Types of Rocks Found In The Finger Lakes: A Guide To the 14 Most Common You’ll Spot  

The Finger Lakes is a popular vacation destination in New York with 11 finger-shaped lakes.

It is known for its gorgeous scenery and truly unique geological makeup.

Here is a list of rocks and crystals that you can expect to find in and around the Finger Lakes.

Types of Rocks Found In The Finger Lakes


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.


Calcite is composed of rock-forming minerals and is the primary element of marble and limestone.

When found in its pure form, it is white and transparent, reminiscent of quartz, but much softer and with a glassy luster.

It is used as an acid neutralizer in antacids and other chemical applications.

When under heat and pressure, it becomes limestone, which is a much harder stone and has been used in construction since the ancient Greeks.


Celestine is a beautiful, sparkly crystal, found in clusters on sedimentary rocks.

It most often has a light, icy blue color, although it can sometimes be found in shades of yellow, white and grey.

The name ‘celestine’ comes from Latin for ‘sky’ or ‘heaven’, and for good reason; celestine is often the color of a light blue sky.

Its translucency and sparkle make it desirable as jewelry and decorative pieces.


Although garnets come in a wide range of rocks formed by minerals, most people automatically think of the classic red gemstone when garnets come to mind.

In fact, they can be found in any color and are quite common.

They are often discovered on shale or other sedimentary rocks, and grow in cube-like shapes.

They are very sparkly and translucent.

So, if you see little colorful, sparkly, cube-like growths coming out of a plain looking rock, chances are that it’s garnet.


The Finger Lakes still contains plenty of gold and many locals and tourists have fun panning for gold in the region.

There are even quite a few businesses who have created unique panning for gold experiences for families.

Gold is found as veins in the cracks of rocks, formed when hot fluids pull gold particles out and create a concentrated ‘lode’ inside the fractured rock.

It is very tarnish-resistant, so it is easy to find due to its ever bright and shiny hue.

Herkimer Diamonds

A bit of a misnomer, herkimer diamonds are actually a double terminated quartz.

This means that it is a quartz crystal in rare formations that are pointed at both ends, almost like a double-sided spear.

This diamond-like shape is what earned this type of quartz the name Herkimer diamond.

Like most clear quartz crystals, it is a translucent white color and has a sparkly luster.


Magnetite is very common and easy to find, composed primarily of iron oxide.

True to its name, it is attracted to a common magnet and easy to identify because of this ability.

It is a dark grey rock with a metallic sheen to it, thanks to its high levels of iron.

It is known for its isometric crystals and has a shiny, metallic luster.

An isometric shape typical to magnetite is octahedral, an eight-sided polygon.


Pyrite is a metallic-looking mineral that grows as shocking cubic crystals made from sulfur and iron.

It has a golden hue to it, which is the reason why it has been dubbed the nickname ‘fools gold’.

Although it sometimes can be found in its cubic form, it is most often contained in the fractures of the same rocks where gold can be found.

This contributes to the fact that it is often mistaken for gold.

Although it is brass-yellow like gold, it is easily distinguished.

The easiest way to tell the difference is by its texture; while gold is soft and malleable, pyrite is brittle.

It can also be used to start fire when struck against metal.


In addition to Herkimer diamonds, other types of quartz can be found in the Finger Lakes, such as amethyst, citrine, and smoky quartz.

They are all transparent to translucent stones with high luster, and come in a wide variety of colors depending on the species of quartz you find.

Quartz is one of the most abundant rocks on the earth due to its durability, so chances are that you’ll come across some during your rockhounding excursion.

It is composed of silicon and oxygen, and is one of the most useful substances in the world, often utilized for tools, countertops, jewelry, and decorations.


Serpentine is the name of a group of minerals that form a range of green rocks.

They are created when dunite, peridotite, and an ultramafic rock like olivine or pyroxene undergo hydrothermal metamorphism.

They come in different shades of green, some with banding and some without, and take on a characteristic slippery feel when wet, which is how this unique stone got its name.


Many different fossils can be found in the Finger Lakes region.

Here are a few that are most commonly found.


A trilobite is an extinct species of arthropod, typically from the Cambrian Period.

It was a segmented insect with three distinct areas: a head, a thorax, and a tail, all under an exoskeleton.

There is great diversity in trilobites, so each fossil is different from the last.


Bryozoans are similar animals to coral, but are actually completely unrelated.

While coral are reef-building animals, bryozoans are simply colonial aquatic animals.

A bryozoan fossil might look like a cross between coral and a sponge.

It is a textured, leaf-like shape, and may create a pattern that looks like a web, branches, or a net.


Brachiopods look like clams, but they belong to their own phylum of marine animals.

They have a ribbed outer shell, like clams do, hinged at the back and able to open at the front.

However, where clams have symmetrical valves, brachiopods have valves that are asymmetrical.

This is the easiest way to distinguish a brachiopod from a clam or other bivalve.


Nautiloids are the classic spiral, many-chambered shellfish placing their stamp on many fossils, originating over 500 million years ago.

They are the only cephalopods with external shells that have stood the test of time and can still be found alive today in specific regions.

There are over 2,500 known species of nautiloids and they are relatively common, so every nautiloid fossil is bound to be unique.


An interesting fossil found in the Finger Lakes is coral.

Since the Finger Lakes are freshwater, you wouldn’t expect to find coral, but these fossils are remnants from the Devonian Period, around 400 million years ago.

The coral that you can find is staghorn coral, a treelike, stony species with many arms branching out.

Pieces of this coral are relatively easy to find, but once in a while you can find a large fossil of an entire coral tree.

Things to Know About Rockhounding in the Finger Lakes

Fortunately, collecting rocks, minerals, crystals, and fossils is legal in the Finger Lakes.

However, it must be done by hand and for private use only. Commercial use of these specimens is prohibited.

The Finger Lakes region is a rockhounder’s dream.

If you find yourself in this beautiful locale, you have much to explore.

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Types of Rocks Found In The Finger Lakes