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Winter Time Rock Hunting

January 13, 2015

By Chris Erwin

The day after New Year’s I received five pictures from four different anglers all of whom caught fish during our recent cold spell. I think it’s safe to say you can catch fish if you can push past the cold weather and get yourself out on one of our winter time producing lakes. I have listed them over and over in the editor’s notes of the weekly fishing report.

However, if you are looking to do something a little different, it may be a good time to do some rock hunting. I have been collecting rocks since I was about 12 years old. Most of them end up in one of my fish tanks, where I raise angel fish, but some of them end up in my rock collection. I have also made a few into jewelry.

Author Chris Erwin standing by one of the sandstone formations that holds many types of collectable rocks and minerals, which are washing out of the sandstone. (Photo by Linda Erwin)

Author Chris Erwin standing by one of the sandstone formations that holds many types of collectable rocks and minerals, which are washing out of the sandstone. (Photo by Linda Erwin)

I have a rock tumbler, which are not very expensive. This one came from Harbor Freight, and I think it was about $50.00. In addition to a rock tumbler, you will need some abrasive compound to polish your rocks. Just add your rocks, the compound and some water, let it tumble a few days, and it will reveal what you really found!

You might wonder why I would want to do this in the winter. Well, it’s not that hard to figure out. To begin with, I like to hunt rocks in the woods and it’s a good reason to get out on my four-wheeler and head into the woods. Another reason is in winter, I don’t have to contend with snakes or poison ivy. In addition, your vision is much better in the winter when there is no foliage blocking your view.

They are a lot of semiprecious stones in Kentucky that along with minerals make it into my rock collection. Below is a list of both that can be found while rock hunting in Kentucky. I don’t have the space to list all the rocks and minerals you can find in Kentucky, so I reduced the list to a couple that are common. These are not limited to eastern Kentucky.

Quartz is the hardest, most resistant mineral found in abundance in Kentucky. It is the main constituent in sandstones and geodes, and also occurs as vein quartz. Crystals usually consist of six-sided hexagonal prisms capped by pyramids on one or both ends. Quartz crystals are found in geodes that occur in several different rock types, particularly limestone. In southcentral Kentucky, valleys and stream beds down slopes from the Warsaw-Salem Formation are filled with geodes, some containing amethyst (another variety of quartz).

Agate has delicate and varying shades of color arranged in layers. In the typical occurrence, the bands are irregular, curved, or in concentric patterns. Agate is used as an ornamental material or in semi-precious jewelry. The color banding is usually related to chemical impurities; for example, iron gives a red or orange color and manganese or calcium gives black or blue colors. These include Opal, Jasper, onyx and flint.

Rocks and minerals collected the day after New Years while rock hunting on private land near Morehead, Ky. (Photo by Chris Erwin)

Rocks and minerals collected the day after New Years while rock hunting on private land near Morehead, Ky. (Photo by Chris Erwin)

The question always comes up, have any diamonds ever been found in Kentucky. The answer is yes.

A diamond was found in Adair County, but its source is unknown; there is no kimberlites or lamprophyres in the area, and glaciers did not extend that far into Kentucky. Another diamond was found in West Virginia close to the Kentucky and Virginia borders, but it was determined to have originated in Virginia.

Kimberlites or lamprophyres are known formation that hold diamonds and do appear in Kentucky. The Elliott County kimberlites have been explored extensively for diamonds. However, no authenticated diamonds have been found at that location, despite the extensive work in the area. Some evidence of mining activity and an old log washer are still visible on the property. This property is on private land, so landowner permission should be obtained prior to inspecting the property.

If you’re looking for something different to do while we wait for spring, get out and hunt some rocks. You never know what you might find.

If you look in areas where limestone sits on sandstone you will find a lot of rocks worth collecting. Sandstone deposits or natural beach edges are the most productive places to begin.

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2 Responses to Winter Time Rock Hunting

  1. cory on January 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Found your sit and thought it was promising. I would like to become a rouckhound
    But I seem to not be able to find what I’m looking for. Like the picture you have with the polished rocks how do you know what to look for and what will look good polished or cut open.

  2. Staff on January 19, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Of course they are books that will tell what you can expect to find in Kentucky and what rocks may have value. Myself I like to hunt and pick out what looks good to me and run them through the polisher. If I cut rocks I usually do it with a tile saw; however, they are cutters if you want to invest in them… If you want to make jewelry I have found it much easier to buy rocks from ebay. I only make a few special pieces when I happen to find something special. hope this helps a little.

    Chris Erwin

    Contributing Editor/Publisher
    Kentucky Angling News Magazine
    Outdoor Editor for the Greater Ashland Beacon
    Secretary of the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association
    Author of Camping Kentucky
    Co-Host of the “Outdoor Show” WGLC 105.7 Koolhits Radio

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