Rochester, NY, is located in an area that is rich in mineral deposits that have been exposed through natural erosion and mining and quarrying activities.
The geologic material in the area around Rochester was deposited many millions of years ago by glacial activity that helped form the Great Lakes.
The material left behind has earned a reputation for being some of the best locations in the U.S. to find dolomites, fluorite, Herkimer quartz, celestine, and fossils from the Devonian period.
Here’s a look at eight locations for rockhounding Rochester that are full of mineral specimens waiting to grace a collector’s cabinet.
Where To Go Rockhounding Near Rochester, New York
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.
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve is about 90 minutes west of Rochester, but is worth making the trip to explore.
It’s great for fossil-crazy kids who want a chance to dig up their own trilobites and arthropods.
The park was created from the quarry of the Penn Dixie Cement Corporation.
The former quarrying operations have revealed layers upon layers of rock that were laid down during the Devonian Period, making it easy for visitors to uncover the fossil-rich materials.
Staff and volunteers at the 54-acre park help visitors with their explorations and identification of the fossils they uncover.
You’re allowed to take home any fossils you happen to uncover, but the park will ask you for a photo of anything really cool you happened to find.
The park has made it as easy as possible for fossil hunters to explore and find something to take home.
It’s impossible to leave the park without having at least one fossil find in hand.
Penn Dixie is very accessible for people with and without mobility issues.
The park trails are designed for wheelchair access, and the staff have grabbers available so those in wheelchairs can pick up their finds without strain.
The limestone layers are so rich with fossils that anyone can look with their eyes only for surface collecting. Just be sure to bring along a bag to carry out your finds.
Niagara Falls is a great place to find fluorites, calcites, gypsum and other related minerals.
The best place to rockhound is on the Montrose Occurrence on the Canadian side of the Falls, specifically dumpsites that remain after the building of the power plant and Welland canal.
However, the geology surrounding the falls is full of minerals that are easily found simply by remaining observant as you walk around on either side of the border.
It goes without saying that Niagara Falls is a beautiful place to visit and hunt for interesting minerals.
Rockhounds who want to get off the beaten path to find minerals should get in touch with the mineralogical societies in the Niagara area.
The area surrounding the Falls on both sides are rich in minerals and are full of places to go rockhounding.
Abandoned mines and active quarries are commonplace in the region which offer up a lot of potential for a rockhound on a day trip.
The best course of action is to get local knowledge from those who know the area well and can provide guidance on the best places for finding minerals in a safe fashion.
Mineralogical societies also have arrangements with local quarry owners who allow rockhounds on their property on an annual basis.
Ellison Park Next to Tait Preserve Formerly Known as Penfield Quarry
The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) recently acquired the house and land that made up the Penfield Quarry, and has renamed it the Tait Preserve.
Access to the quarry itself may be limited, but nearby Ellison park has trails and riverbanks that abut the former quarry land.
Head over to the less-traveled areas of the park to search for minerals, rocks, and maybe even fossils along the riverbanks.
The same minerals found in the former dolomite quarry are found in the park and don’t require asking permission to access the site.
Lower Falls in Rochester
The Lower Falls in Rochester offers access to the rocky banks of the Genesee River and the Lower Falls Cave.
You’re most likely to find common stones such as granite, but you’re also just as likely to find fossilized corals, banded pieces of shale, rock bearing iron ore, and other interesting mineral specimens that highlight the geography of the area.
Safety is important while exploring the Lower Falls area.
Stay away from the falls at all times, and be prepared to wear rain gear if you’re planning on searching near the falls for any length of time.
The water spray from the falls creates a continual mist that’s strong enough to soak clothing after a short period of time.
If you want to stay dry, the Lower Falls Cave is a man-made cave that’s safe for the public to explore, and is full of interesting rocks to pick up, examine, and take with you.
Walworth Quarry Open House
Every year, the Walworth Quarry Open House lets the public onto the property to hunt for minerals that include fluorite, galena, dolomite, gypsum, and calcite.
The site owners require all rockhounds to wear personal protective equipment and bring their own tools.
Kids are also allowed to participate in the hunt for mineral specimens and can wear bike helmets for head protection.
The quarry is an active worksite and the owners, while accommodating to rockhounds, wants to ensure safety at all times.
Contact the quarry to find out when their open house is being held.
The Walworth Quarry is known for its perfect cubic fluorite specimens, but there are many types of quality mineral specimens to be found.
Rockhounds who are looking for crystalline specimens won’t be disappointed in what they find.
It’s worth noting that minerals are frequently found bearing a coating of a petroleum substance.
The substance is easily cleaned away, but some collectors may prefer to leave the tar in place.
The portion of Hamlin Beach off Newco Road features garnet and magnetite-rich sands that are easy to find and collect.
Look for the black and red striated sands along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.
That’s your visual cue that you’ve come across a deposit of garnets and magnetite.
Scoop up a bucket or two and take it home for separating.
It’s very easy to separate the garnet sand from the magnetite; all you need is a magnet.
After you’ve collected your treasure, head over to the park and hang out on the beach for a spell.
Herkimer Diamond Mines in Herkimer, NY
This is a bit of a stretch for a road trip from the Rochester, NY, area, but Herkimer quartz crystals are highly prized by collectors of all ages.
The Herkimer Mine is also a campground which allows families to enjoy a getaway vacation in one of the lodges or bring a camper and use one of the hookup sites.
RVs are also welcome at Herkimer Mines.
The mine allows guests to prospect with their own tools, but admission includes the use of a rock hammer.
Make sure to bring your own safety gear as well.
If you’re not up to the effort of mining, you can purchase a bag of sediment and go to the sluice to reveal what lies within.
Anything you find is yours to keep.
Herkimer diamonds have become popular in recent years do their diamond-like qualities, hardness, and ability to hold light.
The natural crystal formation is also highly collectible due to its various shapes and colors.
Herkimers range from crystal clear to shades of smoky gray, and can also feature inclusions and rainbows.
A rockhound might want to pick up smaller crystals for faceting while searching through the rough with a hammer and chisel to find larger crystals and scepter shapes.
Ace of Diamonds in Middleville, NY
The Ace of Diamond Mines in Middleville also offers the opportunity to prospect for Herkimer diamonds.
Visitors can bring their own mining tools to aid them in the search for crystals, or they can rent them from the mine.
The mine operators excavate material and bring it to a pile for rockhounds to sort through, then break open to look for a crystal.
Sluicing is also an option, and visitors can opt to buy a bag of sand for sluicing, or sluice their own production to find crystals.
Make sure to bring protective gear for both the weather and for working the material.
Power tools are not allowed.
The mine also has camping pads available, and can accommodate vehicles up to the size of a small RV. Electrical and water hookups are included in the price of a pad rental.
These eight sites are great for rockhounding activities, but are most certainly not the only places to hunt for rocks in Rochester.
Check with local rock clubs when looking into where to hunt for rocks in Rochester.
You’ll learn where the best sites are, how to get there, and what to expect when you arrive.
You might also enjoy learning about the common rocks and fossils you can rockhound on Long Island.