wikiHow to Dig for Fossils and Gemstones

Digging for your own fossils, gemstones, or other artifacts is fun, educational, and good exercise.


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    Know where to go to dig for treasure. The United States, for example, is rich in natural resources, but you need to find a place where its permissible to dig.
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    Contact your area's department of parks, outdoors, nature or recreation. (It should be called something like this. Try a Google search.) They may be able to point you to resources.
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    Get a permit to dig, but understand you will need to pay for it. In other cases, you may need to pay for what you take (charge is usually by the pound, but it's much cheaper than buying the same stones in a shop!).
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    Research your home area's geology, or the geology of the area where you plan to dig. Know what kind of stuff you are looking for. The more you know, the better your chances of finding something good.
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    Some things to look for, depending on where you live: garnets, sapphires, agate, petrified wood, opal, diamonds, gold, silver, geodes, quartz, jasper, thunder eggs, fossils, soapstone, or arrowheads. (Yes, all these things can be found in various parts of America!)
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    Places where you can dig for interesting rocks are, naturally, mostly out in the middle of nowhere. Be prepared for a long drive and an all-day expedition, at least. Camping for a few days might be even better.
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    Know your alternatives to expensive prospecting tools. Prospecting tools are expensive. Rather than investing in a whole set for your first time out, you can rent them, or find a friend who digs as a hobby that you can borrow equipment from. Better yet, invite the hobbyist along and share your strength in exchange for their expertise! Rock and mineral shows are good places to meet people. Check for clubs in your area, too.


  • Pack lots of food. Prospecting is hungry work.
  • The probability of "striking it rich" is very low. If getting something valuable out of the ground were easy, the place would probably already be a huge industrial mine. Just make it your goal to enjoy yourself and have fun. But the possibility of a lucky find is there!
  • Avoid reaching into holes and climbing into tight crevasses as this could be extremely dangerous! Be aware of your surroundings and respect mother nature.
  • Be smart and remember, safety first! Never go out prospecting alone; try to bring a friend, spouse or group of rock and mineral enthusiasts along. You are more likely to find treasure and not danger this way.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat. You'll be spending all day in the sun and you are at risk of sunburns and heat injuries.
  • Don't go prospecting if you have small children, unless you're just out for fun and you're not taking it too seriously. The tools and equipment are dangerous for young children, they get tired easily, and it's hard to supervise them while you're digging or panning.


  • If you find human bones where you're digging, stop and call the police. You might have stumbled on evidence of a murder, or an archaeological site.
  • Never dig in a state or national park unless you are absolutely sure it's allowed. If you dig holes where you're not supposed to, you will ruin the beauty of the park for other people, and you also risk fines or even jail time as punishment.
  • As with any outdoor excursion, you should know some basic first aid before you go, and take some simple medical supplies with you, such as ice and bandages.
  • Know the signs of dehydration, and watch for them. If somebody suffers a heat injury, get them to rest in the shade and give them fluids.

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Categories: Rock Gem Mineral and Fossil Collecting