RnR RV Blog

  • Published on Jul 10, 2015
    Let’s go on a Treasure Hunt!

    What a fun way to explore the Inland Northwest!

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Rockhounding and Fossil Hunting in your national forests and grasslands are a great place to experience a wide range of recreational opportunities. Prospecting, rockhounding, and fossil hunting are among the many outdoor pursuits visitors enjoy in the Northern Region of the Forest Service.

    What is prospecting, rockhounding, and fossil hunting?


    Rockhounding involves the searching and collection of small quantities of common variety rocks, gems, or other geologic materials for personal use or enjoyment.

    Emerald Creek Garnet Area . There are only two places in the world you can find Star Garnets – India and right here on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests! The garnets found here are call “star garnets” because of a unique property that causes some of them to display a reflection like a four or six pointed star. The Forest Service has developed the Garnet Area as a place where the public may collect these unique gems in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

    Emerald Creek Campground features 18 camp units, potable water, and vault toilets. The Emerald Creek Garnet Area is a short distance from the campground.


    Prospecting is searching for valuable minerals. This can range from collecting hand samples of mineralized rock and gold panning, to using metal detectors and operating small sluices for dredges as long as they “do not cause significant surface disturbance” 36 CFR 228.4a(1)(iv). Forest Service mining regulations listed in the 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 228, Subpart A and C, govern prospecting and rockhounding activities.

    The Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area in the Kootenai National Forest is a great place to go for prospecting. Any gold you find is yours to keep. There are no developed parking lots or camping facilities at the Gold Panning Area. Camping is primitive with dispersed sites.

    Howard Lake Campground is one mile south of the Gold Panning Area. Howard Lake Campground offers swimming, fishing, hiking opportunities, a water well and toilets.


    Fossil hunting allows the collection of petrified wood, invertebrate and plant fossils for personal use. Invertebrate fossils, such as clams, do not have an internal skeleton. Collection of vertebrate (has internal skeleton) fossils requires a permit (36 CFR 261.9i). The rules for petrified wood collection are found under 36 CFR 228, Subpart C. Be advised that unauthorized collection of archaeological artifacts, such as arrowheads, old bottles, other historic artifacts etc. is prohibited on National Forest lands.

    Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site is the name of a fossil site, a place where impressions of plants, insects, and fish that lived millions of years ago can be found in shale. These fossils are the result of events that happened long before there were people to observe them. The organisms found at Stonerose lived nearly 50 million years ago, in a time known as the Eocene Epoch. At that time, the area now occupied by the City of Republic was part of an ancient lake.

    Curlew Lake State Park  is a 123-acre camping park, eight miles from the Stone Rose public fossil dig and the charming gold rush town of Republic. The Lew is one of the most relaxing campgrounds in Washington, a great destination for a quiet day-trip or overnight adventure. Water and snow sports are popular activities, as well as natural history and archeological study.


    Permits are required for many forest activities. Check with the local ranger district if you have questions on whether a permit may be needed. Remember, we are having an extremely dry summer. Burn bans are in effect throughout the Northwest. Please observe and obey all fire restrictions.

    Of course there are many other places to prospect, rockhound and dig for fossils. Where is your favorite place to go? Is there a good campground nearby you can tell us about?

    Get out there and have a great time! Happy Camping!


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