Oh, garnet it, my hands got dirty

Amateur prospectors filling their buckets with dirt

Deep in the dark, dense forests of Northern Idaho, a small clearing marks one of two unique areas in the world where star garnets are found.  This particular species of garnet contains a higher amount of magnesium than other garnets, therefore appearing  as black nuggets in the dirt, but when held to a bright light source, reveal a  deep purple color.  The asterism, or star, results from light reflecting off needle-like inclusions of  rutile (titanium dioxide.)

Sifting through the dirt to find star garnets

After arriving at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area, a half mile hike through tranquil forests of pine, and fir trees, leads to a clearing  in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest where  garnet hunters dig, sift and wash their small treasures before weighing and taking them home.  The Forest Service collects a nominal fee from each participant, and in return provides shovels, buckets and a sluice. Many families pack a lunch and spend an entire day getting their hands dirty scouring through buckets of earth for this unique gemstone.

Pockets of purple garnet sand, found along Emerald Creek, can be collected, but only by hand. No tools or instruments of any type are allowed in the mining of these specimens.

Further Information:

Latitude : 46.996765  Longitude : -116.364662
Fees:  $10.00 Adult, $5.00 Children
OPEN: Friday through Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CLOSED: Wednesday and Thursday
Opens each year the Friday before Memorial Day and closes after Labor Day.

Suggested Reading:

Rockhounding Idaho: A Guide to 99 of the State’s Best Rockhounding Sites

Idaho Off the Beaten Path, 8th: A Guide to Unique Places 


About © Rita Boehm

Copyright 2015 Rita Boehm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Photographs, artwork, and/or related text are available for licensing. Contact writer for further information
This entry was posted in Idaho, photography, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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