Rock Hounding

It’s not just the coast of Maine that’s rocky. If you love rocks, just about anywhere in the Pine Tree State is a good place for the avid “rock hound” to dig for minerals and gems.

There are literally hundreds of locations rich in green and pink tourmaline, quartz, rose quartz, crystal, aquamarine, amethyst and garnet, even gold.

“If you’re a real mineral collector, you can find something in every town in Maine,” according to David Guillemette, former president of the Kennebec Rocks and Minerals Club. “This is one of the best places on the East Coast to hunt for rocks.”

Maine is especially good for rock hunting because of its geological history. “The glaciers cut off the tops of the mountains and a lot of the topsoil and exposed the bedrock,” Guillemette explained. This made for easier access to the rocks most sought after by collectors.
Guillemette, who lives in Manchester, says he became interested in rock hunting after reading Jean Blakemore’s We Walk on Jewels: Treasure Hunting in Maine for Gems and Minerals, which remains a must-have reference. Another good guide to rock hunting in Maine is A Collector’s Guide to Maine Mineral Localities, by Thompson, Joyner, Woodman and King.

Information about Maine rock hunting is also available from the state’s Bureau of Geology. According to that organization’s website, the state has “an excellent variety and quality of mineral specimens … The novice is practically assured of finding something of interest in Maine’s collecting sites.”

Some of those sites include abandoned mines, although many of these have closed in recent years. Maine mines were once worked for mica or feldspar and their waste or “rock dumps” remain good rock hunting grounds. You may have to pay a fee for digging privileges at some mines today, but there are plenty of out-of-the-way localities where you can dig for free. These include sites in Oxford, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties, where veins of pegmatite contain beryl, topaz and tourmaline.

Even the highway outcroppings and beaches of Maine hold treasure for the rock hound. The Bureau of Geology notes that the coastal region between Penobscot Bay and Eastport is worth exploring because “agates and other materials suitable for cutting and polishing occur on the beaches in this part of the state.”

Although he couldn’t name a favorite spot among the “hundreds of thousands of areas” to rock hunt in Maine, Guillemette listed Topsham-Bowdoinham-Bowdoin as being known for its blue topaz, aquamarine and amethyst; the Auburn-Lewiston area for its tourmaline and apatite; the Paris-West Paris-Route 26 region for morganite; and the Streaked Mountain Trail in Hebron for rhodolite.

The visiting rock hound also can contact one of Maine’s mineral clubs for tips on where to dig. Members of these groups are usually more than happy to “talk rocks.” In addition to the Kennebec Club (Winthrop), these include the Central Maine Junior Geologist Club (Gardiner), the Maine Mineralogical and Geological Society (Portland), the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association (South Paris), the Penobscot Mineral and Lapidary Club (Bangor), and the Water-Oak Gem and Mineral Society (Waterville).