Kentucky is a fantastic state for rockhounding, both for the variety of specimens that can be found and the sheer number of potential collecting sites. Rock collecting in Kentucky is undoubtedly highlighted by the geodes which are so commonly found in the central part of the state, making it one of the best places in the entire country to find geodes. You can also find attractive varieties of agates, jasper, and petrified wood in streams and rivers all across the landscape. If you want to do some rock and mineral collecting in Kentucky the first thing you’ll need to do is figure out where to search.
The best places to rockhound in Kentucky are in gravels near outcrops of the Warsaw and Fort Payne formations, particularly in the Blue Grass region where crystal-lined geodes can be found in abundance. Many more notable rockhounding sites are found in the fluorite mines of western Kentucky.
|State Rock||Kentucky Agate|
|State Gemstone||Freshwater Pearl|
This article will dive deeper into the many great rockhounding sites across the state (along with maps), but I’d like to highlight a few standouts here. The top 10 rockhounding sites for rocks and minerals in Kentucky:
- Livingston County – Fluorite, Quartz, Calcite
- Adair County – Quartz-line geodes
- Kentucky River – Calcite, Fluorite, Galena
- Graves County – Agate, Petrified wood, Jasper
- Kentucky Lake – Geodes, Jasper, Quartz
- Lincoln County – Crystal-lined geodes
- Warsaw formation – Geodes
- Louisville – Fossils, Petrified wood, Oolites
- Lyon County – Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Geodes
- Mount Vernon – Chert, Jasper, Geodes, Oolites
Rocks and Minerals Found in Kentucky
Kentucky is home to quite a few rock and mineral varieties that are more than enough to keep an avid collector busy. While the state is almost entirely devoid of igneous rocks, you can find almost any popular sedimentary rock or mineral you can think of somewhere within its borders.
The geodes that weather out of Mississippian aged outcrops will certainly be high on the priority list for any collector, and they can be lined with myriad types of crystals. Quartz-family minerals like agates, jaspers, and petrified wood can be found in many locations across the state, and crystals like fluorite and galena occur in the fluorite mining district of western Kentucky.
The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in Kentucky are:
- Quartz crystals
- Petrified wood
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Kentucky which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of river bars, 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. 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 many rockhounding clubs in Kentucky so you can most likely find one you like nearby.
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.
Rockhounding Sites in Kentucky
Western Kentucky Rockhounding Sites
The rockhounding in western Kentucky is highlighted by the old mining dumps associated with the fluorite belt that extends across the border from southern Illinois. These mines are generally depleted at this point, but by picking through the remnants of the old mine tailings you can likely still find nice specimens of minerals like fluorite, galena, calcite, and smithsonite.
Aside from the old mines in the area, you can generally search in the stream beds and gravels all over western Kentucky, particularly in Graves County. Searching here will usually turn up some agates, jasper, petrified wood, and possibly even some quartz crystals or geodes.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Crider, area to N in faulted exposures||Fluorite|
|Fredonia, area mining dumps||Barite|
|Princeton, area quarries||Calcite, Fluorite|
|Crittenden County, many old area mines||Galena, Fluorite (many colors), Barite, Calcite, Dolomite crystals, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Sphalerite, Mica, Peridotite|
|Laketon, in nearby bluffs||Ocher (yellow)|
|Big Four Fault, just SE of Sheridan||Anglesite, Cerussite, Fluorite, Galena, Pyromorphite, Smithsonite, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz)|
|Graves County, all regional gravels and streams||Agate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper, Quartz, Silicified wood|
|Hardmoney, area 2.5 mi. S||Hematite|
|Birdsville, area quarries||Calcite, Dolomite crystals, Fluorite, Quartz|
|Carrsville, area fluorite mines||Calcite, Fluorite, Quartz crystals|
|Kentucky Lake, eastern shore||Geodes (calcite), Jasper, Quartz|
|Eddyville, area road cuts, gravels, etc.||Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper|
|Kentucky Dam Village State Park, outcrops near entrance||Chert (‘Fort Payne’ chert)|
Central Kentucky Rockhounding Sites
Central Kentucky is one of the best places in the entire country for rockhounding simply for the pure volume of geodes that can be found here. Geodes are some of the most popular items for rockhounds, and it is hard to imagine an area that is more fruitful when it comes to finding these treasures.
In almost any creek or stream bed that cuts through the Warsaw and Fort Wayne formation, you can find geodes ranging in size from walnuts to basketballs. These geodes can be lined with quartz, calcite, celestite, fluorite, and more.
Eastern Kentucky Rockhounding Sites
Compared to the rest of the state, eastern Kentucky leaves something to be desired when it comes to rock and mineral collecting. Still, there is plenty to find if you know where to look. You can search for crystals like garnet, feldspar, and quartz in the Little Sandy River, and the area around Mount Vernon can turn up specimens of chert, jasper, oolites, and the occasional geode.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Ashland, area mines||Siderite|
|Little Sandy River, in igneous outcrops||Apatite, Garnet (almandine), Chromite, Diopside, Feldspar, Quartz|
|Ison Creek, in rocky outcrops||Enstatite, Ilmenite, Magnetite, Mica, Olivine, Peridotite, Garnet (pyrope), Serpentine|
|Gratz, on mining dumps just W of Rte. 355||Barite, Calcite, Fluorite, Galena, Sphalerite|
|Mount Vernon, road cuts and stream banks to N||Chert, Jasper, Geodes, Oolite|
|Rowan County, all area quarries, outcrops, gravels, streams, etc.||Fossils, Crystals, etc.|
|Cumberland Falls, area gravels, quarries, etc.||Conglomerate (‘Rockcastle conglomerate’)|
Where to Find Geodes in Kentucky
Geodes are extremely popular specimens with rockhounds wherever you are in the world, and Kentucky is no exception. In fact, Kentucky is one of the best states in the entire country for geode hunting. Wherever you can find the Warsaw and Fort Payne formations showing on the surface you can usually find geodes weathering from the outcrop. These geodes are of the sedimentary variety and usually contain crystals of minerals like quartz, celestite, calcite, or fluorite.
While geodes are relatively abundant in Kentucky, you can’t find them just laying around anywhere. You need to know where to look and know just what to look for. If you’re wondering how to spot a geode I would recommend checking out my article here.
The best place to find geodes in Kentucky is the Blue Grass region, south of Lexington. In general, geodes can be found in stream beds and gravels near outcrops of the Warsaw and Fort Wayne formations in the central part of the state, especially in Lincoln, Adair, Jefferson, and Lyon Counties.
Where to Find Crystals and Gemstones in Kentucky
There is nothing quite like uncovering a quartz crystal with a perfect termination or finding a beautiful agate that has been waiting in a river bank for you to come along and take it home. Gemstones are some of the most enjoyable specimens that rockhounds can find, but it’s not always easy to know where to look.
Tip: Check out my Complete Rock Tumbling Guide to make your rocks and gemstones really shine!
Kentucky is home to quite a few interesting gemstone varieties thanks to its complicated geological history. The state is almost entirely devoid of igneous rocks so there is very little opportunity for interesting pegmatite minerals, but there are more than enough sedimentary crystals and gemstones around to make up for it if you know where to look.
The best places to find crystals and gemstones in Kentucky are the old fluorite mine dumps in the western part of the state. These mines are part of the same fluorite mining district which southern Illinois is famous for. In general, you can find crystals of fluorite, calcite, dolomite, and quartz
Where to Find Agates in Kentucky
Kentucky is an often overlooked state when it comes to agate collecting, which is unfortunate because these beautiful specimens can be found in locations all over the state. In addition to being relatively widespread, they happen to be an especially beautiful variety of agate with characteristic red, black, and orange banding. Because of their striking beauty and abundance, agates have earned a place as Kentucky’s state rock.
Agates can be found in river and stream beds all over Kentucky, but the most famous collecting sites are in the Knobs region of the east-central part of the state. In western Kentucky, the best agate hunting locations are in the gravels and sandpits of Graves County.
Kentucky 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.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resource’s public lands search.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Kentucky will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would probably start by contacting the clerk in whatever county you’re interested in 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: