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Amber has a certain mystic, unearthly beauty to it, and it’s no wonder why so many rockhounds would want to find it. It’s almost the equivalent of finding a four-leaf clover and probably as exciting, or even more so, than finding gold.
In the U.S., there are a couple of states where amber is commonly found, such as New Jersey, Kansas, and New Mexico. Amber is a fossilized tree resin, so states that historically had extensive forests of resinous plants are the best candidates to find amber, especially those with pine forests, but there is more to it!
If you want to find amber, you have to understand exactly how it forms, and this way, you may find it even in your state. Here is everything you need to know about finding amber in the U.S.!
If you are interested in checking out the best books about rock and minerals identification you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Where to Find Amber Near Me (Common Environments)
There is a lot of controversy surrounding amber, as many things about it aren’t fully understood. Some scientists argue that the modern species of Pinus doesn’t create the resin necessary to make amber and that it is most likely, that some ancient, now extinct trees are the likely culprit.
Tertiary-period sediments are often linked with amber. Some belong to the Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene periods. Ancient forests of resinous plants such as pine, cedar, juniper, redwood, and spruce are generally potential locations to find amber. You can find them in banks, creeks, streams and beds, beaches, marls and sand pits, or gravels.
Amber takes millions of years to form, but some argue it takes less. The resin contains liquids (volatiles); after a long period, it hardens, and the volatiles is gone, resulting in amber. How long the process takes depends on soil conditions and geothermal stress.
Whatever the case, ancient sites where forests were present are generally good areas to search for amber, but it isn’t always so. Scientists argue that amber is often not found in the same place it originated.
This is because the resin-producing trees fell at some point in time, and the resin-coated logs were carried away by rivers or tides to deltas or coastal regions. Many of these logs were buried in oxygen-free sedimentary deposits.
Since trees produce resin to cover gashes from chewing insects, you may find insects trapped in amber as well. Amber comes in many colors, such as orange, yellow, or blue. Here are some common environments where you may find amber:
Beaches, creeks, banks, river beds, and streams
No matter how long it takes for amber to form, it certainly exceeds a resin tree or plant’s lifespan. A long period of time also implies a higher chance of encountering natural phenomena that could either fall the tree or move it somewhere else.
Because of this, the resin-coated logs can end up buried anywhere. Creeks, river banks, beds, streams, and beaches are among the most common environments to find amber, usually buried in sediments.
Marls pits, sand pits, and gravel
Marl and sand pits, along with gravel, are also excellent places to search for amber. In New Jersey, for example, there are many areas where explorers can try out their luck to find amber in these environments. Sands and gravels near rivers are often great places to search for amber as well.
TIP: Amber fakes are very diverse. Real amber is an organic gemstone, so there is another way to spot amber fakes. Find out more in the article below:
Real vs. Fake Amber: 9 Key Differences & UV Light Testing
Where to Find Amber in the USA? The Best Locations
If you want to find amber in the U.S., you have to prepare your digging equipment, as most amber is found in clay beds, or through beachcombing. Beachcombing results are rarely noteworthy when it comes to amber, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying!
The best states in the U.S. to find amber include New Jersey, Arkansas, California, Washington, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Massachusets, Alaska, and New Mexico. Though Arkansas has the biggest deposits of amber, most sites are closed to the public, and you will need to get permission and pay a small fee.
|Washington||Issaquah, Fifteen-Mile Creek|
|Texas||Terlingua Creek, Eagle Pass|
|New Mexico||Thoreau, Sugarite Mine & Coal Fields|
New Jersey, on the other hand, is more accessible. Let’s analyze some of the best states in the U.S. to find amber and see exactly where you should plan a trip!
New Jersey is among the best states in the U.S. to find high-quality amber specimens. If you are near or located in Central New Jersey, you can find amber in the marls near Neptune City at Shark River.
Southern New Jersey is the most abundant in amber. Visit Crosswalk’s Creek to find amber in the area of marls and sand pits. Burlington, Riverside, and Riverton sands and gravels often yield fine amber specimens as well.
The area sands and gravels around Vincentown are also worth exploring. If you want to find high-quality amber, some with even trapped insects inside, you should visit Burlington County. Here, explore the sands and gravels near the Delaware River.
You can also explore the sands and gravels near the Delaware River if you are coming from Camden County. The area of sand and gravel near Bridgeport and Gibbstown is also filled with amber specimens.
At Oldman’s Creek, there is a marl pit east of Route 45, where you can find excellent amber specimens. If you want to hunt for both amber and fossils, go to Mullica Hill, and search the area of marl and sand pits, or you can try your luck at Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park. However, here you will need to pay a small fee, but the amber and fossils are worth it!
Chestnut Creek, and especially the area near Sewell, are also fantastic places to find amber. If you are in Salem County, you can find amber in all the area gravels, sand pits, and streams. The same goes for Harrisonville. Explore the pits, area sands, and gravels.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in New Jersey, check out this article.
Kansas is an interesting state when it comes to amber because it has its own unique variant, namely the jelinite amber. Jelinite amber was designated as the official state gemstone of Kansas in 2018.
The ancient jelinite amber was used in the construction of tools and weapons by early Kansas settlers. It was first called kansasnite but later renamed after the person who discovered the ancient site in 1937, namely George Jelinek.
It is a rare specimen, especially now since the historical collecting site is currently underwater because the Kanopolis Reservoir flooded it.
Still, you have a high chance of finding this specimen. You can search for jelinite amber in the lignite beds that span across the Smoky Hill River south of Carneiro, in Eastern Kansas, Ellsworth County.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Kansas, check out this article.
If you are near New Mexico, plan to visit it, or you already live here, there are a couple of places where you can find amber. The area around San Juan County is noted for its amber specimens, especially near the San Juan Basin. You can also visit the Fossil Forest to find amber.
In the northeastern parts of the state, near Santa Fe, you can find amber along the Pecos River. The Sugarite Mines and coal fields are particularly noteworthy for their fine amber specimens.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in New Mexico, check out this article.
Alaska is famous for its jade specimens. However, you can find amber specimens here as well. In northwest Alaska, for example, you can find amber at Point Barrow, in some of the beach deposits.
You can try your luck at the Aleutians East Borough, especially at the Fox Islands, or you can visit the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to find amber. The Matanuska Valley is an incredible region where you may find amber as well.
Some other regions where amber is found in Alaska include the Fairhaven Mining District and Chicago Creek, especially the Chicago Creek Coal Mine.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Alaska, check out this article.
The state of Massachusetts is also worthwhile when it comes to finding amber. Here, you can visit Dukes County and search for amber, especially at Martha’s Vineyard, Aquinnah, and the shore near Gay Head Cliffs. The green sand deposits are particularly rich in amber. In some areas, you may need permission first, so always ask beforehand.
In Nantucket County, the town of Nantucket is amazing for finding amber specimens. The island isn’t so rich in rocks, minerals, or gemstones, but you can also find quartz here.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Massachusetts, check out this article.
Washington state is home to many exciting rocks, minerals, and crystals. And you can even find amber here as well. In northwestern Washington, you can find amber specimens in King County at Issaquah, the eastern side of Fifteen-Mile Creek. You can also try your luck at Tiger Mountain.
Chelan County is generally a good area to find the elusive material. Here, the Wenatchee Mining District is particularly fruitful regarding amber. The incorporated city of Wenatchee, and its surrounding areas, have also been noted for its amber findings.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Washington, check out this article.
Though the state of Arkansas has the largest amber deposits in the U.S., there are very few places where you are allowed to collect the item. If you do find yourself here, head to Hot Spring County, and go to Perla.
The Malvern clay pits are usually a great source of amber in the region. The amber discovered here is often of high quality.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Arkansas, check out this article.
FAQ About Finding Amber
Still did not find the answer to your questions about finding selenite? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
Where is Amber Most Commonly Found?
Amber is commonly found in Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, and Tertiary-period sediments. Environments such as creeks, banks, river beds, streams, beaches, marls pits, sand pits, and gravels are among the best places to find amber.
Where to Find Amber on the Beach?
Beachcombing for amber can be rewarding if you know where to look for it. Sand deposits often hide amber specimens. You can find amber on the beach in seaweed tossed onto the beach, or you can use skimming nets to collect small amber pieces.
Can You Find Amber Anywhere?
You can’t find amber anywhere. Amber isn’t usually found where it originated, but bodies of water are generally responsible for transporting it in various places.
For this reason, beaches are among the most common mediums where amber is found. Besides beaches, river banks are also natural environments where you can find amber.
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)
Finding amber is a challenging journey. Yet, your chances increase significantly if you know where to look for. Though there are few places where you can find amber in the U.S., the thrill is totally worth it!
Finding amber brings the same excitement as finding gold, especially if it’s a specimen containing a trapped insect, plant, or invertebrate. Such items are highly valuable.
TIP: If you are wondering how much to spend on a piece of amber jewelry or raw amber stone, you aren’t alone in your struggle. Find out more in the article below:
How Much is Amber Worth? Costs per Carat and More!