In this article, you’ll learn about 12 different options for rockhounding if you are looking for outdoor adventure near Houston.
Rockhounding Near Houston (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.
So many people associate Texas with cowboys that they’d be quite surprised with how urbane Houston is.
It is a city dedicated to the arts, history and sciences.
Most people know it as the home of NASA’s Mission Control Center.
Rockhounds may want to visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science, particularly the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals or the Morian Hall of Paleontology.
To see something truly unique, Space Center Houston is where specimens from the ultimate rock hunting experience are on display.
Here you can not only see the world’s largest exhibit of lunar rock and soil samples, but you’ll even be allowed to touch a sliver of lunar rock, just so you can say you touched the moon.
If you’d prefer something more “down to Earth” that you can put in your own personal collection, there are some places near the city where you can do that.
It may be a bit of a drive, but it will be well worth it.
Trinity River and Bay
The Trinity River runs through Houston until it curves into a hook and enters into Trinity Bay.
The shores of the river and the bay are good places to look for shells, fossils and petrified wood.
Along with plant and gastropod fossils, you may find reptilian and mammalian fossils after a storm.
The usual turtle or armadillo shell will turn up, but if you’re lucky, you might find something that used to belong to a mastodon or smilodon.
New Caney is about a half hour drive from Houston.
If you search the banks and beds of Plum Creek and possibly lake Meredith, you could find not only jasper but perhaps some petrified palm wood.
Petrified palm wood is the State Stone of Texas.
If you prefer stones that can make a spark, you are likely to come across a good deal of flint here as well.
It’s an hour’s drive northwest of Houston, but Grimes County is the place to be if you are looking for rare gemstones and crystals.
Fossil hunters will find petrified palm wood in abundance.
For something a little more exotic, you may want to try your luck in finding black diamonds and fire pearls.
It may not be a moon rock, but a tektite would be a fine specimen for someone fond of rocks from outer space.
If you don’t mind taking a (free!) ferry and spending the day at the beach, Galveston Island is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.
Along with the usual shells you find at the beach, this is a good place to look for shark teeth.
You may even find some remnants of the ancient megalodon.
There are no big rock formations but it’s a good place to study the formation of sedimentary rock.
Some seventy miles north of Houston is a fossilized wood structure located in Huntsville.
This sedimentary outcrop is good for searching not only for petrified wood and other fossilized plants but this is the only opal deposit in the state of Texas.
Look for them in the channels near Blue Lagoon.
Even if you don’t find any opals, chance are good that you might find some coarse grained quartzarenite.
Whiskey Bridge is just a two-hour drive northeast of Houston, just west of College Station.
It is where State Highway 21 crosses the Brazos River.
It is the most fossil rich place in the state of Texas, so you are sure to find something decent for your collection.
You will find mostly the shell remains of gastropods and bivalves and possibly some coral.
If you look very hard, you might find some sharks’ teeth.
Just a short hour and a half drive to Bayton will take you to High Island, where you can regularly find fossils 28,000 to 135,000 years old.
As fossils go, this is pretty young, so you will find remains of mammals such as camels, ground sloths and giant armadillos.
It’s best to go there just after a storm, when so many things at the bottom of the Gulf have been washed up on shore.
Texas City Dike
Texas City Dike is a little more than an hour’s drive southeast of Houston, right on the shoreline.
If you dig through some mud and clay, you can find some ancient Pleistocene Era treasures.
You may even find some coprolites.
They’re hard to cut and polish, but you can’t shine…well, you know.
The north shore is a good place to look for sharks’ teeth and shells.
If you don’t mind a boat ride, you can try your luck at Snake Island.
Pine Gully Park
It’s a little jaunt, barely an hour outside of Houston in Seabrook Texas, right on the bay.
It is a picturesque recreational area with families in mind, but the nearby salt marshes are sure to have the well-preserved remains of the local wildlife, including the State Mammal of Texas, the nine banded armadillo.
You will also find the typical shells and sharks’ teeth found on Gulf Coast beaches.
Dime Box is just a couple of hours drive to the northwest of Houston.
You just might find a very rare tektite out in the open lands out here.
Meteorites sometimes land here, melting sand and other minerals into the elusive new gem called tektite.
These glassy extraterrestrial minerals have been found in this area since the Thirties.
Somerville Lake is not very far from Dime Box, so here too is a good place to look for tektites.
The shoreline is a good place to look for shells and fossils.
There is a vast variety of wildlife out here, so you may find some fossilized remains on the shore.
Watch out for the alligators.
McFaddin Beach is about two and a half hours drive from Houston, using I-10.
It’s a twenty-mile stretch of sandy beach on the gulf coast.
This is a good place to find vertebrate fossils of the Pleistocene period such as smilodon, cave bear, ground sloth and giant armadillo.
Arrowheads have been found here as well.
Don’t Mess With Texas!
Keep in mind that in Texas you can only take rocks, fossils, etc. from public land, and then only if it is not a state or federal park or wildlife management area.
In such areas, you will have to content yourself with photos and rubbings.
Some private lands, such as ranches, will allow rock collectors on the property for a nominal fee.
Please do remember that Texas has very stern anti-littering laws.
The fines start at $500, so if you bring it with you, take it home or put it in a trash can.
You may pick up arrowheads you find on the ground on private land but not on public land.
Please leave the Native American burial grounds alone.
If you decide to do a little snorkeling off Galveston and find something interesting, remember that maritime law requires you to report found ships or cargo, but you are entitled to compensation.
If it’s so old it no longer has an extant owner, it’s yours.
Carry With You
If you are planning a hike where there will be rocks to pick through, consider packing one of the following:
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (small book with pretty colored pictures to help identification)
- National Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Fossils (small book with pictures)
- Gemstone & Crystals Properties (durable fold-up guide)
- Small UV Flashlight
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Most of the gemstones Texas is famous for are in central Texas or way out west.
However, someone in Houston might be able to find some rare treasures if they know where to look.
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- Where To Find Geodes In Texas