Rockhounding Tennessee Guide | Locations, Rocks, & Map

Rockhounding Tennessee

Tennessee is known for its precious river pearl. However, what most people don’t know is that the state is great for rockhounding. In this rockhounding Tennessee guide, we will look at the top locations to visit in the state and the gems found in the area.

Tennessee, often hailed as the “Volunteer State,” is not only known for its rich history and vibrant culture but also for its diverse geological landscapes that offer rockhounding enthusiasts a plethora of opportunities to discover hidden gems.

The mountain ranges in the east part of Tennessee hide a variety of minerals and gems. From the towering peaks of the Cumberland Plateau to the meandering waters of the Tennessee River, the state is a haven for rock and mineral enthusiasts seeking to unearth the beauty that lies beneath the surface.

In this guide, we will explore some of the best rockhounding sites in Tennessee, each offering a unique geological experience.

How We Picked the Top Places for Rockhounding in Tennessee

In order to find the best spots in Tennessee for rockhounding, we had to consider a lot of things. It can be tough to find the information we need to shortlist the best places. Here are a few things we took into consideration:

  • Input from local gem hunting associations and groups.
  • The safety of the mining location and the potential hazards.
  • The accessibility of the mining spot.
  • Private and public locations.

Rocks and Minerals Found in Tennessee

Tennessee boasts a variety of rocks and minerals that you can collect. From gem-quality quartz to unique rocks like Unakite. Here are some of the most commonly found rocks and minerals found in Tennessee:

  • Agate
  • Freshwater Pearl
  • Quartz (gem-quality)
  • Unakite
  • Geodes
  • Calcite
  • Pyrite
  • Calcite
  • Fluorite
  • Dolomite
  • Limestone
  • Appalachian Moonstone
  • Garnet

Also, look at our gem mining spots in Kentucky and the best spots to find geodes in MissouriAlso, take a look at the best spots for Alaska Agates.

Our Favorite Spots for Rockhounding in Tennessee

Here are some of the top rockhounding locations in Tennessee, each with its own distinct mineral.

  1. Mountains of the Cumberland Plateau
  2. Tennessee River
  3. Horse Mountain
  4. Cooper’s Gem Mine
  5. Douglas Lake
  6. Richardson’s Landing, Memphis
  7. Copperhill

Mountains of the Cumberland Plateau

Mountains of the Cumberland Plateau

The Cumberland Plateau, a vast upland region extending into eastern Tennessee, is a rockhound’s paradise. The mountains and valleys of this plateau are home to a variety of minerals and gems waiting to be discovered. From quartz crystals to agates, the Cumberland Plateau has it all.

One notable location within this region is the Roaring River Park, located in Overton County. Here you can explore exposed rock formations and uncover agate and quartz crystals.

The terrain is known for its unique agate specimen.

Tennessee River

Tennessee River

The Tennessee River, winding its way through the heart of the state, presents rockhounding opportunities along its banks. The river exposes various sedimentary rocks and gravel bars, providing a fertile ground for rock and fossil hunters.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, situated along the river in northern Alabama, near the Tennessee border, is a notable spot for rockhounding.

The place is popular for its freshwater pearls. Try digging in the gravel of the river and its tributaries to find mussels with pearls inside. You can also find various rock crystals in the region such as quartz.

Horse Mountain

Horse Mountain

Nestled in the Appalachian foothills, Horse Mountain in DeKalb County is a hidden gem for rockhounding. Known for its diversity of minerals, including garnets, epidote, and quartz crystals, the mountain attracts collectors seeking unique specimens.

You can uncover various minerals amidst the mountain’s rocky terrain. Horse Mountain is a renowned spot for Agate hunting. The variety found here is called “Horse Mountain Agate” or “Iris Agate”. 

Cooper’s Gem Mine

Cooper's Gem Mine

For those looking for a more structured rockhounding experience, Cooper’s Gem Mine in Blountville provides an accessible and family-friendly venue.

The mine offers the excitement of uncovering various gemstones, including rubies, garnets, quartz, sapphires, and emeralds, in a controlled environment, for a small fee.

Visitors at Cooper’s Gem Mine are provided with all the necessary equipment and guidance, making it an ideal location for beginners. It is also a great place to visit with your family and kids.

Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake is a reservoir on the French Broad River. It is not only scenic but also offers various rocks and minerals along its shores. The exposed rock formations around the lake provide opportunities to find fossils and interesting geological specimens.

The area is popular for its double-terminated quartz crystals, also known as “Douglas Diamonds”. To increase your chances of finding these gems, make sure to search the area when lake levels are low.

Richardson’s Landing

Richardson's Landing

While western Tennessee may not be as renowned for rockhounding as other parts of the state, Richardson’s Landing in Memphis offers a unique urban rockhounding experience.

The site, situated along the Mississippi River, provides access to gravel bars that can yield interesting finds. It is famous for its Lake Superior Agates and Agatized fossils.

Try to search in the gravel across the river. You can even find Lake Superior Agates carried down from the Great Lake by the current. Keep an eye out for colorful stones among the pebbles and rocks along the riverbank.



Nestled on the border between Tennessee and Georgia, Copperhill is a historic mining town with a rich geological heritage. The region is known for its copper deposits, attracting rockhounds in search of unique minerals.

The Ducktown Basin Museum in Copperhill provides insights into the area’s mining history and the types of minerals found in the region.

Rockhounding in Copperhill may yield specimens such as chalcocite, azurite, and malachite, showcasing the area’s rich copper mineralization. Some of the common minerals found in the area are:

  • Azurite
  • Garnet
  • Gold
  • Chalcopyrite
  • Quartz
  • Galena
  • Malachite
  • Graphite
  • Pyrite

Other Rockhounding Spots in Tennessee

Apart from the popular spots mentioned above, there are several other great sites in Tennessee for gem mining. Please remember that the rock collection in these areas is constantly changing. So, it’s best to stay updated with the latest information.

Here are some of the places you should visit in Tennessee for mining rocks and gems:

  • Coffee Bluff, near Tennessee River – Amber
  • Lawrenceburg – Chert, Chalcedony, Geodes
  • Springfield – gem-quality quartz
  • Sugar Creek, Agatized Coral
  • Woodbury – Geodes
  • Beechgrove – Chalcedony
  • Crab Orchard – Sandstone
  • Carpenter Hollow – Calcite, Celestite, Dolomite, Geodes, Marcasite, Pyrite
  • Monteagle – Calcite onyx
  • Monterey – Calcite, Celestite, Dolomite, Fluorite, Quartz crystals
  • Montvale Springs – Gold
  • Blue Springs – Galena
  • Roan Mountain – Unakite
  • Rag Mountain – Unakite
  • Big Creek – Quartz (gemstone, light green)
  • Russellville – Geodes (quartz geodes)
  • Bristol – Onyx
  • Flag Pond – Unakite

Tips for a Successful Rockhounding Trip in Tennessee

  • Research and Preparation: Before embarking on a rockhounding adventure, conduct thorough research on the specific minerals and fossils found in each location. Familiarize yourself with the geological history of the area to enhance your understanding of what to look for.
  • Safety First: Always prioritize safety during rockhounding expeditions. Wear appropriate gear, including sturdy shoes, gloves, and safety glasses.
  • Tools: Pack essential rockhounding tools, such as a rock hammer, chisels, a magnifying glass, and containers for collecting specimens. A field guidebook specific to the minerals and rocks in the region can be a valuable resource.
  • Time of your visit: Consider the time of year and weather conditions when planning your rockhounding excursion. Some sites may be inaccessible or less enjoyable during certain seasons, so plan accordingly for the best experience.
  • Respect the environment: Leave no trace and respect the natural environment. Follow ethical collecting practices, and avoid damaging vegetation or disturbing wildlife. Adhere to any regulations or guidelines set by the landowners or authorities.


Tennessee, with its diverse geological landscapes, offers rockhounding enthusiasts a wide array of experiences. Whether you prefer the challenge of exploring mountainous terrain or the family-friendly atmosphere of a gem mine, the state has something for everyone.

Before making a visit, make sure to check out the local rules and regulations for gem collection in the area. You should also know whether the site you wish to visit is on private or public property. In case of collection of private property, you will need to get a permit.

So, grab your pickaxe and rock hammer, and embark on a rockhounding adventure in Tennessee.

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