Upon first glance, “El Dorado” might sound like part of the name of a popular animated film where two guys found their fortune.
The real-life El Dorado County, located in California, USA is rich with treasures that modern rockhounds and mineral enthusiasts can score to add to their own collections.
Known for its fossils, arrowheads, gold, and more, this east-central county of the Golden State is worth a visit on a west coast rockhounding road trip.
Rockhounding El Dorado County, California
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.
Here are 7 places within an hour’s drive or less of El Dorado County.
El Dorado’s county seat, Placerville, was once known as “Dry Diggings” because of its initial lack of luck for gold seekers and rock hunters.
After implementing hydraulic and drift methods for mining, seekers struck gold.
The town gets its name from “placer gold,” which put it on the map at the height of the Gold Rush Era.
In the 1920s, this area made headlines with one geologist’s discovery of a hefty chunk of high-quality emeralds.
Historically, Placerville has made a name for itself with its stunning, prolific gem and mineral offerings.
While it’s no longer the gold producer it was in its heyday, today, rockhounds of all levels can visit the El Dorado County Mineral and Gem Society.
The non-profit is located in Placerville, CA to provide a community for rockhounds and pointers about the best spots to find minerals, gems, and rocks in the county.
This organization frequently holds field trips and events for local rock and mineral enthusiasts.
These events are a great way to connect with other local rockhounds and swap spots that are less available as information to the general public.
A little less than an hour’s drive from the El Dorado county seat Placerville, this area is well-known for geodes.
By looking along creeks and public land, rockhounds can tap into this location’s abundant geode deposits.
One thing for rockhounds to keep in mind: much of Pino Grande consists of privately owned property.
Therefore, it is imperative that rockhounds speak with landowners of private property before attempting to dig up the land in search of geodes.
Even if landowners decline requests for rockhounding on their property, they will know the lay of the land and may be able to point mineral enthusiasts in the direction of public areas that are fair game for rock hunting.
When panning and sifting through sediment near the Georgetown side of Traverse Creek, rockhounds can hope to find some fine specimens of garnet, quartz, tremolite, and even geodes.
Be sure to bring waterproof footwear, a spray bottle to clean off finds, small baggies to contain them, and a small trowel to dig.
Before carting a collection of specimens home, call the local Mineral and Gem society to ensure that California laws allow for pocketing natural objects found along this creek.
Also, be mindful of any private property signage, which would require us to speak with the property’s owner before searching along the nearby creek for rocks and minerals.
Eldorado National Forest
The Eldorado National Forest offers the best of this region’s rocks and minerals–after all, it is preserved and protected.
On the Eldorado National Forest’s website, it mentions that small forest products are permitted for removal in small quantities for personal use.
For rocks for landscaping purposes or in large quantities, a permit is required.
Taking home a couple of geodes or small fossils may fall under the first category.
Checking with park officials before making the trip is recommended.
However, given these guidelines, even scoping out the specimen and practicing identifying different types of minerals might make a day at the Eldorado National Forest worth it even if specimens collected ultimately have to stay where they were found.
Georgetown, CA, which is located near Traverse Creek, offers Stifle Memorial Claims.
In the early 1900s, William Stifle submitted a claim for vesuvianite crystals. At the time, he believed they were emeralds, which caught the local’s attention.
Since then, this area has been a great site for encountering a wide range of rocks, minerals, and gems including vesuvianite, grossularite (massive garnet), diopside, idocrase, psilomelane, and tremolite.
Visitors can also pan for placer gold if they wish.
Rockhounds do not need to worry about a fee for collecting or obtaining a formal permit to pan or search this area.
Over-collecting is heavily discouraged–be mindful of the size of the specimen and the amount.
Preserving the land as rockhounds keeps it open to the public for more generations.
When taking a trip to the Stifle Memorial Claims, be sure to stay on the trails for safety purposes.
Keep a lookout for protected species as well, since this part of the state has protections on certain types of plants and wildlife.
Invincible Quartz Mine
The Invincible Quartz Mine, which is located near Georgetown, Ca, can be a prolific source of quartz for experienced rockhounds.
As with all other mines, look into local laws, precautions, and regulations before attempting to collect a specimen from the Invincible Quartz Mine.
Also, travel to the mine with a buddy to avoid going missing or getting lost without a way out.
Bringing a cellphone and letting others know where we are headed is always wise when digging through a mine, as well.
Fairplay Mining District
This district sits roughly 20 miles southeast of Placerville, the El Dorado County seat.
The Slug Gulch and Cedarville areas are both located within the Fairplay Mining District.
While it is known as a placer-gold district, small amounts of copper have been mined in this location.
The name “Fairplay Mining District,” according to local history, refers to an event where a cry for fair play brought a fight between feuding mining companies to a standstill.
In this section of El Dorado County, rockhounds can find gravel of various ages, which potentially contains other finds such as geodes.
Quartz gravel abounds while inter-volcanic gravels are less plentiful.
The gold here proves very coarse.
Slug Gulch’s bedrock consists of limestone; all other areas’ bedrock is slate and schist.
The west side of the district is granodiorite.
Throughout the district, rockhounds may also spot a handful of skinny gold-quartz veins.
For the history and potential finds, the Fairplay Mining District is worth a visit.
In conclusion, El Dorado County California boasts a rich history for rockhounds from the Gold Rush Era to today.
This county continues to attract rockhounds even though it no longer guarantees the fortune it once promised.
California Rockhounding Resources
If you like to have a physical book in hand (like when there’s no cell service), here’s a few popular options:
Rockhounding California: A Guide To The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites
Gem Trails of Southern California
Gem Trails of Northern California
Smithsonian Rocks and Minerals Identification Guide
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