It doesn't get much better than Montana for us rockhounds! The western half of the state is rich with gold, sapphires, garnets, amethyst, and a huge assortment of rare minerals. The eastern half of the state has some of the greatest dinosaur fossils occurrences on Earth.
Sapphire is among the most precious gemstones in the world. It is one of the rare precious stones that are found in famous gem mining locations such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Madagascar, Brazil, Nepal, China, Australia, India and Thailand. High-grade sapphires are only found in a few locations in the U.S.
Sapphire is made of aluminum oxide and is found in varied and vivid colors like blue, pink, yellow, purple and orange. It is sometimes also found in colorless or amazing dark blue or black variety. Certain iron, titanium and rarely chromium impurities give this gemstone it’s unique and varied colors. This gem is usually found using a different method compared to traditional pit or underground mine.
The stone is found by washing off the gravels found in the stream deposits.
Montana is the best state in the U.S. for sapphire mining, and there are several locations where rockhounds can pay to dig for the valuable gem.
About 15 sites in Montana claim sapphire findings. The Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is extremely popular for its gemstone mining. It is one of those areas where sapphire mining is open for tourists as well. People can come and participate in the dig. It makes for an exciting weekend trip and activity with children and “grown-ups” alike.
Another popular Sapphire mine is the Montana Blue Jewel Mine that is situated atop El Dorado Bar.
Besides theses mines, there are areas in the Beaverhead County, Deer Lodge County, Granite County, Lewis and Clark County, Madison County and Silver Bow County that have sapphire claims. There are sapphire deposits found all throughout western Montana.
Amethyst and Quartz
Crystal Park near Elkhorn Hot Springs Area in the Pioneer Mountains of Montana is popular for its Amethyst hunting. The mountains are located at a height of 7,700 feet. The site is preserved in cooperation with the Beaverhead National Forest and Butte Mineral and Gem Club.
In addition, other mining areas include, Bald Mountain, Delmoe Lake, Glittering Hill Pegmatite, Wissikihon Creek, Pohindorf Mine, Little Pipestone Creek, Little Gem Mine, Homestake Pass and Beehive No.2 Pegmatite in Jefferson County. Quartz crystals of all varieties have been found at these locations.
Another area in Silver Bow County, the Janney Pegmatite Occurrence is known for amethyst mining.
Petrified Wood and Fossils
The assorted stone deposit can be found in the eastern Montana Badlands region near Glendive. Other items located here are beautiful rock fragments and lignite. Another significant site where the precious gem is located in Montana is the Gallatin Petrified Forest which is 35 to 55 million years old.
The forest is located close to rocks and porcupine creeks in the Gallatin Range and uniqueness of the Gallatin Petrified Forest is that most of the trees location in this region were petrified standing upright in their original position.
Eastern Montana is world-renowned for its fossil occurrences. Of particular interest are the dinosaur fossils that have been found here including the prized Tyrannosaurus Rex. Other species include Triceratops, Hadrosaurs, and a variety of other dinosaurs. Some of the greatest paleontological discoveries on Earth have been made in Eastern Montana and the Dakotas.
Sightings of the bright red and orange red and reddish pink almandite garnet have been made in the Missouri River near Helena in Lewis County and Clarke County. Deposits of this precious gemstone are also seen on the drainages of the Ruby River in Madison County.
The Alder Gulch deposit is located where Alder Gulch joins the Ruby River Valley. About 40 million tons of old placer gold tailings are found in this area from historic gold mining operations. Garnets are abundant in this area.
Western Montana is quite rich with gold. There was an abundance of gold mining activity that took place here dating back to the 1860 up through the 1950’s. Even today there is plenty of gold that can be panned from many creeks and rivers in western Montana.
Check out the following links for additional information about gold in Montana.Gold Mining in MontanaThe Gold Rush to MontanaThe Ghost Town of Bannack, Montana
Rhodochrosite occurs in the Butte district, Montana. Some of the ores come from the Emma Mines which is located near downtown Butte. The crystal is also common in some of the southwestern and western part of the district and also abundant in the veins of the northern part of the district.
Common minerals that are less associated with the crystal are barite, calcite, ankerite, chalcopyrite, tenantite and bornite. Most of the ore that is produced in the Emma Mine are exclusively made up of rhodochrosite.
The huge copper mines around the town of Butte produced a huge variety of different mineral specimens as by-product of the copper mining. If you ever find yourself in Butte, check out the amazing Mineral Museum on the campus of Montana Tech. There are thousands of local minerals on display, including a 27.5-ounce gold nugget
found just south of Butte.