Turquoise In Arizona: Two Reasons It Is Hard to Rockhound

Arizona is one of the top states for mining turquoise, so an avid rockhounding might think it’s so prevalent that you are tripping over turquoise stones.

Nothing could be further from fact. 

This article isn’t going to give you the top-secret places to go rogue and find the in-demand brilliant blue-hued stone.

This is going to follow legal and safety protocol for the process of getting turquoise in Arizona. 

Turquoise In Arizona (EXPLAINED)

Disclaimer

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.

Legal Issues

Most, if not all, of the turquoise in the Grand Canyon State comes from mines.

Privately-owned mines turn the precious gems around and sell them. You cannot legally just walk on this property and start mining. 

Also, the laws of the Bureau of Land Management land in Arizona prohibit using any heavy machinery to rockhound, which takes turquoise off the table immediately.

Arizona State Parks don’t allow any rockhounding to protect the land and demand you leave it as you see it when you visit. 

You should also explore the rules and regulations of the Arizona State Land Department, which has strict details on how to even just set foot legally on these lands. 

Should you feel you have the skills to negotiate a permit onto the mine property, here’s a list of the mines in Arizona, and good luck to you. 

Here’s a general look at specific mining areas in the state of Arizona, according to BLM: 

  • southeastern and eastern Arizona: Porphyry and vein deposits (copper, silver, molybdenum, gold, tungsten, lead, zinc)
  • central Arizona: Vein and massive sulfide deposits (copper, led, silver, gold, manganese, tungsten, mercury)
  • west-central Arizona: Vein deposits (gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, uranium, tungsten)
  • southwestern Arizona: Placer and vein deposits (gold, silver, manganese)
  • northern Arizona: Breccia pipes and stratabound deposits (uranium, vanadium, manganese, copper)

The best advice we could get for finding turquoise on your own is to go to downwind of a mine, that happens to be on legally-accessible property, and search streams for smaller stones that washed away from the mine.

Experts in Arizona Gem & Mineral Clubs tell us most of this has already been picked over anyway.  

Safety

What about all those abandoned mines?

Yes, they are there.

No, you should not go in.

They are dangerous at best and deadly at worst.

Arizona is home to more than 200,000 abandoned mines and an estimated 20,000 of those are on BLM land.

They share this video of why going into an abandoned mine is dangerous and it’s aptly named “Stay Out and Stay Alive.”

Even if the adventurer in you throws caution to the wind and trespasses and breaks safety protocol, you aren’t going to come out with buckets of turquoise anyway, as the mines are mostly stripped clean of anything precious, which is why they were abandoned in the first place.

If you come across an abandoned mine that isn’t marked, you should notify the BLM or the Environmental Protection Agency immediately so they can add it to the Abandoned Mine and Site Cleanup Module Database.

Where Can I Buy Turquoise?

This is where the turquoise news turns a better shade of blue. It’s sold everywhere.

To get the best quality, look for turquoise products that come from a Bisbee or Kingman mine, two of the top quality mine producers in the state. 

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is one of the best spots to buy all the precious items a rockhounder desires.

It’s the most prestigious gem and mineral show you can find and it’s also the oldest and largest. 

You can also contact any one of the more than two dozen rock, gem, and mineral societies in the state to get a better lay of the land for all your rockhounding needs.

Plan a trip around one of their field trips so you can go along with the experts in the field. 

What Can I Rockhound in Arizona?

While finding turquoise is a legal and safety challenge, there are plenty of other gems to find.

BLM sets up regulations on how much you can take. The limits are “reasonable” amounts, averaging 25 pounds a day and 250 pounds a year.

You need to stay in a specific rockhounding area and not just anywhere on BLM land.

You can’t use heavy machinery or equipment, but you can bring a metal detector.

If you want to collect more than those “reasonable” amounts, contact BLM to get a permit. 

Arizona’s BLM has actually set up rockhounding areas: 

Here’s an intricate document detailing what can be found in Arizona when searching for gems, minerals, and fossils. 

Treasures Await in Arizona

We hope this article has helped you better understand why finding turquoise is a dangerous prospect but also guides you to what can be found while still getting your hands on some precious turquoise.

This state is a treasure trove of unique volcanic rocks, as it lies on three active volcano fields and was once the site, billions of years ago, of an intense volcano. Sandstone abounds in this state as well. 

No trip to Arizona is complete without a trip to the Petrified Forest, where you can see all kinds of petrified wood (that you cannot take with you).

This brilliant wood deposit is made mostly of quartz and its just an Instagram-worthy moment if there ever was one.

Before you go, remember this is a desert and you aren’t going to sweat like you normally would in such an arid climate.

Bring twice as much water as you would think you’d need. The summers can be intense, with temperatures well above 100°F (38°C), and the summer monsoons can bring fast-moving storms and rushing water, so check the forecast before heading out. Winter can bring chilly temperatures, especially in the northern part of the state. 

Also, this region is prone to wildfires which can quickly close down BLM lands or roads in the state, either by the fire or blowing smoke.

Check the BLM site you are planning to visit to make sure there aren’t any closures that are going to stop your trip dead in its tracks. 

The best advice is to plan ahead, check the forecast before heading out, know the laws and land, and enjoy what you can legally rockhound in this beautiful state. 

Arizona 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 Arizona: A Guide To 75 Of The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites

Gem Trails of Arizona

Southwest Treasure Hunter’s Gem and Mineral Guide

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