Panama contains some of the most amazing stones in Central America.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the geology of Panama.
Types of Rocks Found in Panama: A 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.
Panama is a very interesting place to search for rocks and minerals.
The Canal Zone contains rocks that have been dredged up from the canal bed and dumped on site, there are even some from other areas dropped there.
You can find volcanic rocks, jasper, travertine, shale and coral rocks.
Panama is most well known for the Panama Canal.
The country in Central America is closely related to the geographical area of the Caribbean and contains many similar stones.
If you will be visiting the Canal Zone it is possible to sift through the piles of rocks and rubble that may contain some beautiful stones.
Always be sure to collect with permission wherever you are.
Jasper samples have been found in several river beds and wash out areas in Panama.
Jasper is considered a gemstone and it’s bright red color makes it stand out when rock hunting.
Jasper is a fine grained stone that is generally bright red in color, but it can be yellow, blue, black or gray.
It is often speckled with white or has white banding on larger samples.
Jasper means “speckled stone” so expect to see variations in the color of the stone.
Jasper is a relatively hard stone with a hardness of about 6 or 7 on the Mohls scale.
The stone is related to quartz but is opaque.
Jasper polishes well and is often tumbled or polished by collectors.
Jasper can be found in river beds inside and outside the Canal Zone and in gravel that has been dumped around the canal.
Basalt & Andesite
Basalt and Andesite are closely related volcanic rocks the form when lava cools quickly when it comes in contact with water or air.
The two stones are very fine grained and are difficult to distinguish from one another, but Panama has a few formations of basalt and andesite that are interesting and unique.
Pillow basalt is a special formation of basalt that occurs when lava is extruded underwater and forms rounded pillow shaped lavas.
The trapped gas causes the pillows to rise to the surface and join together.
Pillow basalts look like cobblestone streets and the individual pillows remain discernable.
There are pillow basalts evident in the eastern part of Panama near Puerto Obaldia.
These exposed pillow basalts have caused some controversy over the origins of Panama.
The type of basalt in these formations is gabbro.
Gabbro is an iron and magnesium stone that has a coarse grained appearance.
Some geologists believe that the composition of these rocks suggests a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific during the time it was formed.
El Valle Volcano
El Valle de Anton is a town in a large volcano crater.
The crater was formed after an eruption of the volcano.
The Basalt and Andesite created a dome that collapsed to form the crater.
The area is a great place to observe the incredibly powerful geology of Panama.
There are several 45 -60 minute hikes in the area that will bring you to the summit of the crater ridge and allow you to see sweeping views of the area.
Some of the trails are not well marked and it is recommended that you hire a local guide for your hike to stay safe.
Local guides may have more information about local geology and may be able to direct you to an appropriate place to collect rocks.
Los Pozos Termales is a hot spring spa where you may find a lot of interesting crystals that are found in these thermal areas.
Bright yellow sulfur crystals are often found in these fulmeroles and in Panama you may find samples of travertine there as well.
Dacite is another rock that is formed when lava hardens, but this one is generally found in areas of tectonic activity, like Panama.
Dacite is a fine grained stone that is relatively heavy for its size and gray to black in color.
Dacite is a relatively common stone, but it does often contain crystals of other minerals and should be closely examined for more rare crystals.
Travertine is limestone that forms outside the sea.
Travertine is a calcium rich stone that is formed around areas of thermal activity like hot springs.
It is very light in color and fairly soft. It can be dissolved fairly easily and forms stalactites and stalagmites in caves and caverns where it occurs.
If you have ever traveled to Yellowstone you may have seen Travertine at the Mammoth Hot Springs where there is a very large deposit.
In Panama there are three main areas to find hot springs:
- Volcan Mountain
- Caldera Hot Springs
- El Valle Mountain
Many of these hot springs are located on private land and are not widely advertised to tourists making them uncrowded and off the beaten path.
Volcan springs are particularly difficult to visit without a local guide, I recommend that you visit YourPanama.com and reach out for a connection.
There are many remnants of the reef that thrives in the warm water off the coast of Panama.
As coral dies the remains form a calcium rich stone called limestone.
The limestone that forms from reefs can be very soft and light in color.
These stones are often brought up with canal maintenance and can be found in the Canal Zone.
These formations often contain interesting fossils, so observe any areas that are discolored or any holes. These may indicate the presence of a fossil.
Collecting Rocks in Panama
The geology of Panama makes it a great place to find Jasper and volcanic rocks that are beautiful and interesting.
The hot springs in the area allow you to explore some less traveled areas and you may find crystals that are formed in these special geological regions.
It is important to collect responsibly and obey any local laws and posted signs about collecting rocks, sand and shells.
Conservation efforts in Panama are aimed at preserving natural areas and celebrating local culture. Consider supporting local artists and purchasing local lapidary products.
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