Colorado rocks!

By Kevin & Vicki Witte

The Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (CSMS) and Lake George club members search a private topaz claim on a field trip. © Vicki Witte.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to consider rockhounding this summer. Perhaps thereís a budding geologist in the family. Or youíre looking for a different kind of outdoor activity that involves Colorado scenery and burns some calories? Or maybe you just need some solitude. But be forewarned: Rockhounding can be addicting.

Colorado is well-known to rockhounds worldwide, whether itís topaz in the Tarryalls, aquamarines on Mt Antero, or quartz crystals and amazonite on Pikes Peak. Just donít think youíll ever get rich rockhounding.

While you probably wonít find a mastodonís tooth or the skull of a saber tooth tiger sticking out of the ground (vertebrate fossils canít be collected anyway), you can collect leaf imprints, ancient insects, petrified wood, and invertebrate sea creatures that lived millions of years ago.

What drew me (Kevin) to rockhounding was the thrill of the hunt and eventual discovery of minerals and gems hidden from view since they were formed millions of years ago. My best discovery was last year when I was walking through the Hayman burn and found a small piece of blue-green amazonite poking through the dirt. Careful digging exposed a pocket of smoky quartz and amazonite crystal combinations. While these specimens werenít world-class, they did find a safe place in the curio cabinet my wife bought me for Christmas.

The best way to get started in the hobby of rockhounding is to join a local club. Nearly every large town in Colorado has one, and even some small towns like Lake George do, too. For a mere annual fee of less than $50 Coloradoís geology and the hobby of rockhounding can be opened up to your whole family.

Searching for microcline crystals atop Mosquito Pass. © Vicki Witte.

Old timers will be glad to show you the ropes and offer you personalized instruction on how to go about prospecting for various specimens. A club may even have rights to certain claims that would otherwise be off-limits.

One of my favorite family outings each year is going to the Holcim Cement quarry east of CaŮon City. Every year clubs set up field trips to this private quarry to collect fossil shells, pyrite, and calcite crystals. All the kids always have a good time.

You can also find other sources of information on rockhounding on the web, or see your local library for rockhounding magazines like Rock & Gem, or check out a book on Colorado rockhounding. If you purchase a book, just make sure itís a recent edition, as many areas become claimed over time, while others open up to collectors. I would recommend you start with Voynickís Colorado Rockhounding.

Get a feel for the depth and breadth of the hobby by attending one of the dozen or so annual rock shows in Colorado. One of the best is the Denver Gem and Mineral show, held every September. Dealers come from as far away as Australia, Pakistan, and Morocco to show and sell their spectacular finds.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you set out:

Just remember, the better prepared you are for a trip, the more likely you will come back with something you were looking for as well as lasting memories.

Vicki Witte is a freelance writer and editor living in Colorado Springs. Her husband, Kevin, is an avid rockhound. Follow his blog at

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