Visiting Jackson, Wyoming?
In this article, you’ll learn what you need to know to get started finding rocks during your stay.
Rockhounding Near Jackson, Wyoming (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.
Wyoming state has long been known for massive geological formations, dinosaur finds and natural beauty.
Because of these aspects and facts, the state remains one of the few true wilderness locations in the country.
It’s also a primary region of the cattle industry, agriculture, and mineral harvesting as well.
This business-driven regional economy would seem to conflict with the national perspective of reserving much of the state as national parks.
But, the fact is Wyoming is big and plentiful, there tends to be enough for everyone, so to speak.
Even better for rockhounders, almost half the state is considered public land, which makes it accessible to anyone.
Geologically, Wyoming is home to great number of jade deposits, proving China and Asia are not the only place to find the green stone so heavily used in jewelry.
The American version of jade, which is also the state stone for Wyoming, comes from the nephrite class, and can be found statewide.
In addition, Wyoming offers rock hounds plenty of gems, fossils, minerals and rock types, more than enough to keep a collector busy for a few years at least with daily and weekly jaunts around Jackson alone.
Of course, there are the remains of dinosaurs too.
The state dinosaur is a Triceratops, reflecting the major fossil finds repeatedly found in the state over the years.
Every time a big storm tears through the region, water and erosion run ends up exposing finds that have been buried for millions of years and now become visible, available for anyone to find before they eventually deconstruct in the wind and sun.
Finally, while it doesn’t compare to the deposits famously found in California, Wyoming also has its share of small gold bits and minor deposits, typically near bank areas of the Snake River.
While there are no major motherlodes in Wyoming per se, gold does pop up from time to time in small amounts or fragments, especially in and near watersheds and rivers, carried from deposits upstream.
South of Jackson, Wyoming, sits Sweetwater County.
With a few hours’ drive, one will find plenty of rock and mineral deposits including mica, phonolite, volcanic pumice and Wyomingite (a local rock type unique to the state region), all of which is located in the Leucite Hills area.
Additionally, if one pokes around in the Bridger formation in the northern parts of the County, they are going to find an assortment of agate, chalcedony, and quartz.
Additionally, in the same area near Lost Creek, rock hounds can find samples of petrified wood fragments as well as real, radioactive bits of natural uranium (don’t bring it with you on a plane or even go in airport with it though).
Closer to Jackson, folks are going to find plenty of jade deposits in Sublette County areas.
Much of these geological collections are located in the Wind River Mountains along with interesting deposits of molybdenite.
There is also plenty of smatterings of chalcedony in the area, also from connections to the Bridger Formation that runs through the larger area.
And, for those who know how it is used, phosphate samples are occasionally located in Sublette County as well, which in large concentrations is harvested for industrial purposes.
Yellowstone National Park and North
The Yellowstone area is internationally famous for its geological behavior and formations, basically being a giant caldera of underground volcanic activity.
Despite modern Hollywood movies reflecting the area as a volcanic time bomb ready to go off and wipe out North America, Yellowstone remains a very active zone of underground geo-dynamics and pressure.
And all of that geological work over millions of years has produced an assortment of rock types not found elsewhere in the U.S. in high concentrations as it is in the Park.
Most rock hunters typically find plenty of agate, copper, calcite-aragonite and even uranium in the general area that Yellowstone makes up.
Obsidian is also extremely abundant in the Park and was commonly used for all types of tools in ancient times by indigenous peoples because it was so functional and practical.
There is even a Yellowstone location named Obsidian Cliff because of its abundance.
All of these areas are north of Jackson, with a few hours’ drive.
Keep in mind, however, being a federal territory and jurisdiction, minerals and fossils are sensitive matters in Yellowstone Park.
Without permits, many have gotten themselves in trouble digging in federal lands and parks, which is a serious federal criminal violation.
While picking up a rock itself may not be an immediate issue, any kind of unauthorized digging and causing a disturbance to the natural area is not allowed.
Fossils are also a serious out-of-bounds aspect in federal lands as well.
Anyone thinking otherwise just needs to look up what happened with Lucy, the largest Tyrannosaur Rex fossil found in the U.S.
Reading More About Rockhounding Yellowstone National Park.
The Amethyst Mountain
Going even further, reaching the Absaroka Mountains, one is going to find hunting grounds and deposits of galena, molybdenite and even opal as well, along with some rare deposits of gold.
Then, of course, there is Amethyst Mountain which, per its namesake, is a huge repository of the purple gem geode rock.
Small and larger samples can be found in the general location with a bit of looking, being one of the most robust amethyst deposits in Wyoming.
Grand Teton National Park
Closer to home in Jackson, the Grand Teton National Park is also a must visit simply for the geological formations and sites.
Just like Yellowstone, remember that taking materials (rock, plant, anything) out of a national park is prohibited.
But you can always look for sites around the national park with similar terrain.
However, in the Park is the interpretive center, which is a great place to start to get all the information about the geological resources in the area.
The Center is located at Moose and can be accessed from 8am to 4:30pm during regular business hours.
Jackson Hole Museum
Another local visit resource, the Jackson Hole Museum is also in town and worth a stop when you don’t want to spend the day hiking up and down hills and mountain trails.
Located at 105 North Glenwood, in Jackson, the Museum provides visitors an assortment of local rocks, minerals, indigenous artifacts and crafting tools from stone (i.e. cutters, tools, arrowheads and more), and is open to the public.
Something to really focus on when visiting is how the rock-based tools people crafted changed over time from rudimentary choppers and cutters to very advanced shapes and functions with skill and developing knowledge as well as the type of stone used.
The Museum is generally available from 9am to 9pm daily.
Laws and Regulations
Wyoming laws are a hodge-podge of rules for rock hounds.
Some areas allow collecting while others forbid it entirely.
Still others depend on permission from the landowners.
Knowing where makes a huge difference and avoids a lot of unnecessary trouble.
One of the most common territories and biggest is federal Bureau of Land Management lands.
Rock hounds are allowed up to 25 lbs per day or 250 lbs per year of collection from BLM lands in Wyoming.
No commercial use is allowed; it’s only allowed for personal collections.
Private property is, as mentioned earlier, by permission of the landowner.
It’s best to get it in writing, and many charge a nominal fee for day surveying.
Whatever you choose, don’t go rogue and try your luck.
If you get caught, it could be very painful in fines and possibly jail time for trespassing.
Not to mention, some private landowners don’t like strangers very much.