Rock Discoveries

Rockhounding in Tennessee: Finding Gems and Minerals in the Volunteer State

Rockhounding in Tennessee: Where to Go and What You’ll Find

There’s something satisfying about finding a beautiful rock or mineral in its natural environment. Tennessee, with its varied geography and geology, is an excellent place to hunt for rocks and minerals.

From the Cumberland Plateau to the Tennessee River, there are several sites with unique geological features that make them ideal for rockhounding. In this article, we’ll explore the best rockhounding sites in Tennessee and what types of rocks and minerals you can expect to find.

Best Rockhounding Sites in Tennessee

1. Ben Lomond Mountain

Situated in Cumberland County, Ben Lomond Mountain is a popular location for rockhounding enthusiasts.

What makes this site unique is the abundance of mineral specimens and geodes that can be found there. Along with geodes, you can also expect to find marcasite, pyrite, celestite, dolomite, and calcite.

Be sure to bring a rock hammer, chisels, and safety glasses to break open the geodes and collect the specimens. 2.

Cannon County

Cannon County, located in central Tennessee, is well known for its diverse mineralogical deposits. This area boasts several abandoned quarries where you can find fluorite, calcite, celestite, geodes, limonite, and pyrite.

You can also find goethite, an iron oxide mineral, in terrestrial and aquatic environments in the county. Many rockhounds are drawn to this area because of the colorful and large-sized calcite crystals that can be found in some of the quarries.

3. Ducktown

Ducktown is a historic mining district located in Polk County, Tennessee.

This area was once home to the largest copper mining operation in the United States. Today, you can find rocks and minerals left behind by the old mines, which are rich in azurite, graphite, chalcopyrite, garnet, pyrite, galena, malachite, chalcocite, quartz crystals, and staurolite.

Ducktown is a well-known destination for rockhounds due to the wide range of unique minerals that can be found here. 4.


Copperhill, located in Polk County, Tennessee, is another great location for rockhounding. This historic mining town is situated in the southern Appalachian Mountains and has a rich history of copper mining.

Commonly found rocks in Copperhill include garnets, malachite, gold, staurolite, cuprite, galena, graphite, quartz crystals, azurite, and chalcopyrite. Visitors can explore abandoned mines in the area and dig around old tailings to find some treasures.

5. Tennessee River

The Tennessee River has a variety of rockhounding opportunities, including finding freshwater pearls and amber.

These pearls are formed in mollusks living in the Tennessee River and its tributaries. The best place to find them is around Kentucky Lake and other areas further north.

Amber, on the other hand, is found sporadically throughout the river. Be sure to bring a net and a screen to sift through the gravel for these beautiful gems.

Public Gem Mining

If you are new to rockhounding or want to have a more guided experience, you may want to visit some of Tennessee’s public gem mining locations. These sites provide you with the tools, education, and materials you need to have a successful and enjoyable experience.

Below are some popular public gem mining locations in Tennessee:

1. Jae’s Gem Mine

Located in Greene County, Tennessee, Jae’s Gem Mine is a family-owned business that offers a fun and educational gem mining experience.

Visitors can purchase buckets of dirt and sift through them at the mine’s flumes to find a variety of colorful gems, including gemstone-quality emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and garnets. 2.

Cooper’s Gem Mine

Cooper’s Gem Mine is located in Sullivan County, Tennessee. This mine offers visitors the chance to dig through tailings to find a variety of minerals and gemstones, including quartz crystals, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.

You can also purchase a bucket of dirt to sift through in the mine’s flumes. 3.

Pigeon Forge Gem Mine

The Pigeon Forge Gem Mine is located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains and offers a unique mining experience for visitors. You can mine for gemstones and other treasures such as fossils, shark teeth, and arrowheads.

4. Magic Gem Mine

Located in Springfield, Tennessee, Magic Gem Mine is a family-friendly location that offers visitors the chance to dig for gems.

Visitors can dig their own buckets and use the mine’s wash station to find colorful and unique rocks and minerals. 5.

Old Smoky Gem Mine

The Old Smoky Gem Mine is located in Pigeon Forge and has been mining gems for over 40 years. Visitors can mine for a variety of treasures such as rubies, sapphires, topaz, and tourmaline.

Type of Rocks Found

The type of rocks and minerals you can expect to find when rockhounding in Tennessee varies depending on where you go. Below is a list of some common rocks and minerals found in the state:



Geodes are spherical rocks that are formed inside of empty cavities of volcanic or sedimentary rocks. They are common in Tennessee, and you can find them in a variety of colors and sizes.

2. Agates

Agates are a semi-precious gemstone that is often found in volcanic rock.

Tennessee has a wide variety of agate, including moss agate and fire agate. 3.


Obsidian is a volcanic glass that is rich in silica. This rock is formed when lava cools extremely quickly and is found in several areas in Tennessee.

4. Flint and Chert

Flint and chert are types of sedimentary rocks that are often used to create tools for hunting and other activities.

These rocks can be found in several areas of Tennessee. 5.


Sandstone is a sedimentary rock that is made up of sand-sized particles. This rock is commonly found in Tennessee and can be used in construction and landscaping.

6. Unakite

Unakite is a unique type of granite that has pink and green markings throughout the rock.

You can find unakite in several areas of Tennessee, including Cocke County. 7.


Bauxite is a type of sedimentary rock that is rich in aluminum. Tennessee has a few areas where bauxite can be found, including the Cumberland Plateau.

8. Marble and Limestone

Tennessee is known for its elegant marble and limestone, which are often used for decorative and construction purposes.

These rocks can be found in several areas of the state, including Cocke County and Upper Cumberland. 9.


Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony that can be found in several colors, including red, orange, and yellow. Tennessee has jasper deposits in several areas, including the Cumberland Plateau.


Rockhounding in Tennessee can be a fun and rewarding experience. Whether you’re an experienced collector or a beginner, there are plenty of sites and resources available to help you find your next treasure.

From Ben Lomond Mountain to Cannon County, there is no shortage of unique geological features to discover. So grab your tools and start exploring the great state of Tennessee for your next big find!

Tennessee is a hidden gem for rockhounding enthusiasts, and one of the best ways to get a glimpse of the treasures that are hidden beneath the surface is through public gem mining.

With several public gem mines that offer various opportunities all over the state, rockhounders and gem enthusiasts are in for a treat. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best public gem mines in Tennessee, the type of rocks and minerals that you can find at each location, and the fees and services that you can expect.

Public Gem Mining in Tennessee

1. Cooper’s Gem Mine

Located in Sullivan County, Tennessee, Cooper’s Gem Mine began operating in the 1920s and has been a major attraction for rockhounding enthusiasts ever since.

The mine is situated in a closed gold mine and is known for its ample supply of gemstones, crystals, and minerals. With several areas for digging and sifting, visitors to Cooper’s Gem Mine can expect to find unique specimens such as quartz, amethyst, garnet, citrine, and tourmaline.

The mine provides visitors with the necessary equipment such as a shovel, bucket, and screen, and it is extremely affordable with fees ranging between $5-$15. Cooper’s Gem Mine also offers a teaching service where visitors can learn more about rockhounding and identify their finds.

2. Little River Gem Mine

One of the many public gem mines located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is Little River Gem Mine.

This mine has been operating since 2006 and welcomes visitors to come dig for gemstones, crystals, and minerals such as topaz, emerald, garnet, and sapphire. Little River Gem Mine frequently provides reassurance to its visitors by educating them on techniques to find more minerals, explaining what to look for, and shining a light on the various colors of the rocks.

The experience also includes teaching visitors how to clean and maintain their found minerals, ensuring that they leave the mine with not only beautiful specimens but also knowledge of rockhounding. The pricing structure at Little River Gem Mine is also very reasonable, with prices ranging from $20-$50.

3. Public Gem Mines

There are several public gem mines located throughout Tennessee, offering an opportunity for visitors to experience the excitement of rockhounding.

Most of these mines charge a fee for visitors to dig and sift through the earth for specimens. These fees range from $10-$25, depending on the location and the services provided.

At these mines, visitors can expect to find a wide variety of minerals, from rare gems to common rocks, including quartz, amethyst, fluorite, jasper, agate, and more. Most mines have staff members that can teach visitors about what they find and provide reassurance that they are on the right track.

Type of Rocks Found in Tennessee

1. Obsidian

Obsidian is a volcanic glass that is rich in silica, making it excellent for making tools and weapons.

In the state of Tennessee, obsidian is relatively rare, with only a few deposits in Cheatham County, Benton County, and Humphreys County. Obsidian at these locations is typically black or dark gray and is not always easy to spot, making it a treasure when found.

2. Agates

Agates are a type of chalcedony that is often found in volcanic rock.

Tennessee is one of the few states in the United States where agates can be found, with Memphis, Richardson’s Landing, Horse Mountain, Cookeville, Jellico, Greene County, and Sullivan County being popular locations for rockhounding. Agates from these areas can come in various colors, including red, orange, yellow, blue, and green, and often have unique patterns and shapes.

3. Geodes

Geodes are spherical rocks that are formed inside empty cavities of volcanic or sedimentary rocks.

The state of Tennessee is well known for its abundance of geodes, particularly in Woodbury, Cannon County, and Russellville. These geodes come in a variety of colors and sizes, with some being large enough to enter and explore.

4. Unakite

Unakite is a unique type of granite that has pink and green markings throughout the rock.

It is often used in decorative applications due to its unique coloration. The Unaka Mountains, Rag Mountain, and Del Rio are the most popular places in Tennessee to find unakite.

5. Jasper

Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony that is commonly found in the state of Tennessee.

Cookeville, Jellico, Bumpus Cove, Sullivan County, Greene County, and Hawkins County are the most popular locations to find jasper. It comes in several colors, including red, yellow, and green.

The state of Tennessee has a wealth of minerals, from rare gems to common rocks. Rockhounding enthusiasts and gem enthusiasts can find a treasure trove of specimens at public gem mines throughout the state.

Whether you’re looking to find obsidian, agate, geodes, unakite, or jasper, Tennessee has something for you. Get your tools ready and start exploring the state for your next big find.

Tennessee is known for its abundant natural beauty, and its diverse geology makes it a prime location for rockhounding enthusiasts to dig for gems. From onyx to diamonds, Tennessee has a wide variety of gems and minerals within its borders.

In this article, we’ll look at where you can dig for gems in Tennessee, the type of gems that can be found, and the state symbols that represent Tennessee’s rich geological history. Where Can I Dig for Gems in Tennessee?

Tennessee has an abundance of rocks, minerals, and gemstones that can be found in various locations throughout the state. Below are some of the popular locations and methods to dig for gems in Tennessee:


Public Gem Mines

Public gem mines are available throughout Tennessee, offering a fun and educational experience for visitors to dig for gems and minerals. These mines usually charge an admission fee, and visitors can use tools like shovels and screens to find minerals such as opals, jasper, and calcite onyx.

Some of the best places to dig for gems include the Tennessee River, Cumberland Plateau, Eastern Tennessee, and Southeastern Tennessee. 2.

Creeks and Rivers

Several creeks and rivers throughout Tennessee offer the opportunity for visitors to find gems by sifting through the sediments. The Little Tennessee River is a popular spot to find crystals, while the Copperhill stream gravels provide an opportunity to find gold and gemstones.

It is always essential to obtain permission before entering private land or EPA-regulated areas. 3.

Old Mines and Quarries

Tennessee has a rich history in mining, and several old mines and quarries are now abandoned and provide an opportunity to dig for gems, minerals, and other treasures. Some popular locations to find gems and minerals in old mines and quarries include Montvale Springs, Copperhill, Hawkins, Sullivan, and Greene counties.

Gems Found in Tennessee

1. Onyx

Onyx is a type of chalcedony that is often used as a decorative stone.

Tennessee has some onyx deposits, particularly in the western

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