Alaska is a terrific state for rockhounding. In addition to gold, Alaska is well known to recreational rockhounders for its jade, garnets, and fossils.
Rocks, Gemstones, Fossils, & Dinosaurs
Rockhounding Tip: Knowing state rocks, gemstones, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs often can be very useful information for rockhounders. Ordinarily, states with significant mineral deposits, valuable gemstones, fossils, or unusual or significant rock occurrences will designate an official state mineral, rock/stone, gemstone, or fossil to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc. Accordingly, such state symbols often are a good clue as to potential rockhounding opportunities.
State Gem: Jade (1968)
Alaska designated jade as its official state gem in 1968. Alaska has large deposits of the gem, including an entire mountain of jade on the Seward Peninsula. In addition, the Kobuk River region in northwestern Alaska (Jade Creek and Jade Mountain) is a famous remote Arctic interior jade locality with an extensive history. The name jade refers to two minerals, jadeite and nephrite (actinolite) jade. Both types are extremely tough, but easily carved which makes them the perfect material for gems, decorative stone, and early tools such as axes, awls and weapons. Jade from Alaska is nephrite jade, a dark green and cream colored jade.
State Mineral: Gold (1968)
Alaska designated gold is its official state mineral in 1968. Gold has played a major role in Alaska’s history. In 1896, the Klondike Gold Rush attracted prospectors and others from all over the world.
Fossil: Woolly Mammoth (1986)
Alaska designated the Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) as its official state fossil in 1986. The Woolly Mammoth is an extinct member of the elephant family that roamed Alaska during the Pleistocene approximately 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago.
State-specific rockhounding books (including the books listed here as well as other books), regional rockhounding site guides, and other helpful rockhounding resources are identified - by category - in the Books & Gear section of Gator Girl Rocks with a link to the Gator Girl Rocks Amazon Store where you may easily browse selected resources and securely place an order. Your order will benefit Charity Rocks!
Department of Natural Resources , Fairbanks, Alaska
U.S. Bureau of Land Management - Alaska
A significant portion of the state of Alaska is federal public lands. A vast amount of these federal public lands (about seventy-five million acres) are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM’s Alaska Minerals provides information regarding Alaska minerals and selected localities.
- Chugach Gem & Mineral Society
The rockhound club publishes Alaska...A Guidebook for Rockhounds (1986), which contains many Alaskan localities with topographic maps.
- Cathy Connor & Daniel O'Haire, Roadside Geology of Alaska (1988).
- Montana Hodges, Rockhounding Alaska (2010).
- BLM, Riches from the Earth: A Geologic Tour Along the Dalton Highway (1993). This book is a guide to geologic features and history of the Dalton highway or Haul road. Many spots are mentioned for collecting fossils.
- R. James Lethcoe, Geology of Price William Sound Alaska (1990). Covers the geology, glaciers, minerals, and mines of the Prince William Sound.
- James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Rockhounding Adventures in the West (2d ed. 2007).
- Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Northwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
Alaska Museum of
The museum's geological materials include rocks and minerals, vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. Anthropological collections include artifacts from specific sites in the state, most notably the "Broken Mammoth" site.
The museum has a number of specimens on display including North Slope dinosaur bones, mammoth, & bison remains, big gold nuggets, small assortment of Alaskan minerals.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Denali National Park is located approximately 120 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska. The park contains North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley (20,320 feet).
The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve includes tidewater glaciers, snow-capped mountain ranges, ocean coastlines, deep fjords, and freshwater rivers and lakes. I visited the park in 2002.
Klondike Gold Rush
National Historic Park
Commemorates the 1898 Alaskan Gold Rush. I visited the Skagway part (the other part is in Seattle, Washington) in 2002.
Anchorage Convention & Visitors Information Center
The Visitors Center exhibits a five thousand pound specimen of nephrite jade from Dahl Creek, a tributary of the Kobuk River, near the Artic Circle.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
The famous Garnet Ledge, with its big red dodecahedrons, is located in a layer of metamorphic layer of rock near the mouth of the Stikine River north of Wrangell. The garnet crystals occur in a variety of sizes from the tiny ones up to perfect crystals of 1-1/2 inches in diameter. They are noted for the perfection of their crystal faces. The garnets, however, seldom contain material suitable for either cabochons or faceting. The ledge has been mined by amateurs and professionals for over a century. The Garnet Ledge is now owned by the local Boy Scouts. Only children are allowed to dig for garnets at no charge. Adults must purchase a permit. Garnet sellers greet the cruise ships and Alaska Marine Highway ferries that call on the community.
Awareness of the garnet ledge's existence traces back to the early Klondike and Stikine River gold miners of the 1860's. The US Forest Service maintains a public use rental cabin near by and the Wrangell Museum sells temporary permits for visitors to collect a few garnets themselves.
Kobuk Valley, Alaska
Alaska jade occurs in the Kobuk Valley in northwestern Alaska. The jade can be found at Jade Mountain and in boulders scattered along the rivers. The jade boulders were carried by glaciers to their present location and dropped when the glaciers receded.
The Donjek river carries large volumes of gravel, sand, and silt through constantly shifting channels that wander across the valley floor. Geodes or thunder eggs filled with chalcedony and quartz can be found in the river gravels.