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Best Rockhounding Locations in New York & What You Can Find

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New York rocks! Okay, maybe that’s a bit cheesy, but seriously, the Empire State is a treasure trove for rockhounds. There’s adventure around every corner, from the dazzling Herkimer Diamonds to ancient fossils. Even the iconic American Museum of Natural History is a must-visit for any gem enthusiast. With so much to discover, where do you even begin? Let’s dive in!

Herkimer County is a must, as it is the only place to hunt for the renowned Herkimer Diamonds. Adirondack Park and the surrounding mountains are worth a shot for garnet lovers. If you’re into fossils, an excellent place to go is the Pompey-Tully area. This place is known to be the most bountiful in terms of marine fossils.

Read on to discover precisely where and what you can find in your gem-hunting experience in New York.

Best Rockhounding Locations in New York & What You Can Find
Best Rockhounding Locations in New York & What You Can Find

If you want to check out the best rockhounding tools, you can find them here (Amazon link).

Best Places for Rockhounding in New York

New York is renowned for having the world’s largest garnet mine, cementing its status as a prime destination for rockhounding enthusiasts.

The state is also celebrated for its abundant marine fossils, particularly the Eurypterus remipes, a “sea scorpion” that roamed the Earth some 420 million years ago. In 1984, Eurypterus remipes was officially declared New York’s state fossil, highlighting the region’s paleontological significance.

Beyond these well-known treasures, New York harbors a wealth of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by avid rockhounds. Here are some of the best places to explore:

Diamond Acres Mine, Fonda

Being the only place where you can find the Herkimer Diamonds (which are not actual diamonds, but a form of double terminated with water-like clarity quartz crystals), this one is one of the major attractions for gem hunting in New York.

The clarity of these gems comes from their prolonged formation over a long time, and you can even find some with inclusions, such as anthraxolite, which can form lovely black patterns within the crystal.

They are familiar enough, and for a small fee per day, you should be able to dig in the above-ground mines and find some excellent specimens of this famous crystal in your collection.

Adirondack Park, North River

The Adirondack garnet mine is the biggest globally, so New York designated this gem as its official state gem.

They come in different colors, such as black or red, given by iron, or even green, colored by chromium. They usually are found in metamorphic rocks like mica schists and gneiss. 

There are some dig-for-free sites if you explore the area a bit. Regarding garnet hunting in New York, some of the best locations can be found using the Garnet Mines Tour company, which will guide you through many closed mines that leave gravel behind.

One can often find garnets by merely washing the leftover gravel and looking for the crimson shine to be uncovered.

Cascade Lakes – Keene

Here, blue calcite and green diopside are mixed on white calcite pieces. It’s an excellent place to stop, have a snack, and look for additions to your collection.

These stones should be easy to spot on the streams due to their color.

Schoharie county

Excellent fossil specimens can be found in Schoharie County. Here, on the roadcut, you can find hundreds of millions of years old fossils, but while they are abundant in the area, the stones are very resistant, making collecting a bit tricky.

Pompey-Tully area, Onondaga County

This region is one of the most bountiful areas in the country when it comes to marine fossils. You can find fossils of brachiopods, sponges, and even trilobites here. The exposed shale layers around the road can be easily pried apart.

St. Lawrence county

Here, you can find some unique tremolite variations. They are deep purple, matching that of amethyst. You can also find some individual tourmaline specimens in St. Lawrence County that match the colors black (uvite) and brown (dravite).

You can pass by Selleck Road Tremolite or Power’s Farm Ultivite to get most of your rockhounding experience since it is one of the best places to find the named crystals.

Town of Jay

You can find specimens of labradorite, moonstone, and garnets in the Town of Jay, in the graven on the sides of the stream, or directly in the stream.

Labradorite shines blue or gold in the steam, making it easier to spot, but out of the water, it shines black, making it harder to spot.

You can also find quartz and moonstone here, which are variations of labradorite.

Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals

The American Museum of Natural History’s section dedicated to geology, located on the upper west side of Manhattan, New York, named Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals, houses hundreds of exciting and unusual geological specimens.  

They were chosen from nearly 100,000 pieces, the most well-known being the Star of India (a 563-carat sapphire) and the Patricia Emerald (a 12-sided, 632-carat stone).

It also houses a fossil hall with the most extensive collection of dinosaurs and mammal fossils globally, spread in a basement and seven floors of animal history.

TIP: Museums are great places for kids interested in rock collecting. Check out these 13 tips on how to get children started with rock collecting:
Rock Collecting for Kids: 13 Tips on How to Get Them Started

What Rocks, Minerals, and Crystals Can You Find in New York?

You can find quartz, galena, pyrite, chalcopyrite, labradorite, blue calcite and green diopside, tremolite, tourmaline, and many more. Garnets, the state’s official gemstones since 1969, can be found in Barton Mines in Warren County, the biggest garnet mine in the world. 

The list of rocks that can be found in New York:

Category / TypeLocations
SandstoneOrleans County, Delaware County, Adirondacks
FossilsWashington County, in Vermont, across the border
Gypsum Genesee County
Bluestone & Brown StoneCatskills Delta, Ulster County, Delaware County, Broome County
LimestoneThe Coeymans Formation
SlateWashington County, in Vermont across the border
EmeryWestchester County, near Peekskill
GraniteAdirondacks, Westchester County, Washington County, Taconic region 
Best locations for finding rocks and fossils in New York

You can find not only rocks in New York but also a lot of beautiful and famous minerals. Find the list of minerals that can be found in New York in the table below:

SphaleriteSt. Lawrence County
Pyrite Ellenville village, Wurtsboro village
GarnetBarton Garnet Mine – Warren County, Gore Mountains, and Ruby Mountains
LabradoriteJay City, Blue Ridge
Herkimer crystalsWurtsboro village, Ellenville village
TourmalineWarren County, St Lawrence County
HaliteFrom Madison and Chenango Counties to Erie and Chautauqua Counties
IlmeniteTahawus – Sanford Lake, Adirondacks
QuartzWurtsboro village, Ellenville village
Best locations for finding minerals in New York

So what? Quite a few different and interesting rocks and minerals can be found in New York State, am I right? At first glance, it may not seem like it, but New York is a great place for rockhounding.

TIP: From Herkimer Diamonds to dravite, rockhounds can pick up all sorts of unique rocks and minerals from the Empire State, as long as you know where to look.
10 Common Rocks & Minerals You Can Find in New York

State Rock of New York

Like other states in the United States, New York has its state rock. Wondering what rock or mineral it will be? Here is the answer:

The New York State Rock, or Gem, is the Barnet Garnet, a dark red garnet. It has been a state rock of New York since 1969, and this beautiful mineral is mined in the Barton Mines in the Adirondack Mountains.

The Barton Mine is the largest garnet mine in the world, and you can visit this mine with your family. They offer many exciting tours for adults and kids, with demonstrations on how to find garnet gemstones. Visit the official website, book your tour, and enjoy a great day in the largest garnet mine!

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):

FAQ about Rockhounding in New York

I still have not found the answer to your questions about rockhounding in New York. Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

What Gems Can Be Found In New York? 

Plenty of gems can be found in New York, starting with the well-known Herkimer Diamonds, garnets (the state’s official gemstone), and various other varieties of quartz crystals.

You can search the streams or dig the ground to find labradorite, celestine, and tourmalines of many kinds. There are also a couple of wollastonite mines in New York.

The list continues with minerals like Sphalerite, hematite, pyrite, halite, Sphalerite, blue calcite, diopside, tremolite, and Levite, and it can go on.

TIP: Real labradorite has a unique play-of-colour phenomenon that can hardly be copied in fake labradorites. Check out the main differences between real and fake labradorite in the article below:
Real vs. Fake Labradorite: Focus on These 8 Differences

What is Mined in New York?

New York is rich in minerals and stones mined for construction, industrial, or gem-cutting industries.

Salt, for example, is mined in Central New York (ranked third in the country in terms of salt production). 

Mining activities are predominantly in the Adirondacks’ mountainous regions for metal ores or gems like garnet.

Mining activities are also conducted for construction materials such as granite, gravel, sand, limestone, sandstone, and peat all over the state. Also, mining activities for wollastonite are conducted in 4 locations in northern New York (the only state in the US producing it, thus making it very rare). 

It replaces asbestos in the ceramics, metallurgy, plastic, and paint industries. Lawrence County also has a zinc mine, well known for its sphalerite, the fourth most used metal globally.

Is There Gold In New York Streams?

Many gold prospectors nowadays find gold in New York streams, but the state has a unique law, which states that all gold and silver found across the country are the state’s property.

The gold in the country comes from glaciers that travelled from Canada and are usually very fine-textured.

Even though gold prospecting started long ago in New York, there has been no significant discovery report until now. However, since the state would take away the gold, maybe that’s the reason for the lack of information. Just kidding.

What Type of Rock Is Most Abundant in New York?

The entire geology of New York is based on crystalline basement rock, which dates from Precambrian times and forms the Adirondack mountains and the bedrock all over the state. Granite is considered the most common rock on the continent, whereas basalt is more predominant in the oceanic crust.

Also, gravel and quartz pebbles (of an igneous or metamorphic origin) are significant components of Sandy Hook Beach, Staten Island, and Rockaway Beach.

If you want to know more about rockhounding in New York or prefer paper books, I recommend buying Rockhounding New York: A Guide To The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites. I found this book very useful and written. You can buy it here (Amazon link).

TIP: Holes in rocks can be formed in strikingly different ways. Sometimes, holes are a result of water erosion. Find out more about forming holes in rocks in the article below:
Holes in Rocks Explained: How Are Formed & What Causes Them