Maine is an extraordinary state for rockhounding. The State is well known for its pegmatites and related gemstones. The pegmatites (course-grained granites) located in western Maine have yielded an abundance of gem quality minerals including tourmaline, aquamarine, beryl, topaz, spodumene, morganite, smoky quartz, rose quartz, and amethyst. Maine is famous for its tourmaline. In addition, at least five meteorite falls have been documented in Maine.
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.
State Mineral: Tourmaline (1971)
Maine designated Tourmaline as its state mineral in 1971. The name comes from the Sri-Lankan word turamali, which was used to describe early gemstones. Tourmaline actually describes a variety of minerals with similar crystal structures that vary in composition and color. Two species of the tourmaline group are widespread in the igneous rocks of southwestern Maine. A black, iron-bearing tourmaline called schorl is Maine’s most common tourmaline. Elbaite, a very colorful but less common variety, is a lithium-bearing tourmaline that forms beautiful crystals in pink, green, blue, or combinations of these colors. Maine, along with California yields beautiful gem grade tourmaline. Maine tourmaline occurs in various colors. There is even a “watermelon” variety with a green outer layer surrounding a pink core. Some Maine specimens rival the best tourmaline from California, Brazil, and the Himalayas. The first major tourmaline discovery in Maine occurred in 1820 at Mount Mica in Paris. The famous story of the discovery by two boys exploring the local countryside was related by Augustus Hamlin in his 1895 book entitled "The History of Mount Mica." Many other tourmaline deposits have been found in Maine over the years. Sharp crystals of black tourmaline are widespread in pegmatites of Oxford, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, and Cumberland Counties. The colored crystals occur mainly in Oxford County and the Auburn-Poland area. It is curious that the best gem-producing localities lie on a straight line extending southeastward through this part of the state. In 1972 a spectacular series of large tourmaline pockets was opened at the Dunton Mine in Newry. Many fabulous red and green crystals were found, including the ten-inch “Jolly Green Giant,” which is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Tourmaline, because it is strongly piezoelectric (a property where electricity flow is controlled by changes in pressure) is used in the manufacture of pressure gauges.
Fossil: Pertica quadrifaria (1985)
Maine designated Pertica quadrifaria as its official state fossil in 1985. Pertica quadrifaria is the scientific name of a primitive plant that lived about 390 million years ago during the Devonian Period. Its fossilized remains were discovered in 1968 in the rocks of the Trout Valley Formation in Baxter State Park near Mount Katahdin. Based on the type of rock it is found in today and the other fossils associated with it, Pertica quadrifaria grew in a brackish or freshwater marsh near an active volcano. Fragments of the plants were preserved when they fell into the marsh and were covered by sediment before they could decay. After millions of years of burial, the plant remains are now exposed along eroding stream banks. The Pertica quadrifaria probably reached a maximum height of about six feet, making it the largest land plant at that time (Pertica is a Latin word meaning a "long pole or rod"). Its stem, which measured up to one inch in diameter, had both sterile and fertile branches arranged in four rows that spiraled up the stem (quadrifaria means "in four ranks"). The fertile branches ended in dense clusters of sporangia, or spore cases, while the sterile branches subdivided to form forked tips. These forked ends may represent the first step in the evolution of leaves. Pertica quadrifaria was selected as the Maine State Fossil for several reasons. It was first discovered in Maine. It is also a rare fossil; well-preserved remains of Pertica are found at only three other places in the world besides Maine.
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!
Maine Geological Survey
The Maine Geological Survey has a display and reference collection of rocks and minerals that is open to the public during office hours. The rock and mineral collection contains specimens from localities in Maine and elsewhere in the country.
- Jane C. Perham, Maine’s Treasure Chest – Gems & Minerals of Oxford County (2d ed. 1987).
- C.J. Stevens, Maine Mining Adventures (1994).
- W. B. Thompson, D. L. Joyner, R. G. Woodman, & V. T. King, A Collector's Guide to Maine Mineral Localities, Bulletin 41, (Online Edition, June, 2005).
- Vandall T. King & Eugene E. Foord, Mineralogy of Maine - Volume 1: Descriptive Mineralogy (1994).
- Vandall T. King, Mineralogy of Maine - Volume 2: Mining History, Gems, and Geology (2000).
- D.W. Caldwell, Roadside Geology of Maine (1998).
- Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 1 - Northeastern 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, Northeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
Maine State Museum
The Maine State Museum, located near the state capitol building, includes the collection of the Geological Survey. The collection includes gems and several stunning tourmaline crystals.
The museum exhibits local rocks, minerals, and fossils.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Acadia National Park
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Acadia National Park is the first national park located east of the Mississippi River (and originally was named Lafayette National Park). The Park includes many geologic features resulting from the nearly two-mile thick ice sheet that covered the area during the ice age. The glaciers carved the area and left erratics. Perhaps the most obvious reminder of Acadia's glacial legacy, however, is the fjord-like Somes Sound (the only feature of its kind on the U.S. Atlantic Coast) with its deeply carved head and shallow mouth of glacial deposits. In addition, the peak of Cadillac Mountain offers one of the first views of sunrise in the United States.
Easternmost Point in the United States
West Quoddy Head, Maine
West Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine is the easternmost point of the United States and the closest point to Europe. West Quoddy Head overlooks Quoddy Narrows, a straight between the United States and Canada.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Mt. Apatite Park – Auburn, Maine
A popular (and free) collecting site is the group of quarries on the east side of Mt. Apatite in Auburn. This area is called Mt. Apatite Park, administered by the City of Auburn. These quarries are among a small number of mineral collecting sites in Maine that offer a combination of good public access and the possibility of finding many different minerals. The ledges and boulders surrounding the quarry pits show interesting geological features, including basalt dikes cutting granite pegmatite, and interlayering of pegmatite with metamorphic rock. The coarse pegmatite shows large, easily visible examples of several common rock-forming mineral groups such as quartz, feldspar, and mica. Various features around the quarries illustrate former mining techniques and the linkages between Maine's geologic and human history.
Litchfield, Kennebec County, Maine
This locality is best known for its sodalite and cancrinite specimens (“litchfieldite” is a name applied to the rock in which they occur). The sodalite is blue and usually occurs as small patches in the syenite, but larger masses (some with rough crystals of yellow cancrinite) are occasionally found. Exceptional zircon crystals to 1 inch in size have been collected in recent years.
White Mountain National Forest
Two well-known collecting sites are located in the White Mountain National Forest near the border with New Hampshire. This is the parking and check-in point at the trailhead for the Deer Hill amethyst locality in Stow. A small fee is required at this site.
Topaz, Smoky Quartz, Beryl
Lord Hill Quarry – Stoneham, Maine
The Lord Hill Quarry in Stoneham is located within the National Forest, but no fee is collected here. Visitors hike to the quarry on an old woods road. Lord Hill is a pegmatite locality formerly worked for feldspar. Bluish-white topaz, smoky quartz crystals, beryl, and tiny crystals of columbite and fluorapatite are among the minerals found here.
Greenwood, Oxford County, Maine
Discovered by a feldspar mining operation in the 1930's, this quarry was a productive mine for many years. Feldspar was the main commercial product. The quarry has produced specimens of many minerals, but is best known for its rare pseudo-cubic quartz crystals.
Mt. Mica – Paris, Maine
Mt. Mica is the oldest gem mine in the United States and is famous for it’s tourmaline crystals. The fee-access site includes a variety of minerals such as tourmaline (green, pink, blue, watermelon), biotite, garnet, beryl (aquamarine, morganite, green, white) eosphorite, cassiterite, cookeite, flourapatite, hydroxylapatite, hydroxyl-herderite, columbite, microcline, montmorillonite, muscovite, pollucite, quartz (milky, smokey, rose), rhodochrosite, siderite, schorl (tourmaline), spodumene, and others.
Commercial (fee-access) Businesses
There are several commercial (fee-access) sites in southwest Maine including, Bethel Outdoor Adventure, Creaser Jewelers, Kings’ Hill Inn, Perham’s of West Paris, Poland Mining Camp, Songo Pond, and Western Maine Mineral Adventures. These mining locations focus on gemstones such as tourmaline, beryl, quartz, and rose quartz.