Rockhounding New York
New York is a terrific state for rockhounding. New York is well known for its ‘Herkimer Diamonds’ – which are unique quartz crystals. More importantly, however, New York has one of the very best museums in the world for curious rockhounds – the American Museum of Natural History. Interestingly, this museum also was the site of the biggest gem theft in American history when ‘Murf the Surf’ and his accomplices stole the fabled ‘Star of India Sapphire’ and the ‘de Long Ruby.’
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 Gemstone: Garnet (1969)
New York designated garnet as its official state gemstone in 1969. Garnet comes in many forms: from the black Almandine colored by reduced iron to the green uvarovite and tsavorite colored by chromium. It forms commonly in metamorphic rocks, most characteristically in mica schists, hornblende schists, and gneisses. New York mines large crystals of almandine garnet. Garnet, when not used as a gemstone, makes a good abrasive. Barton Mines in the Adirondack Mountains of New York is the world’s largest garnet mine, mining mostly industrial, abrasive-grade garnet, and occasionally gem-quality garnet.
State Fossil: Eurypterus remipes (1984)
New York designated Eurypterus remipes as its official state fossil in 1984. Eurypterus remipes is a 420 to 405 million year-old eurypterid. During the Silurian Period, what is now New York was under a sea that was about eight times larger than New York State. It was a tropical sea, located about 15 degrees south of the equator. Eurypterus was one of many species of sea scorpions, among the most spectacular invertebrates of the Paleozoic Era. Some scientists prefer the name water scorpions, noting that they didn’t necessarily live in the sea. Scientists believe that water scorpions lived in super-salty water, similar to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Areas that yield sea scorpion fossils in New York are also known for their salt and gypsum deposits. Such a specialized habitat may explain why their fossils are so rare. Their home was apparently too salty for such common marine animals as corals and brachiopods. Fossil worms, snails, and algae are among the few species that have been found near sea scorpion fossils. Eurypterus had five pairs of legs — four short, spiny pairs used for walking, and one pair that spread out into paddles for swimming. Like many modern invertebrates, Eurypterus had chelicerae near its mouth that could be used to grab, or hold, food. Eurypterus had four eyes. Two were simple eyes and the other two were compound eyes (insects have compound eyes, which are made up of many smaller eyes).
State Mineral: Quartz Variety Herkimer Diamond (quartz) (Bill
introduced again in 2012)
In 2012, a bill (S.1682) again was introduced to designate quartz variety ‘Herkimer diamond’ as New York’s official state mineral. The name of this mineral comes from the site of its discovery at Little Falls in Herkimer County, New York. The mineral is sometimes called Little Falls diamond. Despite its name, Herkimer diamond is not a diamond at all, but a variety of quartz and is not rare or valuable. These quartz crystals do have 18 facets and two termination points.
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!
- Bradford B. Van Diver, Roadside Geology of New York (1985).
- Paul L. Weinman & Ed Landing, An Introduction to Invertebrate Fossils of New York (2003).
- Yngvar W. Isachsen, Geology of New York: A Simplified Account (2000).
- Daniel Zabriskie & Carolyn Zabriskie, Rockhounding in Eastern New York and Nearby New England (7th ed., Rev.).
- 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
American Museum of
New York City, New York
The museum is home to the world's largest collection of vertebrate fossils, totaling nearly one million specimens. More than 600 of these specimens, nearly 85 percent of which are real fossils as opposed to casts, are on view. In addition, the museum has a fantastic meteorite collection (Hall of Meteorites) including the Willamette Meteorite as well as a Hall of Minerals and Hall of Gems.
New York State Museum
Albany, New York
The museum’s exhibits include an exhaustive fossil collection. The youngest specimens date back 100 million years, when dinosaurs were in their heyday, the oldest are over a billion years old. New York State has the oldest animal fossils in the eastern United States. Included are fossilized tree stumps and spiders from Gilboa, Schoharie County, home to 380 million-year-old forests, the world's oldest. The Cohoes Mastodon also is exhibited.
Buffalo Museum of Science
Buffalo, New York
The Museum’s exhibits include a gem and mineral collection as well as a ‘Dinosaurs & Co.’ exhibit that includes a variety of prehistoric fossils.
Museum of the Earth
Ithaca, New York
The museum, located on the campus of the Paleontological Research Institute, exhibits a variety of fossils.
A. Scott Warthin Museum of Geology & Natural
Vassar College - Poughkeepsie, New York
Located in Ely Hall, the museum exhibits rocks, minerals, and fossils.
Hicksville Gregory Museum
Hicksville, New York
The museum exhibits Long Island’s largest rock, mineral, and fossil collection.
Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum
Pawling, New York
The museum, located in the historic Akin Free Library building, exhibits rocks and minerals.
Gilboa, New York
The small town of Gilboa, in southern Schoharie County, is the home of the Gilboa Fossils. During the Devonian Period (380 million years ago), Gilboa was located on the shore of the gigantic Devonian Sea. The museum exhibits some of the sandstone cast tree fossils, which are the oldest tree fossil in the world.
Slate Valley Museum
Granville, New York
The Museum includes a geological display illustrating the natural history of slate.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Border between the United States and Canada, Northwest of Buffalo, New York
The Niagara Falls is the collective name for three falls (American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls) that, combined, constitute the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. The falls are about 165 feet high.
The Palisades are a line of steep cliffs along the west side of the lower Hudson River in northeastern New Jersey and southern New York. The cliffs rise 300 – 500 feet nearly vertically from near the edge of the river and stretch north from Jersey City to near Nyack, New York. The Palisades – a sill – formed about 200 million years ago when molten magma pushed into sandstone.
Little Falls Public Library
Little Falls, New York
The library has a display of ‘Little Falls Diamonds’ – more commonly known as ‘Herkimer Diamonds’ – which are quartz crystals.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Herkimer, Montgomery, Fulton, & Warren Counties, New York
These quartz crystals are available at typical tourist-type commercial (fee access) businesses, including Herkimer Diamond Mines, Inc. in Herkimer, New York.
Garnet Mine Tours – North River, New York
Commercial (fee access) business. Located at the historic Gore Mountain garnet deposit.
Fossils – Devonian Era
Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center – Hamburg, New York
Commercial (fee access) business. The Windom Shale at the Penn Dixie fossil site in Hamburg, New York (just south of Buffalo) contains Devonian era fossils dating back 380 million years. The most common fossils found at Penn Dixie are Brachiopods, Horn Coral, Pelecypods, Cephalopds, and Trilobites.