Rockhounding In Montana: Sapphires, Agates, Gold and Fossils!

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Rockhounding In Montana: Sapphires, Agates, Gold and Fossils!

Montana is known as the treasure state, and for good reason! That’s because over 150 years ago, the hills of Montana were absolutely full of gold prospectors drawn by the dreams of striking it rich.

In addition to gold, when electricity became more common place, copper prices sky rocketed earning many more people their wealth.

In more recent times, other precious stones like saphires have been what calls prospectors to Montana.

Today, Montana offers a huge variety of options for rockhounds and prospectors. From gold to agates, sapphires and even fossils. And many of these sites are free and open to the public year-round.

In this post, I’m going to list the some of the best rockhounding dig sites you can visit in Montana. So grab your rock hammer and your gloves and get out there!

1. Crystal Park

Located on the Pioneer Scenic Byway south of Wise River, Crystal Park is an inspiring public dig site where you’ll find amethyst as well as smoky and brilliant clear quartz scepters in a variety of forms. The area is typically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a $5-per-vehicle entry fee. You’ll need to bring your own shovel and screen

According to GatorGirlRocks.com, The Crystal Park site is under claim to the Butte Mineral and Gem Club and is jointly maintained and supervised by the club and the Beaverhead National Forrest. 

The site is located 7,700 feet above sea level in the Pioneer Mountains of the upper Big Hole Valley southwest of Butte, Montana in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

The site has been a favorite with recreational rockhounds for decades because of the exceptionally well-formed quartz and amethyst scepter crystals. 

Lucky rockhounds also might find a “Japan Law Twin,” a pair of crystals joined at an unvarying angle of 84 degrees, 39 minutes.  Another prize is a “scepter,” a larger crystal on the end of a smaller one. 

The Butte Mineral and Gem Club began filing mineral rights claims at the area in the late 1950s.  In 1976, the group entered into a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service for the management and development of Crystal Park for public recreation.  

The club contributed funds for a boundary fence and portable toilets.  Crystal Park is about 65 miles SW of Butte. 

From Butte, take Interstate 15 south about 25 miles to the exit to Divide.  Take MT 43 about 11 miles to the town of Wise River.  At Wise River, take the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway Road approximately 25 miles to Crystal Park.

2. Calvert Hill Mine

About six miles west of Wise River, the Calvert Hill Mine is a good place to find epidote, aquamarine, scheelite and garnets. The mine itself was a tungsten mine, and is no longer operating. In its tailing and around its ponds are plenty of beautiful rocks that are easy to find.

3. Gallatin National Forest

The Tom Miner Basin, which is federal public lands managed by the United States Forest Service, contains a petrified forest.  The specimens are interesting to see.  Subject to federal restrictions and obtaining a permit (in advance), individuals are allowed to collect a single twenty cubic inch specimen (about fist sized). 

4. Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is a family owned business and is operated by the Cooney Family for the purpose of entertaining treasure-seeking visitors from around the world.

The mine is situated in a very accessible area of spectacular natural beauty that is rarely visited or seen by millions of visitors who hurry by on their way to either Glacier or Yellowstone National Park.

The mine provides everything you would need to find your own Montana Sapphires. They have a fantastic hands on staff that can do all the heavy lifting and show you exactly how to find your Montana sapphires.

5. Anaconda, Montana

The area around Anaconda has long been a favorite destination for rockhounds. Here you can find old tailings of scheelite and epidote at Cable Mountain, northeast of Georgetown Lake. Argilite and quartzite can be found west of the lake.

However, gems and precious minerals aren’t the only things that can be found in the ground around Southwest Montana. In the remote southwestern corner of the state, near the town of Lima, evidence of prehistoric ocean sea beds west of the Continental Divide can be seen in modern-day displays of tempered rocks, lava and fossils.

6. Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine & Gold Fever Rock Shop

The Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine & Gold Fever Rock Shop offers mining for beautiful Montana sapphires. You can dig for a fee and the shop will rent you the proper equipment if you don’t have your own.

Here visitors can screen gravel from the Missouri River gravel terraces.  The geologic structure called Spokane Gravel Bar is a deposit consisting of unsolidified sediments, deposited by an ancient river.  

The site is located near Hauser Lake along the Missouri River near Helena, Montana.  

Discovered in the early 20th century by geologists mapping the Missouri River area, the site was named after the Spokane Hills that are composed of Spokane shale.  

The present river level is more than 50 m below the ancient river deposits.  Four major gravel terraces are visible on both sides of the river.