Alaska is a beautiful state with a range of landscapes, and these landscapes offer mountains of minerals.
The art of looking for geodes (rockhounding) is a beginner’s way to find minerals from geodes in Alaska.
Geodes in Alaska (A Visitor’s Guide)
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Rockhounding can be extremely rewarding, but the proper care for the environment and the correct tools are required at all times.
Our backpack should include, among others, our rockhounding tools, a medical-aid kit, sleeping equipment where necessary, and insect repellent.
There are a few general rules to consider when rockhounding in Alaska and the type of mineral found in these geodes play a part in the specific rules of rockhounding.
The rules for rockhounding are universal, and to avoid repetition, they will not be discussed in the upcoming sections.
Rockhounding is legal in national forests and lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Geodes found on personal properties require permission and further permission may also be acquired before geodes are taken.
In some cases, they are paid for the use of their land.
Whether we lead a geode finding group or practice rockhounding on our own, we will need certain permissions from the state or park in question.
These include permissions from:
- NPS (Pipestone National Monument),
- USFS (United States Forest Service),
- USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service), and/or from
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management).
The Noatak River is in the Arctic mountain plains.
This gives a wide range of scenes: coniferous forests and tundra can be found, and the area has an aircraft landing site for quick access.
Unlike the Noatak area, the Kobuk landscape has high bluffs, sandstone boulders, and narrow canyon walls.
A waterway from the ocean separates the two rivers.
Panning for gold or gold geodes is possible between the Riley and Dahl creeks because gold pieces rise to the surface of Riley creek.
When collected in abundance, they can amount to several dollars worth of gold.
Dahl creek has many gold veins where digging and/or picking is possible.
Platinum in small quantities can also be found in the same areas where gold is found.
Jade can be found near Jade Mountain by digging or picking rock, and jade geodes can also be found by panning or searching the riverbed floors of Jade Creek or the Kobuk River basin.
The Shungnak region is found at 66.5309°N 157.0815°W and is located approximately 150 mi east of Kotzebue.
Road access is not possible through the Shungnak area via the Noatak river delta.
Air, riverboats, or snowmobiles are alternative options.
Northway & Tok
In a similar manner to Shungnak for gold and jade etc., rockhounding in Northway and Tok is part of two connected areas.
Northway is heavily forested with a lake to the east of the Northway town where the area meets up with the Tok region.
Tok is part of a developed area with surrounding fields.
The Northway and Tok rockhounding area roughly follow the Tanana River.
Lavender quartz and amethyst crystals, among other colored quartz, can be found here.
These gems grow as part of the rock where they can be broken off the floors and ceilings.
Geodes containing quartz and amethysts can also be found in the upland mountain regions.
These can be collected by hand, or digging tools may be required if the area seems spare.
Northway can be accessed by the Alaska Highway from the spur road in the Nabesna Slough and is 55 mi south of Tok.
Tok leads to the Canadian border 93 mi east.
Outdoor gear such as ropes, medical-aid kits, and a compass are required when rockhounding in this area.
In summer, dog-sled tours are available as an access point to the rockhounding area close to town.
Brooks Mountain Range
The Brooks Mountain range is a part of the Rocky Mountains, and the tundra supports vegetation like tall grasses and shrubs.
Trees in the area are limited to the southernmost parts of the range, approximately 300 mi NW of Fairbanks.
Geodes containing quartz crystals and gold can be found in Nolan Creek in the Brooks Mountain Range (not the Nolan Creek found in Texas, U.S.A).
Nolan Creek is between Nutmeg Gulch and Smith Creek, and gold can be found in the gravel, particularly between the mouths of Fay Creek and Archibald Creek.
Geodes can be found in rock cavities or metamorphic rocks in the creek.
The Brooks Mountain range offers a variety of terrain, from rocky outcrops, rolling fields, cliffs, and rivers and creeks.
How we get around will depend on the type of terrain.
Nolan Creek can be found at 67.2738° N, 150.1510° W, and has a slow gradient for walking or driving in a 4X4 if we have the required permissions.
Wrangell is a town at the top of Wrangell Island, and the area has ocean and Stikine River views.
Many cultural objects like totems are scattered along the pathways and on many of the small islands surrounding the harbor.
Garnets can be found in abundance and in geodes at the mouth of the Stikine River, which can be reached by a small rowboat at high tide only.
The large garnet deposit can be found from 700-1000 feet from the Garnet Creek branches, which flow to the west of Garnet Mountain.
Wrangell is found at 56.4708° N, 132.3767° W, and is quite difficult to traverse.
It is a mountainous area lined with spruce and hemlock trees, but the town itself can be reached by air from Ketchikan.
The Garnet Mountain, however, can be accessed by the beach and rowboat if the rower or guide knows the route to Garnet Creek.
Kuiu Island is an island to the southeast of Alaska, situated in the Alexander archipelago and between two other islands, the Kupreanof Island and Baranof Island.
The majority of Kuiu Island is densely covered with trees and wildlife, with mountainous regions making up the rest.
Different types of fluorite and quartz can be found on Kuiu Island, specifically on the east coast.
Breccias can be found in the tidal pool of the island, situated in the middle and almost reaching the two horizontal shores of the island.
Breccias are a form of volcanic rock and can be a decoration in itself, or they can be broken to find geodes.
Rhyolite (silica-rich volcanic rocks) can be found close to the Rocky Pass inlet.
Rhyolite can also be used as a mineral on its own or broken open to reveal geodes inside.
Not all Breccias and Rhyolite rocks have geodes in them, however, and we would need a hammer to dislodge the Breccias or Rhyolite, but this must be performed safely to ensure a cave-in is not possible.
A sturdy surface to break the igneous (Breccias and Rhyolite) rocks on is also required.
Kuiu Island is found at 56.5655° N, 134.1334° W, and we can only get there by boat from the Alaskan harbor.
The harbor will have the information we need regarding routes and how to get to the rockhounding areas.
Kuiu has a large population of black bears and some brown bears.
Traveling with a guide is preferred for directions to the tidal pool and to help with the understanding of bear behavior if necessary.
The Copper, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers
The Copper River flows into the Gulf of Alaska from mainland Alaska and has lush and green banks with some sandy areas.
The Yukon River flows into the interior of Alaska, close to Tanana, and its banks are also lush with small shrubs and plants.
The Kuskokwim river flows from the Bering Sea, west of Alaska, and also has green banks.
Geodes and minerals like fools gold (pyrite), bornite, and chalcopyrite, can be found on the banks and river bed in the Copper River, gold can be found in the Yukon River, and gold and quicksilver can be found in the Kuskokwim river or on the banks.
These minerals can be found on their own or in small geodes in the riverbed.
The Copper River is found at 60.3886° N, 144.9608° W, the Yukon River is found at 62.3555°N 164.4800°W, and the Kuskokwim River is found at 60.0831° N, -162.3339° W.
To reach the Copper River, we can travel to the Richardson, Glenn, and Edgerton highways.
To reach the Yukon River, the Taylor highway can be used, and to reach the Kuskokwim River, we can travel to the Bering Sea and the western edge of south-central Alaska.
We should always remain above ground and be on the lookout for black and brown bears, particularly on Kuiu Island.
Freezing temperatures can be deadly, so it’s also important to take note of the weather and season for our rockhounding.
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