaning rocks or minerals can be challenging especially if you don’t have a rock tumbler. So how to do it without tumbler? Check out the DIY guide in the article below:


How To Clean Rocks Without A Tumbler? Make Your Rocks Shiny!


Can You Find Crystals in Kentucky?

Crystals in Kentucky are sparse; however, there are some specimens that you can find, but most quartz crystals. Quartz crystals are found in Crittenden County, at the Columbia Mine, or the Lafayette Mine. They are also present in Halls Gap in Lincoln County or at Kings Mountain.

Some other crystals that you can find in Kentucky include calcite crystals, dolomite crystals, associated with barite, galena, bitumen, fluorite, quartz, limonite, pyrite, sphalerite, selenite, or Celestine in the interiors of geodes found in the Kentucky River, Green River, or the Warsaw-Salem and Fort Payne formations.

What Fossils Can You Find in Kentucky?

Kentucky is filled with brachiopod fossils that include a variety of fossilized shells of marine animals. Some other fossils that you can find are corals, pelecypods, bryozoans, conodonts, gastropods, cephalopods, scolecodont teeth, monoplacophorans, sponges, or crinoids.

They are primarily found in rock formations belonging to the Paleozoic Era and in certain regions such as Jefferson County, Carroll County, Spencer County, Nelson County, or Bullitt County.

Arrowheads are also found in Kentucky, especially in the regions where flint is found, such as in Hornstone, in Louisville County, or at Fort Payne, in the southeastern and south-central parts of Kentucky. Near the city of Sonora is also a great place to search for arrowheads, but generally, near lakes or other hunting regions.

TIP: Fossils can be often found in sedimentary rocks. But how to identify what type of rock is in front of you? Find out the main differences and similarities between sedimentary and igneous rocks in the article below:


Sedimentary vs. Igneous Rocks: Differences & Similarities


FAQ about Rockhounding in Kentucky

Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in Kentucky? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

Why are the Oldest Rocks in the State Found in Central Kentucky?

The oldest rocks on the surface in Kentucky are found in its central regions. This is because the ancient rock strata were pushed above along a broad bulge, known as the Cincinnati Arch. This bulge stretches from Covington, in the north, to the west of Dale Hollow Lake, in the south. Both igneous and metamorphic rocks are found beneath the sedimentary ones.

Is it Illegal to Take Rocks from Creeks in Kentucky?

You can take rocks from creeks in Kentucky; however, this can only be done with a permit which is obtained from the Department for Natural Resources. It is illegal to take gravel, mine for limestone, dolomite, sand, clay, fluorspar, and other vein minerals, or conduct other surface disturbances without a permit.

Is it Illegal to Take Rocks from the Side of the Highway in Kentucky?

In most states, it is legal to take small rocks from public roads; however, there is a limit to how much you can take per day, which changes often. In Kentucky, certain public roads allow rock collecting; however, it is best to always consult with the officials before doing so. Avoid private properties.

What is the State Rock of Kentucky?

The official state rock of Kentucky has been agate since the year 2000. Agates are found throughout the state, and they are a crystalline form of quartz. They come in various colors such as black, yellow, red, or grey banded. Kentucky agates come from the Renfro-Borden formation of the early Mississippian age.

What is Kentucky’s State Fossil?

The official state fossil of Kentucky is the brachiopods, since 1986, which are fossilized marine invertebrates with two dissimilar shells. They cover the state and are especially found in Paleozoic strata and rocks. They are around two inches wide and come from hundreds of different brachiopods that once roamed the ancient ocean that covered Kentucky.

What is the State Gemstone of Kentucky?

Plenty of freshwater pearls were found throughout the Tennessee and Mississippi River valleys, and this led the authorities to designate the freshwater pearls as the official state gemstones of both Kentucky and Tennesse since 1986. These pearls are formed around sand grains within clams, oysters, or mussels.

What is the State Mineral of Kentucky?

Since coal is found in abundance in Kentucky, it has been designated as the official state mineral since 1998. The state is among the top three coal producers in the United States, producing over 150 million tonnes of coal annually. The two major coal fields in Kentucky are situated in the west and eastern parts of the state.

What is the State Crystal of Kentucky?

Currently, the state of Kentucky doesn’t have an officially designated state crystal. This is because not many crystals have been unearthed in this region. Quartz crystals are found in some areas across the state, along with calcite and dolomite crystals, however, they are rare. It is unclear if the state of Kentucky will ever have an official state crystal.

Conclusion

The state of Kentucky may not have a variety of rocks and crystals, however, it shines when it comes to minerals and fossils. However, even its little rocks, crystals, and gemstones that can be found are worthy of any rockhounds collection.

Head to Kentucky on a beautiful, adventurous rockhounding experience that you won’t forget easily, especially if you find freshwater pearls!

BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Kentucky!

TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! But do you know what tools you need for rockhounding? Check out the list of all needed tools and equipment for rockhounding in the article below:


The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding