Florida is a terrific state for rockhounding. Florida has petrified wood, agatized coral, chert, calcite, kaolin, staurolite, and other rocks and minerals. Florida, however, is especially rich in fossils. The state is a fossil-hunter's paradise. Florida fossils range from 45 million-year-old "sand dollars" to bones and teeth from Ice-age sabertooth cats, which lived in Florida just 10,000 years ago. Bones from Ice-age mammoths and mastodons accumulate on stream beds. Shark teeth wash up on the beaches of southwestern Florida. Moreover, open-pit mineral mines and quarries statewide yield abundant fossil bones, teeth, and shells from both land and marine animals. Much of Florida's bedrock, which is largely limestone, is comprised of the shells of animals that lived in the shallow seas once covering the state. Fossil seashells abound in the banks of both panhandle and southern Florida rivers. The massive limestone deposits also create sinkholes. Florida also has at least four document meteorites.
State Rocks, Gemstones, Minerals, Fossils, & Dinosaurs
Rockhounding Tip: Knowing state rocks, gemstones, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs often can be very useful information for rockhounders. Ordinarily, states with significant mineral deposits, valuable gemstones, fossils, or unusual or significant rock occurrences will designate an official state mineral, rock/stone, gemstone, fossil, or dinosaur to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc. Accordingly, such state symbols often are a valuable clue as to potential worthwhile rockhounding opportunities.
Agatized Coral (1979)
Florida designated agatized coral as its official state stone in 1979. Coral is the outside skeleton of tiny ocean animals called polyps, which live in colonies attached to hard underwater surfaces. When alive, polyps combine their own carbon dioxide with the lime in warm seawater to form a limestone-like hard surface, or coral. Agatized fossil coral occurs when silica-rich groundwater percolates through the fossil coral and, over time, replaces the limy corals with a form of quartz known as chalcedony. This long process (20-30 million years) results in the formation of a "pseudomorph," meaning that one mineral has replaced another without having lost its original form. Agatized fossil coral can exhibit a wide range of natural colors, ranging from white and pink to brown, gray, black, yellow, and red. Different trace minerals in the agate create these colors. Agatized coral is found in three main Florida locations: Tampa Bay, the Econfina River, and the Withlacoochee/Suwannee riverbeds.
Florida designated moonstone as its state mineral in 1970 in honor of the successful Apollo moon mission in 1969, even though this mineral is not native to Florida. Moonstone is a variety of adularia feldspar that shimmers in an opalescent play of color. Moonstone occurs in a range of colors, including white, gray, brown, yellow, green, and pink. It commonly is cut as a cabochon, though some unusually clear crystals can be faceted.
State-specific rockhounding books (including the books listed here as well as other books), regional rockhounding site guides, and other helpful rockhounding resources are identified - by category - in the Books & Gear section of Gator Girl Rocks with a link to the Gator Girl Rocks Amazon Store where you may easily browse selected resources and securely place an order. Your order will benefit Charity Rocks!
Florida Geological Survey
This website is one of the best state geological surveys with great information.
Florida Fossil Permit
Florida requires vertebrate fossil collectors to apply for and have a fossil permit.
- Jonathan R. Bryan, Thomas M. Scott, & Guy H. Means, Roadside Geology of Florida (2008). This book is awesome … and written by my cousin’s neighbor!
- Robin Brown, Florida's Fossils: A Guide to Location, Identification, and Enjoyment (Rev. ed. 2008).
- Robert L. Fuqua, Hunting Fossil Shark Teeth In Venice, Florida:The Complete Guide – On The beach, SCUBA Diving, & Inland (2011).
- Iris Tracy Comfort, Florida’s Geological Treasures (1998).
- Richard C. Hulbert, Jr., The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida (2001).
- Anthony F. Randazzo & Douglas S. Jones, The Geology of Florida, (1997).
- Carol & Bernie Peterson, Southern Florida’s Fossil Seashells, (2008).
- Olin Mark Renz, Fossiling in Florida: A Guide for Diggers and Divers (1999).
- Melissa Dippold-Brady, Florida Fossils for Kids, (2009).
- Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 2 - Southeastern Quadrant (1985; reprint in 2000).
- James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Mineral Adventures in the Eastern U.S. (2d ed. 2010).
- Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
Florida Museum of
University of Florida - Gainesville, Florida
The Florida Museum of Natural History has an extensive fossil collection. Its Invertebrate Paleontology Collection, totaling over 4.3 million fossil specimens, constitutes one of the finest Cenozoic invertebrate collections in the U.S. The museum has the third largest paleobotanical fossil collection in the United States with approximately 300,000 specimens collected from 1,400 localities. In addition, the museum's Vertebrate Paleontology collection is one of the top five university collections of its kind, featuring rich samples of all classes, mainly from the Cenozoic Era, with more than 500,000 specimens.
Stetson University - DeLand, Florida
The Gillespie Museum of Minerals is Stetson University's Earth science museum. Its collection of 20,000 mineral, rock, and fossil specimens is one of the oldest and largest in the southeastern US. Exhibits and displays include geology, native Florida ecosystems and plant landscapes, minerals and mining, and fluorescent rocks.
The City of Mulberry is in the heart of the phosphate area of Florida. This area became known as the Bone Valley because of the bones and fossilized remains of prehistoric animals that are common to phosphate deposits. The Mulberry Phosphate Museum houses an outstanding collection of fossilized remains and educational exhibits about the phosphate industry.
South Florida Science Museum
West Palm Beach, Florida
The museum’s ‘Out of This World’ exhibit displays a 232 pound meteorite, a moon rock brought back on an Apollo mission, and a Mars rock found in Nigeria in 1962. In addition, the museum exhibits Suzie, the Ice Age Mastodon, which is the only adult female mastodon on display in Florida. The mastodon was excavated near Okeechobee Boulevard in 1969.
Located in the office suite of the County Superintendent of Schools, the Earth Wonders Geological Museum houses an excellent collection of more than 1,500 specimens including rocks, minerals, fossils, rough and faceted gems, polished gemstone carvings, historical items, and a large display of fluorescent minerals. In addition, the museum has an excellent collection of Tampa Bay agatized coral. The little museum is located in the lobby of the Flagler County School Superintendent’s suite on the third floor. Earth Wonders might be small, but it houses some pretty extraordinary exhibits.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Windley Key near Islamorada, Florida
Formed of Key Largo limestone, fossilized coral, this land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, which used the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. After the railroad was built, the quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone. Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation- an important part of Florida's 20th century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Fossils - Shark
Fossils are common in this area. Fossils include: shark teeth, shells, etc. Collecting prehistoric sharks teeth has been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents of the Venice area for years. They may be black, brown, or gray, depending on the minerals in the soil in which they have been buried. They range in size from one eighth inch to three inches, and on rare occasions more. In addition to shark teeth fossils, other marine fossils also are found in this area. Because millions of years ago most of Florida was under water, many fossils are found inland as well as on the beaches. State law, however, prohibits digging without a permit.
Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area - Dunedin, Florida
Agatized coral from dredging of Tampa Bay has been found at Honeymoon Island.
Fossils - Miocene & Pleistocene
Peace River – Hardee County, Florida
Collectors who do not fear alligators, look for specimens in the gravel bars and river bottom.