A Note from the Richardson Tribe:
Of all the activities we enjoy, rock collecting, also referred to as rockhounding, is the longest lasting. Its probably because rocks are pretty common. It seems like everywhere we go, no matter what we are doing, we keep an eye out for color on the ground. You would be surprised to learn where we have found some of our nicest rocks.

Most of the rocks we collect are tossed in a rock tumbler for a month-long shaping and polishing process. Nicely shaped crystals and fossils go into our collection without polishing. We also try gold panning from time to time if we are in the right area.

It's fun to go to commercial mines too. The kids are sure to find some awesome crystals because the ore is enriched. You can find rubies, sapphires, amethyst, and much more.

The Richardson Tribe

For rock polishing media, try the Rock Shed. Their prices are reasonable, and they don't charge an arm and a leg for shipping. I once received a reimbursement from them because shipping was cheaper than they had estimated.

Here are a few books you might find helpful when rockhounding. The Rockhounding Nevada book helped considerably on a recent visit to Vegas.


Backyard Farming - Back to Basics
Camp Cooking - Dutch Ovens and Pie Irons
Rockhounding - Collecting and Polishing


Places to Go

Amicalola Falls State Park
Beaches of South Walton
Berry College
Big Kahunas Water Park
Biltmore Estate
Blairsville, town of
Callaway Gardens 
Cataloochee Ski Area
Cave Spring, Georgia
Cedar Creek Park
Charlestown State Park 
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Chattanooga Zoo 
Chehaw Park
Cherry Hill Park Campground 
Chester Frost Park
Chieftains Museum
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort
Cohutta Wilderness
Consolidated Gold Mine
Cumberland Island
Dauset Trails Nature Center
Desoto State Park
Disney's Fort Wilderness
Doll Mountain Campground
Dunnaway Gap
Enota Mountain Retreat
Etowah Indian Mounds
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Florala State Park
Fort Mountain State Park
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds
Georgia Veterans State Park
Gold N Gem Grubbin'
Helen, Alpine Village
Heritage Park Bike Path
James H.Floyd State Park
James Island County Park 
Jellystone Park
John Tanner Park
Lake Allatoona
Lake Sidney Lanier
Lake Winnepesaukah
Little River Canyon Center
Live Oak Landing
Lula Lake Land Trust
Mammoth Cave National Park
McIntosh Reserve
McKinney Campground
Moto Mountain ATV Park
New Echota Cherokee Capitol
Old Stone Fort State Park
Noccalula Falls Park
Pine Mountain RV Park
Red Top Mountain State Park
Ridge Ferry Park
Rock Town - Pigeon Mountain
Rocky Mountain Rec. Area
Rolater Park
Rome, Georgia
Salt Springs Recreation Area
Silver Springs, Florida
Stone Mountain. Park
Tannehill  State Park
Tellus Science Museum
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
The Southern Museum
Townsend KOA
Townsend, town of
Vogel State Park
Wild Animal Safari
World of Coke


A Bucket Full of Memories
Funny thing about rocks, you can find them just about anywhere. From mountain streams to the seashore, rocks have been
revealed and eroded by wind and water, blasted out of the Earth by volcanoes, pushed from the ground by unseen forces, and exposed by construction and mining. You might assume that since rocks are so common, they must not be very interesting, right? Well, that depends on your perspective.

We initially began collecting rocks because one of the kids received a rock polisher for Christmas a few years back. It was cheap and didn't last long (Santa didn't know how to shop for a good quality rock tumbler, but that's another story).

Coincidentally, it was around the same time that we visited James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, a place with an abundance of collectible rocks and fossils. Quite by accident, while hiking to the park's abandoned marble mine, we found some very unusual rocks. After some research, we discovered they were agate, and they polished beautifully. On that same trip, we also found rose quartz, pink marble, and a few fossils. It was this trip to Sloppy Floyd State Park that inspired the purchase of a camper, and the rest is history.

What do we love about rockhounding? Our list is pretty long, so I'll try to be brief.

1- Rocks are everywhere, so no matter where you go or what you do, rocks can't be too far away. It's a relatively easy and inexpensive activity, at least until you start polishing the rocks.

2- Searching for rocks, minerals, fossils, and artifacts keeps kids entertained (distracted) on those long hikes resulting in fewer complaints about boredom or sore legs and feet. The twins were just three when we went on that hike to the marble mine at Sloppy Floyd, about a 2 mile round trip.

3- Searching for rocks (colors, shapes) encourages kids to keep their eyes on the ground so they can watch their their step (and watch for snakes).

4- It's educational. Every rock, fossil,  is a lesson in history, science, and mathematics. Learning how the various types of rocks and minerals are formed and why they are shaped or patterned the way they are is very interesting when you can hold the evidence in your hand. We let the kids take some of the rocks to school when they are covering Earth and geology. They are always a big hit.

5- Rockhounding can take you places you wouldn't have otherwise discovered. We have visited several really neat towns and remote areas based on research for rockhounding. Geocaching is also a great activity for finding new places.

6- Rocks you find at various locations will always remind you of that place and the things you did while there. It's kind of like getting a souvenir without the gift shop. I call our rocks a "bucket full of memories".

7- Rocks are beautiful. We have found some of the most astonishingly beautiful rocks in some of the most unlikely places. Semi precious gemstones are great, but some of the prettiest rocks in our collection are more or less worthless. That's ok, their value is much greater than any amount of money.

8- Commercial gem grubbing mines typically provide some pretty good inexpensive and not so clean fun. Give the kid a bucket of dirt and tell them to go play in the water. You won't get much argument. We spent two full days at Gold n Gem Grubbin in Cleveland, Georgia, Panning for gold in the creek and grubbing for Gems at the (nice place to camp too!).

9- Using the rocks and special wrapping wire, you can also learn to make jewelry. The pendant shown here, I made with square silver wire and a shaped and polished agate I found in Summerville, Georgia near Sloppy Floyd State Park.

10- The act of looking for and collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils, and gem grubbing and gold panning gives each and every family member something in common with their siblings and parents. The kids have learned about different types of crystals and rocks, and it gives them something to talk about. I can't tell you how many times I have had one of the kids come running up shouting Daddy, look at this rock I found. The kids will compare their rocks and brag about who found the best one.

Perhaps my favorite benefits of collecting and polishing rocks is the uncanny way they can bring back memories. Sometimes we pull the bucket out and spread the finely polished agate, quartz crystals, amethyst, chert nodules, garnet, and various other rocks and minerals out on a towel covered table. We'll turn the lights up and go through them one by one talking about where we found them and what we did while we were there.

So there you have it, 10, no 11 reasons we rock hound. We're making memories, and I'd be willing to bet the kids will fight over the collection when Mommy and Daddy are gone. 
Proofed and Edited by Lee Thomas Richardson

Here are some examples of rockhounding (rock Collecting) sites we have visited

Adventure Journal
Fossils of Taylor's Ridge - Gore, Georgia
I learned of some fossils and small geodes that could be found near Summerville, Georgia and James (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, a place where the Tribe has previously camped and collected agate. The source for the information was the Sherpa Guides website, and it told of a couple of old Forestry Department roads where you can just pull over and look along the road, and that's exactly what we did late one hot Sunday afternoon.

We went to the first site and found several small geodes, and dozens of crinoid stem fossils. There are apparently other
types of fossils there as well, but we could only stay for a little while. We collected over 100 specimens in about a half hour. We might have stayed longer, but ripe muskadines had fallen on the road attracting lots of yellow jackets. From there, we rode to the top of the ridge and turned onto another old road.  This road is called a "Jeep Trail" on Daddy's GPS unit, but other than being rather narrow, the road was in quite good condition. There was gravel in the tracks and lots of shade and vegetation, so it wasn't dusty at all. We could tell that the view would be great when the leaves fall. We drove several miles until our progress was stopped by a fallen tree. he road appears to be maintained fairly well, so I imagine someone moved the tree soon afterward. We didn't really have the time to do any further fossil hunting on this trail, but we did find some of the iron ore deposits described in the Sherpa Guide article

Gold N Gem Grubbin' - Cleveland, GA
We spent two days grubbin for gems and panning for gold at Gold n Gem Grubbin' near Cleveland, Georgia. We learned about this place by watching "Best Places to find Cash and Treasure" on the Travel Channel (canceled darn it). The host found a large gold nugget and a big chunk of amethyst (as did we). 

The first day was spent panning for gold in the creek. This proved to be a lot of fun, but we found very little gold. Lee Thomas found a large amethyst, and Mommy found a couple of really nice quartz crystals.  Panning in the creek is a good value for a family of six. We spent four hours playing in the creek and looking for treasure for about $37 total.  Not bad!

On the second day at the mine, we bought some of the enriched buckets for gem grubbing. The picture at the bottom right shows our finds for the second day. The bag (corner at top of of picture) contains rubies. We also found sapphire, amethyst, nicely formed quartz crystals, rose quartz, pyrite, blue topaz, fluorite, calcite, emerald, tiger eye, etc. The facility at Gold N gem Grubbin' is the nicest we've been to, and the people there load you up with all the equipment you need for some good n dirty fun.

A major bonus is the campground at Gold N Gem Grubbin'. It's near Cleveland, a short drive from many beautiful mountain views. We were here for a total of three days. We panned the first day. On day two, we took a drive to Tallulah Gorge, Helen, Hiawassee, Dillard, Black Mountain State Park. The final day was spent Gem Grubbin'. Point is, there is plenty to do in the area, and the campground makes the whole experience that much easier.

James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park and surrounding area, Summerville, GA
Taylor's Ridge and James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park are covered with rocks. They're all over the ground. It's like a bomb went off, scattering a finely banded agate all over the place. I've heard it called "crazy lace" agate, "angel lace" agate, and even "Summerville Agate". The rock polishes very nicely and is considered a gemstone. You will also find some quartz and marble around the area. There is an old marble mine in the park. The trail leading to the mine from the south entrance parking area is scattered with lots of nice agate. Many of the rocks have cavities with druzy quartz crystal growing inside. I have lots of this stuff rough and polished. 

The best site to collect agate is in the rock quarry on highway 27 just north of the entrance to Sloppy Floyd State park. You could literally haul tons of the stuff out of there. There are boulders of agate. This site is privately owned, but the owner is very nice and allows rock collection at the site. I would strongly recommend getting his permission first though. His office is located on the property, but you probably won't find him around on the weekend.

Old Pressley Sapphire Mine - Canton NC (between Asheville and Maggie Valley, NC)
We visited the Old Pressley mine (a REAL old working mine) while camping in Maggie Valley. It is way back on a small country road, so I'd recommend NOT taking a large RV or trailer when you go. There is very little parking.  However, it was not crowded in the least, and the screening flume is much better than the Sheffield Ruby mine we had visited on another trip. What's most important is WE ACTUALLY FOUND SOME SAPPHIRES!  One of the largest star sapphires (1,445 carats) ever discovered was found at this location. The lady tending the shop was very nice and helpful. We were allowed to dig our own rocks from tailings brought directly from the mine on the property. Also, we didn't have to pay full price for all the kids.  Everyone got to have a lot of fun, and our cost was under $8.00 each for the entire afternoon. My only regret was that we ran out of time. Now that I know what to look for, I'm going back (someday).

Sheffield Ruby and Sapphire Mine- Franklin, NC 
In June, 2007, we went gem grubbing at the Sheffield Mine in Franklin North Carolina. Although we had very little luck (finding rubies), we really enjoyed ourselves. We found a tiny ruby, but the kids found lots of other semi-precious stones in the enriched buckets. One thing that makes the Sheffield Mine unique is the rubies and sapphires found there are actually from that location. The dirt you screen is dug from that site, and it is possible to find a real valuable stone, what they call "honkers". Although the visit was a little pricy with the number of kids we have ($10 for adults, $8 for the kids), I'd recommend this activity to others because the kids enjoyed playing in the mud very much. Take a change of clothes!

Handfull of Rubies & Sapphires

This image is from SheffieldMine.com


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