If you have one of the many books, print or eBook, you know there are a lot of places to look for rocks in Utah, and other states. However, in Southern Utah the creation of the Monuments has put rock collecting off limits. The g\Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and now the Bears Ears National Monument have “no collecting” standards. Anything you collected before the declaration is yours to keep, sell, etc. There’s a hefty fine if you get caught with a rock in your pocket now.
So where can you go?
One place we like to explore is just outside Red Canyon, the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, there’s a fun place to collect. Casto Canyon and Agate Hill. About one mile before you enter Red Canyon on U.S. Scenic Byway 12 you’ll see the sign to Casto Canyon. When you get there follow the dirt road to the left and up the hill. There’s several little roads off the main one and almost all will lead you to the treasures.
Most of the Agate there is a mix of white and red. Some darker pieces can be found. In the wash at the base of the hill you can find larger pieces but they’re hiding inside the white matrix that coat most of the rocks in the area. Chip on one a little and you’ll be able to see what’s there. Some are fractured, but others are good and hard to cut for jewelry.
Remember, all rock collecting on public lands is for personal use only. If you plan to create and sell using rock from public lands you must get a commercial use permit. Otherwise you can collect up to 25#s per day per site without a permit. No power tools, hand tools only and you cannot excavate for the rock, only dig out what you can see from the surface – they call that float. If we all obey the rules there will be rock collecting for generations to come.
How do we collect and sell without a permit? We purchase rock from reputable dealers and have a receipt for every purchase to show we’ve obtained and sold them lawfully. It’s the only way to stay out of trouble. We learned that when we had our Gallery in Escalante – the heart of the Grand Staircase. We purchased buckets of Moqui Marbles, which are now protected, from someone who acquired them prior to the monument. We have a receipt for them and we’re good to go. Even if you’re at a Rock Show and purchase items that are now off-limits you should get a receipt. Even if it’s just their business card with the information on the back – do it. You’ll want the name of the item you’ve purchased anyway. We give out cards at the rock shows with the name of the rock/gem/fossil on it and initial it for them.
There are lots of other places to find treasures, but that’s about the easiest and can be reached in a two-wheel drive car with reasonable clearance. Don’t go if it’s raining, the roads in red rock country are pretty mucky and tows are expensive. But do have fun.