MO 220px-Map of USA MO

Rockhounding Missouri

Missouri is a good state for rockhounding.  Missouri is famous for its historic lead and zinc mines.  In addition, Missouri has been known as the "Cave State" for many years.  Although Missouri is now second in the nation to Tennessee in total number of caves with nearly 6,000 located wild caves, the state has more show caves open to the public than any other state. 
 Karst, or the sort of landscape riddled with caves, springs, sinkholes, natural tunnels, and bridges comprises about sixty percent of the state's land surface, much of it south of the Missouri River.  Approximately two dozen meteorites have been found in Missouri.


State Rocks, Gemstones, Minerals, 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, fossil, or dinosaur to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc.  Accordingly, such state symbols often are a valuable clue as to potential worthwhile rockhounding opportunities.

MIssouri - Rock - Mozarkite


State Rock:  Mozarkite (1967)
Missouri designated mozarkite as its official state rock in 1967.  Mozarkite is a fine-grained chert.  Typically, its colors are different hues of red, pink and purple with varying tints of gray, green, and brown.  Cutting and polishing into ornamental shapes for jewelry enhance the rock’s beauty.  Mozarkite is most commonly found near Lake of the Ozarks.  Two early fanciers of the rock, Phillip Widel and Linville Harms, coined the name mozarkite in the 1950s.  They formed the name from "mo" for Missouri and "zark" for the Ozark Mountains in Benton County, Missouri.  The main source of mozarkite, is at the edge of the Ozark foothills.  Before the coinage of this name, the rock was called "Missouri agate."


Missouri - Galena (Sweetwater Mine, Reynolds County)

Galena from Sweetwater Mine, Reynolds County, Missouri

State Mineral:  Galena (1967)
Missouri designated galena as its official mineral in 1967.  Galena is the major source of lead ore, and the recognition of this mineral by the state legislature was to emphasize Missouri's status as the nation's top producer of lead.  Galena is dark gray in color and breaks into small cubes. 
 Galena was first reported in the late 1600s and mining began in 1720 at Mine La Motte.  Mining of galena has flourished in the Joplin-Granby area of southwest Missouri, and rich deposits have been located in such places as Crawford, Washington, Iron, and Reynolds counties.


Missouri - Fossil crinoid


State Fossil: Delocrinus missouriensis (Crinoid) (1989)
Missouri designated the crinoid (Delocrinus missouriensis) as its official state fossil in 1989.  The fossil is a mineralization of an animal that, because of its plant-like appearance, was called the "sea lily."  Crinoids lived in ocean shelf environments in the ocean that once covered Missouri.  The Mississippian and Pennsylvanian geological periods were peak times where crinoids dominated the seascape.  Crinoid stem segments are sometimes referred to as "stone donuts" or "rock Cheerios."  Complete preserved specimens are rare; stem fragments are common in limestone exposures along the central corridor of the state.  Crinoids are related to starfish and sand dollars. 
 Today, there are about 600 crinoid species alive in the ocean.


Missouri - Dinosaur - Hypsibema missouriensis Bollinger County Museum of Natural History


State Dinosaur:  Hypsibema missouriensis (2004)
Missouri designated
 Hypsibema missouriense as its official state dinosaur in 2004.  Hypsibema was a Late Cretaceous period Hadrosaur or ‘duck billed’ dinosaur that lived around 75 million years ago.  It was an herbivore.  Hypsibema had evolved specialized teeth to handle the tough, fibrous vegetation of the time and its jaws are estimated to have contained over 1,000 small teeth.  Hypsibema was first discovered in 1942 by the Chronister family while digging a cistern near the town of Glen Allen in Bollinger County, Missouri at what later became known as the Chronister Dinosaur Site.


Rockhounding Resources

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!

Gological Survey Building

Division of Geology & Land Survey
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources includes the state’s geological survey program.  The website includes very useful information regarding fossil, rock, and mineral collecting localities as well as general geologic information.


Kansas & Missouri Paleontological Society

Missouri Caves Logo

Missouri Caves Association
Information about many Missouri caves.

  • Charles G. Spencer, Roadside Geology of Missouri (2011).
  • A.G. Unklesbay, Missouri Geology:  Three Billion Years of Volcanoes, Seas, Sediments, & Erosion (1992). 
  • W.D. Keller, Common Rocks & Minerals of Missouri (Rev. ed., 1961).
  • A.G. Unklesbay, Common Fossils of Missouri (1955).
  • June Culp Zeitner, Midwest Gem, Fossil, & Mineral Trails: Prairie States (Rev. ed., May 1998 first published in 1955). 
  • June Culp Zeitner, Midwest Gem Trails: Field Guide for the Gem Hunter, the Mineral Collector, and the Tourist (3d. Rev. ed., 1964 originally published in 1956).
  • Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 3 - Northwestern Quadrant (1986; reprint in 2000)
  • James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Mineral Adventures in the Eastern U.S. (2d ed., 2010)
  • Kathy J. Rygle and Stephen F. Pedersen, Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008)

Museums of Interest to Rockhounders

Museum - Bollinger County

Bollinger County Museum of Natural History
Marble Hill, Missouri

Exhibits include Missouri fossils.  The museum also includes a life-size model of the hypsibema missouriense, a variety of dinosaur called a Hadrosaur or "duck billed" dinosaur, with jaws that contained more than 1,000 teeth that was discovered in Bollinger County in 1942.


Edward L. Clark Museum of Missouri Geology
Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Division of Geology and Land Survey - Rolla, Missouri
Includes rocks, minerals, and fossils.


Mineral Museum
Missouri University of Science & Technology – Rolla, Missouri
The Missouri University of Science & Technology has Missouri’s largest university mineral collection, located in NcNutt Hall, with 3,500 specimens from around the world.  The University also has a replica of Stonehenge built from 160 tons of granite.


Richard L. Sutton, Jr., MD Museum of Geosciences
University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri
Museum focuses on local fossils.


Museum - Everett J Ritchie Museum

Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum
Joplin, Missouri
The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum boasts one of the world's most exceptional collections of lead and zinc ores as well as other minerals found in the Tri-State District.  This museum interprets the geology and geochemistry of the area and illustrates mining processes and methods used from the 1870s through the 1960s.


Museum - golden-pioneer-museum sign

Golden Pioneer Museum
Golden, Missouri
The museum exhibits rocks, minerals, gems, and fossils.  The museum states that its collection includes the largest double terminated single quartz crystal in the world, weighing 1,250 pounds and the world's largest turquoise carving, made from a nugget weighing 68 pounds.



Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See

Site - Missouri Mines State Historical Site

Missouri Mines State Historical Site
Park Hills, Missouri
The Missouri Mines State Historical Site features a geological and mining history museum and interpretive center focusing on Missouri's historic lead belt. 


Site - Onondaga Cave State Park

Onondaga Cave State Park
Leasburg, Missouri
Onondaga Cave is one of America's most spectacular caves because of the great abundance and quality of its speleothems or deposits.  Stalactites, stalagmites, rimstone dams, flowstones, draperies, soda straws and cave coral extensively decorate the cave.  Because of this, Onondaga Cave was designated as a National Natural Landmark.  Many of the deposits are still growing and a stream meanders through the cave in an entrenched canyon.


Site - Elephant-Rocks-State-Park

Elephant Rocks State Park
Graniteville, Iron County, Missouri
One of the most curious geologic formations in Missouri is found at Elephant Rocks State Park.  Giant boulders of 1.5 billion year old granite stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants



Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families

Lincoln, Benton County, Missouri
Residual masses of mozarkite are found in road ditches, creeks, and excavations


Mexico area, Audrain County, Missouri
Clusters of small pyrite crystals in the abandoned fire clay pits and spoil piles


Lake Superior Agates
La Grange Area, Lewis County
Lake Superior agates and jasper occur at gravel pit spoil piles.


Pink Dolomite, Calcite, Sphalerite, Chalcopyrite
Joplin –Webb City – Oronogo Area, Jasper County, Missouri
The Tri-State Zinc District.  The abandoned mine dumps are sites for pink dolomite, calcite, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and more rarely galena


Specimen - Geode Map

Kahoka - Wayland - Alexandria area, Clark County, Missouri
Although geodes are known from many localities around the world, one of the most productive and famous collecting regions is encompassed within a 50-mile radius of Keokuk, Iowa.  Geodes from this region commonly are referred to as "Keokuk geodes."  Most geodes are derived from strata of the lower Warsaw Formation, a widespread rock unit of Mississippian age.  Muds deposited in a shallow sea about 340 million years ago were primarily calcium carbonate and clay, and were subsequently lithified to form the shales, shaley dolomites, and limestones that we see today.  Fresh geodes can be dug out of exposures of the lower Warsaw Formation, where they are concentrated in certain layers.  Where water and streamflow have eroded these strata, concentrations of geodes may accumulate in stream channels.

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