If you’re a rockhound, Lake County in California is a great place to visit.
Here are five places to go rockhounding in Lake County.
Rockhounding Lake 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.\
Lake County is a popular destination for rockhounds from around the globe due to its wide variety of precious stones and minerals that can be found.
The rarest of the stones to find here is the Lake County Diamond, which is found nowhere else in the world.
Other finds that can be made in or around the area include (but not limited to) Agates, Jasper, Quartz, Jade, Onyx, Travertine, Obsidian and Chert.
There are also plenty of ocean fossils and petrified wood thought to be the result of the activity of the Clear Lake Volcanic Field area.
Here are five places worth rock hounding in, or close to Lake County, California:
Clearlake (Obsidian & Lake County Diamonds)
Clearlake is definitely at the top of the list of places to do some rock hounding while out exploring Lake County.
The area is littered with precious stones that come from the Clear Lake Volcanic Field and have either been deposited during volcanic activity in the past or have been washed down in rain water runoff from the mountains.
For the most part, you will only need good walking shoes and a day pack when exploring most areas around the lake.
Some rock hounds have even made discoveries in the middle of dirt roads where the graders have bit deeper into the soil over the years, exposing new precious stones where they lay hidden for potentially thousands of years.
While it is most likely that you will not find gem quality stones just lying on the surface in easily accessible areas, there are plenty of back roads and hiking trails leading into the mountains around the lake that can yield higher quality finds with a bit of experience, right lapidary tools and know-how.
As always, plan ahead when going into remote areas.
The lake’s beaches can also offer up some great finds of Jasper, Quartz, Petrified Wood and other colorful stones.
There is an abundance of accommodation and camp grounds all around the lake, and no shortage of activities to take in, making this a fantastic destination for an extended stay.
Knoxville Creek (Yellow “Lemon” Opal, Jasper and Serpentine)
A short drive (30 to 40 minutes) to the south-east of Clearlake is the Knoxville recreation area, where you can find Yellow “Lemon” Opal, Jasper and Serpentine along Knoxville Creek.
There have been a number of large football and baseball-sized jasper stones found around Knoxville over the years, making this a hotbed for jasper hunters.
The Yellow “Lemon” Opal found in the area is as vibrant as a buttercup blossom when polished and makes a great display piece for a gem collection.
Bring good hiking shoes, food and water and a day pack with any lapidary tools or sample containers you may want to have on hand.
Cache Creek (Jasper and Quartz Crystals)
Cache Creek runs through the Cache Creek Wilderness area and is part of the BLM. Be sure to adhere to any and all rules regarding collection, digging and prospecting here.
The creek has a long prospecting history and is a great place to hike along, looking for samples of Jasper, Quartz Crystals and other precious stones.
The trained eye may have luck spotting some Jade or Agates.
This is a great day hike destination with a number of campsites and trail heads nearby to take advantage of.
Highland Springs Recreation Area (Jasper, Quartz Crystal, Agate and Geode)
Formerly a tourist destination centered around a cluster of seltzer springs, and with road names like Old Troll Road, this area sounds like something out of a fairy tale book and was frequented for many years up to the 1920’s.
The county claimed eminent domain after the resort fell from popularity and flooded it to form the Highland Springs Reservoir and recreation area.
While at first this information may all seem unimportant to a rock hounder, when you know the details about the springs it becomes clear.
The high mineral content of the waters in the area, indicative of thermal and volcanic activity, is a clear sign of precious stone and mineral-rich soils.
The discerning rock hound can find a number of precious stones all around the reservoir and along the Highland Creek.
All you need is your hiking shoes and a backpack with snacks and water.
Kelsey Creek (Obsidian, Chert, Serpentine and Greywacke Sandstone)
Kelsey Creek is one of the largest creeks that feed into Clear Lake.
It weaves down through the mountain valleys out across the watershed plains that were once forest, but are now used for farmland and urban housing.
Part of the creek is a geothermal area that feeds multiple hot springs and geothermal power plants.
There are treasures to be found all along the creek and the hillsides through the valley.
Surely there would be some good gold panning here too, but that is something to look into for yourself if you are interested.
Bring good hiking gear and plan your trip ahead of time as sections of the creek are steep and there are some large waterfall drop off areas as well with no real trail access to get above them.
If you would like to see the spectacular 94-carat Lake County Diamond that Lake County is famous for, stop by the Lake County Historic Courthouse Museum where it is on display.
Be sure to visit the Lake County Historic Courthouse Museum in Lakeport.
For more information on their hours of operation and what else they have on display, check out the website here.
In closing, remember to be mindful and respectful of private property, state and federal laws while out rock hounding or gold panning and before taking any samples with you from any of these areas.
Some places may require a permit, so check ahead of time whenever you are heading to a new location.
This is mostly in park land areas or protected reserves. Fill in your divots and close the gates behind you if you open them. Know the rules and hound within them.
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:
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The desert and mountain region is one of the best places to rockhounding.
We have a trip to go rockhounding near Sacramento planned soon, we’ll let you know how it goes!
Let’s start digging!
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