Texas is an extraordinary state for rockhounding. This enormous state – well known for its sedimentary basins and oil and gas industry has a wide variety of rocks, minerals, gemstones, and fossils. In addition, the state has one of the finest natural history museums in America.
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.
State Rock: Petrified Palm Wood (1969)
Texas designated petrified palm wood its official state stone in 1969. The petrified wood is a fossil. Petrified palm wood comes from an extinct genus of palm called palmoxylon. The spotted look of palm wood is caused by fossilized rod-like structures within the original wood. Depending upon the angle the stone is cut, they show up as spots, tapering rods, or lines. Texas has some of the best quality petrified palm wood in the United States. In Texas, petrified palm wood is found principally in eastern counties near the Texas Gulf Coast.
State Gemstone: Texas Blue Topaz (1969)
Texas designated Texas Blue Topaz as its official state gemstone in 1969. Topaz forms by fluorine-bearing vapors given off during the last stages of the solidification of siliceous igneous rocks. Topaz commonly is found in cavities in rhyolite lavas and granites. The name topaz comes from Topazion, the name of an island in the Red Sea. Texas is home to beautiful blue crystals of topaz that occur in the Llano Uplift region in Central Texas, especially west to northwest of Mason, as well as the Texas Hill Country in Mason County.
Cut: Lone Star Cut (1997)
Texas also has an official state gemstone cut. Texas designated the ‘Lone Star Cut’ as its official state gemstone cut in 1997.
State Dinosaur: Paluxysaurus jonesi (2009)
In 1997, Texas designated Pleurocoelus, a Brachiosaur Sauropod, as its official state dinosaur. In 2007, however, scientists determined that what earlier was believed to be a Pleurocoelus in north Texas was actually was a different dinosaur. Accordingly, in 2009, Texas designated Paluxysaurus jonesi as its official state dinosaur. The dinosaur is named after the town of Paluxy in Hood County, Texas and the Paluxy River both of which are near the Jones Ranch where the fossils were discovered. Paluxysaurus jonesi was a massive sauropod that lived in what is now Texas during the Early Cretaceous (about 112 million years ago) was common to North Texas, based on fossils from Hood County and dinosaur foot prints from near Glen Rose, Texas. It measured close to twelve feet high at the shoulder, was approximately sixty feet in length (with a twenty-six foot long neck), and weighed roughly twenty tons. The species in the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History was discovered at the Jones Ranch in Hood County.
Metal: Silver (2007)
Texas also has an official state precious metal. Texas designated silver as its official state precious metal in 2007.
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!
Paleontological Society of Austin
An excellent resource for Texas fossils.
Website with extensive resources pertaining to Texas.
- Brad Cross, Gem Trails of Texas (Rev. 8th ed., 2002).
- Melinda Crow, Rockhounding Texas (1998).
- Darwin Spearing, Roadside Geology of Texas (1991).
- Charles Finsley, A Field Guide to Fossils of Texas (1999).
- June Culp Zeitner, Southwest Mineral & Gem Trails (1972).
- Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 4B - Southwestern Quadrant (1987; reprint in 2000).
- James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Rockhounding Adventures in the West (2d ed. 2007).
- Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Southwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the finest natural science museums in America. The museum’s exhibits include the Cullen Hall of Gems & Minerals featuring a large exhibit of hundreds of crystallized mineral specimens and rare gemstones. In addition, the Museum’s Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Hall of Paleontology features numerous fossils including an 85-foot long Diplodocus skeleton, the only mounted Diplodocus hayi in the world.
Fort Worth Museum of Science & History
Fort Worth, Texas
Permanent exhibits include DinoLabs and DinoDig.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
The museum includes a Gems & Minerals Hall showcasing gems, minerals, and crystals. In addition, the T. Boone Pickens Hall showcases paleontological exhibits.
Texas Memorial Museum
University of Texas at Austin – Austin, Texas
The museum has an extensive dinosaur exhibit. The museum’s Hall of Geology and Paleontology features over five hundred dinosaur and fossil specimens including the Onion Creek Mosasaur, a thirty-foot aquatic reptile that swam in the shallow seas of Texas during the Cretaceous Period. The museum also is home to famous dinosaur tracks recovered from the dinosaur track way near Glen Rose, Texas.
Monnig Meteorite Gallery
Texas Christian University – Fort Worth, Texas
The meteorite gallery, located in the Sid Richardson Science Building, displays about ten percent of the Oscar E. Monning Meteorite Collection, which is one of the largest university-based meteorite collections in the world. The collection holds over 1,700 different meteorites.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
West Texas A&M University – Canyon, Texas
The museum includes exhibits pertaining to paleontology as well as geology.
The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum
The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum focuses on the oil and gas industry of the Permian basin in west Texas.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is over 800,000 acres in size and includes a wide variety of Cretaceous and Tertiary fossils.
Waco Mammoth Site
This mammoth site includes bones of twenty-four Columbian mammoths that were buried approximately 68,000 years ago when rapidly rising waters flooded the site.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Northwest of Glen Rose, Texas
Dinosaur Valley State Park contains some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world. The dinosaur tracks are located in the Paluxy River bed. Some of tracks, which are over one hundred million years old, were removed and are on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and at the Texas Memorial Museum on the University of Texas campus.
Quarries National Monument
Potter County, Texas
Visitors can see flint quarries that were used for centuries as a flint source.
Odessa Meteor Crater
The Odessa Meteor Crater is a famous meteorite crater southwest of Odessa, Texas. The site is designated as a National Natural Landmark.
Petrified Wood Gas Station
The Texaco Petrified Wood Gas Station is a well known tourist attraction in Decatur Texas. The building is surfaced with petrified wood and operated as such from 1935 to 1988.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Petrified Palm Wood
Live Oak & Webb Counties, Texas
Texas has some of the best quality petrified palm wood in the United States. Fine-quality palm wood occurs in Live Oak and Webb counties.
South of Alpine, Texas – Woodward Ranch
Commercial (fee access) business. Woodward Ranch (over 3,000 acres) is a cattle ranch. The owners, however, permit rockhounding. Numerous types of agate as well as other rocks and minerals occur on the site.
West Texas – Stillwell Ranch
Commercial (fee access) business. Stillwell Ranch, located north of Big Bend National Park, is a 22,000-acre ranch. Rockhounders can find agate (moss and plume) and jasper as well as petrified wood.
Fossils - Cretaceous
Ladonia Fossil Park, Fannin County, Texas
The North Sulphur River in southeast Fannin County is noted for Cretaceous Period marine megafossils such as mosasaurs and plesiosaurs and for Ice Age fossils such as mammoths and mastodons. Ladonia Fossil Park (aka Pete Patterson Fossil Park) is located just north of Ladonia where highway 34 crosses the North Sulphur River. Fossils here include ammonites, bivalves, shark teeth, and mammal bones and teeth.
Fossils – Pennsylvanian Period
Mineral Wells Fossil Park, Mineral Wells, Texas
The Mineral Wells Fossil Park is located on Indian Creek Road, northwest of Mineral Wells, Texas (80 miles southwest of Dallas). Mineral Wells Fossil Park provides an excellent opportunity to see and collect for personal use well preserved "Pennsylvanian Period" fossils. These fossils have been dated to be just over 300 million years old. The most common fossil found at Mineral Wells Fossil Park are the stalks of crinoids (sea lilies). Although crinoids may look like weird plants, they actually are animals.
Fossils – Cretaceous
Benbrook Lake, Tarrant County, Texas
Benbrook Lake – located southwest of Fort Worth – is a noted fossil-hunting location. Much of the rock that underlies Tarrant County consists primarily of seventy to eighty-five million year old sedimentary rock strata from the Late Cretaceous Period. Accessible in the Benbrook Spillway cut and many other exposed areas, these rocks are the remains of a shallow ocean that covered this part of the continent and receded over the last seventy million years to the present Gulf Coast shoreline in South Texas. It represents a shallow marine habitat, under about thirty feet of depth, which was populated by oyster reefs, corals, clams, sea urchins, and ammonites. It is very similar to what you might find off the Texas coast today at similar depth, except for the ammonites. Ammonites are an extinct group of shelled mollusks, related to the nautilus, squid and octopus. Most of the fossils you find have living descendants today, some in almost exactly the same form, like oyster shells.
Mason County, Texas
In Texas, topaz occurs in Mason County. The follow ranches permit topaz collecting. Both are commercial (fee access) businesses:
- Garner Seaquist Ranch (west of Mason, Texas)
- Lindsey Ranch (north of Mason, Texas)