As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.
Rockhounding in creeks can be very rewarding because you don’t have to dig around in the dirt. Rocks can easily be spotted with the naked eye and are often clear of dust and debris thanks to the shallow running water. Most minerals or gemstones that form through geological processes can wash down into streambeds due to mechanical or chemical weathering.
Common types of rocks found in creeks are quartz crystals, chert, agate, jasper, petrified wood, amethyst, and garnet, depending on the geology of the area. Many commercial gemstones are found in streams and rivers, but even ordinary rocks, worn smooth by tumbling water, have an appeal of their own.
Creeks provide a valuable sample of the types of rocks common to the area and give clues to potential rockhounding sites in the ground higher up along the banks. Fresh rains bring fresh deposits from upstream, so if you find a good creek, you can return to it many times and find new treasures.
If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding tools you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
What Are The Most Common Types of Rocks Found In Creeks?
Creeks are among the most popular places for rockhounding. They are often relatively easily accessible and you can find a large number of interesting rocks there. So I decided to write this article about the most common rocks you can find in creeks. So here they are:
Quartz can be found in creeks almost anywhere and occurs worldwide. California, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, and other areas in the western US are some of the best places to look.
Common names are based on the rock’s color, for example, clear quartz, rose quartz, smoky quartz, citrine, and amethyst. Druse is quartz that grows on other rock types and consists of minute crystals clustered in sparkling groups covering large sections of their host rock.
The color variations in quartz are due to different mineral inclusions present at the site of its formation and depend on the region’s geological features. It is found as crystal aggregates or individual crystals that can be stunningly beautiful.
Rose quartz is South Dakota‘scstate mineral. Its pink color comes from titanium inclusions in the stone. Some of these beautiful crystals contain asterisms that create rays when the stones are polished.
Hansen Creek in Washington State is one of the best places to collect fully terminated, water-clear quartz crystals and purple amethyst.
TIP: I already wrote complete rockhounding guides for these states, feel free to check them out and find the best locations for quartz crystals in these states:
Chert is a widespread type of rock, and its variety and hardness made it a popular stone for polishing into cabochons and other shapes used in jewelry.
It is a common ingredient of gravel in streams in the form of Jasper pebbles. Colors range from pink, brown, white, yellow, black, and gray.
Chert is resistant to erosion because of its hardness. Flint is a variety of chert that may have a glassy luster and is generally dark in color. Arrowheads were made from flint or chert by native American hunters and can often be found in creeks.
Streams that flow through bedrock containing chert can carry and deposit pebbles as gravel in their channels. When struck together, flint rocks make sparks. Tiger chert is made of quartz, has distinctive stripes, and fluoresces under a blue light source.
Agates are semi-translucent rocks with stripes or banding running through them and consist primarily of chalcedony and quartz. They are found in areas with igneous rock and old lava beds and come in many different colors.
White, grey, and blue-grey agate nodules occur along Road Creek in central Idaho. Lace agate exhibits exquisite lacy patterns, swirls, zigzags, and eyes, while moss agate is greenish and has a mossy design. Carnelian agate has orange and reddish hues, while fire agates show iridescent fiery flashes.
Agates have a characteristic waxy feel to them and a smooth surface. Many of the Washington creeks are loaded with agates and petrified wood and can be found on gravel bars deposited by the water.
Agates tend to glow when the sun strikes them, so hunt for them on sunny days. If you see them on the surface, it may be worth sifting deeper through the gravel to find more.
TIP: Agates are often available in central Idaho. Check out this complete guide about rockhounding in Idaho and learn more:
The most common states to find raw amethyst are Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, and Colorado. Connecticut is also known for its amethysts. They are commonly found in rock geodes in creeks and streams.
Geodes are rounded-looking stones with a hollow interior in which the crystals form. From the outside, they don’t look like much, but they can be full of beautiful purple and violet sparkles when you break them open.
Geodes can contain other types of crystals apart from amethyst. Geodes can be found in the Brown, Monroe, Morgan, Lawrence, and Washington counties of Indiana.
Hoosier National Forest allows geodes to be picked up as long as the earth is not disturbed, so creek hunting in this area is the best way to find them. Bear Creek near Trevlac is also known for its geodes.
Jasper is usually a rich rusty red but can contain hematite and other minerals that cause color variations in the stone. Wilkie is a yellow, purple, pink, or green Jasper from Willow Creek, Ada County, Idaho. Cave Creek Jasper is from Maricopa County in Arizona and is usually blood red.
Bloodstone is jasper with red specks on a black or green background. There are many descriptive names for Jaspers with different patterns and color variations, such as leopard skin, picture, mossy, and yellow jasper.
Brecciated jasper consists of rounded jasper fragments bound together in gray material, while orbicular jasper has round concentric rings throughout the stone.
Petrified wood is the State of Mississippi‘s official stone and can be easily identified from the wood grain still visible in the rock.
Creeks that have eroded down around 15 to 20 feet seem to be good places to find petrified wood, but they are present in many others. When it is struck with a metal probe, it produces a distinctive glass-like clink, so probing a creek bed is one way to identify it.
Sometimes petrified wood can be found sticking out of the creek banks or lying on exposed gravel bars. It comes in earth tones such as cream, tan, brown, and off-white and contains vertical wood grains, crevices, and knotholes, just like natural wood.
TIP: Petrified wood is very popular among rockhounds. You probably own a few pieces of petrified wood too. Do you know how valuable petrified wood can be? Check out the article below and know the crucial factors of petrified wood’s worth:
The creeks and streams of Idaho and Connecticut are good places to look for garnets. They are usually relatively small and hard to spot at first. Idaho’s state gem is the star garnet, but the State is famed for the wide variety of minerals and rocks to be found there.
Garnets are usually a deep dark red but actually come in many other colors. However, when they are not red, they are typically given other more descriptive names.
Almandine is the most common form of garnet but is usually not gem quality. Grossular garnets range in color from green to orange-brown and yellow-green.
In northern Idaho, on the East Fork of Emerald Creek in the Panhandle National Forest, almandite garnets of gem quality can be found in the gravel on the stream bed. Collectors use screens to recover them and sometimes dig into the bedrock.
Tips For Rockhounding in Creeks
I found these three tips for rockhounding in creeks as the most important so I would like to share them with you:
- Keep an eye out for the weather when rockhounding in creeks because heavy rains upstream can lead to flash floods that turn the stream into a roaring current.
- Try hunting on the banks of creeks where they have eroded, dry creek beds and in shallow, flowing water.
- Rubber boots are useful for creek walking and may keep you from slipping.
Many areas require permits for rockhounding, and if the stream is on private land, always first obtain the owner’s permission.
Make sure you take a scoop and a screen or strainer for digging through the gravel and a blacklight to find minerals that fluoresce. Time management is the key to successful rockhounding as it is easy to lose track when you are absorbed in scanning for treasures. Don’t forget the sunscreen, a bag for your finds, and a good hat.
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)
Whether you are a serious rockhound searching for that special stone or just someone who loves walking out in nature and picking up pretty rocks, creeks can be rewarding places to visit and are full of beautiful surprises.
The stones you find are frequently smooth due to being tumbled in the currents, unlike those at digging sites which may require cleaning and polishing before their splendor is revealed.
TIP: So what, are you ready to go to the nearest creek near your house and try to find some interesting rocks? Don’t forget to bring all the necessary rockhounding equipment. To check out all you need, visit the article below: