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Alaska Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

Alaska Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

Alaska can be a great state for rockhounding, and with its relatively unique challenges come equally rewarding results. With so much public land available for prospecting and exploration you can most likely find some great, unspoiled sites on which to do some rockhounding.

The obvious challenges with rockhounding in Alaska are the weather and inaccessible terrain. When the ground is covered in snow it makes finding any interesting rocks and minerals nearly impossible, and even when there is no snow the ground may still be frozen making it hard to dig. Most of Alaska is challenging and expensive to access, so if you are interested in doing any serious prospecting you should be highly experienced and prepared.

That being said, there are plenty of places to do some more recreational rockhounding. The state of Alaska and the BLM have set up several locations specifically designed for this purpose, and, of course, panning for gold is one of the most popular outdoor hobbies in this part of the country. It helps to have an idea of where to look and what you can find there, so I’ve put this article together to help get you started.

In general, the best places to rockhound in Alaska are the gravels of streams, rivers, and beaches, particularly in the south. Jade Mountain is famous for its jade specimens, and Garnet Ridge is a reliable location to find garnets. Panning for gold in Alaska’s many rivers and streams is also quite popular.

State Symbols
State MineralGold
State Rock
State GemstoneNephrite Jade
State FossilWoolly Mammoth
Source

Nephrite Jade
Nephrite Jade

I’ll dive deeper into the types of material you can find here and exactly where you can being your search, along with a handy map and some additional resources to help you along the way.

Rocks and Minerals Found in Alaska

Due to Alaska’s immense size and diverse geology, there is almost no limit to the varieties of rocks and minerals you can find here. In addition to typical common rock types like granite, schist, and sandstone, there are countless mineral species within Alaska’s borders.

The mining history of Alaska is primarily focused on precious metal ores, targeting the production of gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other precious metals. Gemstone mining has been somewhat of a secondary activity here because of the harsh terrain and weather, but the potential for more gemstone production is enormous.

One gemstone that Alaska is famous for is nephrite jade, which is predominantly found in northwest Alaska. The aptly named Jade Mountain and the surrounding area are home to some of the highest quality jade in the world.

The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in Alaska are:

  • Gold
  • Petrified wood
  • Nephrite
  • Quartz
  • Agate
  • Jasper
  • Cinnabar
  • Stibnite

Cinnabar with Stibnite
Cinnabar with Stibnite

Where to Rockhound in Alaska

Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Alaska which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of beaches, outcrops, old mining prospects, washes, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:

Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Please note that I have not been to these locations. I have found records of these rockhounding sites over a variety of sources and offer these locations as a place to start searching. I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the given locations or the quality of the material there.

Joining up with a local rockhounding club for a group trip can often get you access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries. There are several rockhounding clubs in Alaska so, hopefully, you can find one you like nearby.

I have tried to take care not to list locations within National Park boundaries since collecting is illegal there, but please remember that it is up to you to make sure you have permission to collect wherever you are. Even if you are on land that is generally open for public use there may be privately owned mining claims inside those boundaries and you’ll need to get permission to collect on that location.

Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.

If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.

Some of the best rockhounding sites in Alaska are privately owned. Some are commercially operated mines and quarries, and gaining permission to collect on any of these properties is, as always, absolutely essential. Some are open to the public for collecting at select times of the week, often on weekends. I will have more information on how to check property ownership status later in this article.

Bristol Bay & the Aleutian Islands

Rockhounding in the Bristol Bay area is highlighted by the placer gold deposits found in most of the local rivers and lakes. You can also find some cinnabar along the Wood River and petrified wood in the gravels around Kujulik Bay. There are also reports of other quartz family minerals like agates, bloodstone, and carnelian in several locations near Bristol Bay.

Tip: Check out my Complete Rockhounding Guide for tips on planning your rockhounding trip and getting the most out of your time in the field!

The Aleutian Islands aren’t exactly a hotspot for rockhounding because of the obvious difficulties involved in even getting to them, but if you happen to be heading that way there is some interesting material to be found in the right places. The gravels of island beaches will typically hold some agates and high-quality jasper.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
Bristol Bay, in gravels and prospects along the Wood RiverCinnabar
Kujulik Bay, general area in gravelsPetrified wood
Iliamna Lake, in inflowing streams as placersGold
Lake Clark, in inflowing streams as placersGold
Becharof Lake, on N shoreCarnelian
Lake Iliamna, on beachesAgate, Bloodstone
Port Heiden, area beach gravels to SWAgate
Adak Island, on N shore in beach gravelsJasper (red, gem-quality)
Atka Island, general areaPetrified wood
Attu Island, beach gravels on SE sideChalcedony and Jasper pebbles
Kodiak Island, W coast beachesCopper, Gold, Lead, Silver, Tin, Zinc
Sand Point, Shumagin Islands in beach gravelsAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper
Tanaga Island, in beach gravelsAgate (pebbles)
Unalaska Island, in gravels near Dutch HarborAgate (banded, gray), Chalcedony, Argillite, Jasper (green)

Alaskan Interior

The Alaskan Interior and the Yukon River Basin are famous for placer gold deposits. Almost any river or stream will turn up some amount of placer gold if the proper techniques are applied. Mining districts all over the area’s many mountain ranges have historically produced minerals like stibnite, cinnabar, and ore minerals.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
Eva Creek, as float near Liberty Bell MineFerberite, Gold, Lead, Silver
Mt. Hayes, N slope near FerryStibnite
Fairbanks, in placers over a large areaGold, Antimony, Tungsten
Fairbanks, in area stream gravelsStibnite, Gold, Quartz, Fossils, Cassiterite
Healy, general area in gravels and exposuresAmethyst, Agate, Quartz

Northwest Alaska

If you’re looking to do some rockhounding in northwestern Alaska you’re braver than me! This region is inhospitable and dangerous without the proper precautions, but does offer ample rewards for those who can manage the conditions.

The area surrounding Jade Mountain (including Jade Creek) is among the most famous places on earth for high-quality nephrite jade production. The gem-quality material found here is highly sought-after and often used for carving and lapidary work.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
California Creek and other area streams, as floatAsbestos, Serpentine
Dahl Creek, area outcropsChrysotile
Asbestos Mountain, in outcrops near summitChrysotile, Asbestos, Tremolite, Serpentine, Magnesite, Magnetite, Nickel
Jade Creek, general areaNephrite jade
Shungnak, general areaGold (in placers), Platinum, Asbestos, Nephrite jade, Serpentine
Squirrel River and tributaries, in placers near KianiaGold, Platinum
Jade Mountains, all area creeks and gravelsNephrite Jade (gem-quality)
Point Barrow, in some beach depositsAmber

Southwest Alaska

Rockhounding in southwest Alaska is mostly limited to the ample placer gold found in the many rivers and streams that cut through the landscape, particularly along the Kanektok and Togiak Rivers and their tributaries. For a bit more variety, you can search for fossilized ivory in gravels and washes near Cape Newenham.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
Kanektok River, general area, in placersGold
Togiak River, general area, in placersGold
Goodnews mining district, placers over a wide areaGold, Platinum
Platinum, general area near Cape NewenhamFossil ivory
Sleetmute mining district, area depositsCinnabar

Seward Peninsula

The Seward Peninsula is among the richest regions in the entire world for placer gold deposits. The rivers and streams in the area are famous for their placer gold, and even wash enough gold into the ocean to create rich placer deposits on the ocean beaches.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
Bendeleben Mountains, area pegmatitesMuscovite
Aggie Creek, in placersGold
Kotzebue Sound, on S shoresFossil ivory
Dime Creek and other area creeks, in placers and prospectsGold
Gold Run and most other creeks and rivers on W peninsulaGold
York, area placersCassiterite, Gold

Southeastern Alaska

There is a bit more variety in southeastern Alaska compared to the rest of the state when it comes to rockhounding. This is probably largely due to the (relatively) high population and therefore more thorough prospecting. Working the many area placer gold deposits is still the most popular activity for amateur geologists, but there are many other locations to check out where you can find some gemstones and other interesting minerals.

One of the most popular rockhounding locations in Alaska is Garnet Ledge, south of the mouth of the Stikine River. This land is owned by the Boy Scouts and is free for children to collect on, but adults are required to purchase a permit for a small fee. The garnets are typically harvested out of schists and picked out of the nearby talus.

You can also pick through the gravels of many local bays and rivers for minerals like agates, petrified wood, and jasper. These specimens are fun to find and would make nice additions to most collections, but aren’t particularly notable for their quality or uniqueness.

Location & DetailsRocks & Minerals
Archangel Creek, near headGold
Craigie Creek, near head and near Willow CreekGold
Willow Creek, near headGold
Matahuska River, along Glenn Hwy.Jasper
Fire IslandAgate
Kenai River & area to SAgate, Jasper
Anchor River, general areaPetrified wood, Agate
Haines, E side of Chilkat Valley in depositsBarite, Gold, Magnetite
Admiralty Island, on beaches from Wilson Cove to Point GardnerAgate
Moose Pass and Hope mining districts, S of AnchorageGold
Crow Creek Gold MineGold
Salamtof Beach, in gravelsAgate
Lituya Bay, in beach placersGold
Glacier Bay (no collecting) and Hamilton Bay, in beach gravelsAgate, Jasper, Petrified wood
Red Bluff Bay, area gravelsSerpentine
Silver Bay, near head SE of SitkaRhodonite
Garnet Ledge, SE of Stikine River MouthGarnet (almandine)
Saginaw Bay, in beach gravelsAgate, Jasper, Petrified wood
Port Houghton, area to SGarnet, Tourmaline

Panning for Gold in Alaska

Gold Pan

Panning for gold is one of the most popular outdoor hobbies in Alaska. The geology and topography of the region combine to make rivers and streams all over the state some of the best places you can pan for gold in America. Combine that with the fact that approximately 99% of Alaska is public land and it’s easy to see why the hobby is so popular.

You can find some prime locations to pan for gold in the tables I listed above, but for families or beginners just getting into the hobby, there are a few locations specifically designated for recreational gold panning by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. These sites are a great way to have fun, learn about the hobby, and reliably find some gold flakes without having to worry about mining claims or land ownership issues.

In general, gold panning is permitted on state land and BLM land throughout Alaska as long as you aren’t on someone else’s mining claim. Only hand tools are allowed for recreational prospecting, but you may be able to procure a permit to use heavier equipment like dredges.

Alaska Rockhounding Laws & Regulations

One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.

The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information for every location on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.

Public Land Resources

I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.

To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the maps from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources where you can view things like land ownership, mining claims, geologic maps, and more.

Here are some additional resources to help you check on land ownership and mineral claims:

Private Land Resources

As with most states, each borough in Alaska will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by contacting the borough’s records office. I would probably start by doing a property records search and getting whatever contact information you can for the landowner.

Sources & Further Reading

The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources include:

This post is part of my State-By-State Rockhounding Guides series. Please check out more states for thousands of additional sites to go rockhounding!