Rockhounding Roadcuts

Rockhounding Roadcuts
By Currently Rockhounding

If you have been watching my YouTube channel for any length of time you undoubtedly have seen us visit a roadcut looking for interesting material. Roadcuts provide an excellent opportunity to see the underlying geology of an area that would otherwise be buried with overburden and they shouldn’t be overlooked for collecting and learning opportunities.

We have found so many interesting rocks and minerals in roadcuts over the years from agates to zeolites and everything between.

Although roadcuts provide a great opportunity for some potential rockhounding, you most definitely want to carefully evaluate each and every roadcut that you stop at to see assess its safety. Some things to think about are:

Is there a safe place to pull over away from the path of traffic?
How close to will you be to traffic?
What is the likelihood of rocks coming down from the top of the roadcut and hitting you?

If there’s no safe place to pull over, you have to stand too close to the travel lane of the road, or if there is danger of rock fall it’s not worth stopping for.

The perfect example of where you do not want to stop and look for rocks.

Once you have determined if a location is safe to collect at you will want to determine if it’s legal for you to collect that material. In many but not all states there is a right-of-way buffer on the side of the road that is owned by any number of agencies such as the state’s Department of Transportation. Many of these agencies have no rules or regulations concerning rockhounding so it’s often viewed as somewhat of a no man’s land. Some exceptions to this would be places like National Parks and Indian Reservations, where the side of the road is owned by the National Parks Service or the Tribe in question. Also it’s important to note that many states have laws against stopping on the side of interstate freeways unless you have an emergency.

Even the safest roadcuts present more dangers than the average rockhounding locations due to the potential of getting hit by a car or what seems more likely is that someone stops or slows down to see what you’re doing or ask if you need help thinking that you may have broken down and someone hits them because they stopped in the path of traffic. Due to this we normally put on orange safety vests so that we look official and no one stops to ask us if we need help.

It’s rare that we make a roadcut our destination when going out rockhounding but rather it’s something that we will stop at on the way to other, more enjoyable locations. The reality is that even the best roadcut is likely not going to be a fun place to hangout at for a relaxing day, more so it’s just quickly pulling over, grab stuff and keep on going.

Any time I’m planning a trip, I always research if there are any roadcuts near or along our route that would be worth stopping at. I usually plot our trips using GaiaGPS and then work backwards from our destination to see if there are any interesting roadcuts to investigate along the way. I use satellite imagery, street views, and even sometimes the measuring tool on Google Earth to see if the side of the road is wide enough to pull over at.

A great example of this is shown here with this serpentine roadcut.

The last subject I would like to cover here is how to identify a roadcut that someone has been removing material from as you’re driving. Being able to recognize unnatural features in a roadcut such as holes, or a benches cut in where someone could stand is important and we have found many rocks doing just that.

Below you can see a roadcut with some very obvious holes punched into it when pointed out and the odd directions the holes follow. What you don’t see below these holes are rocks, which means that someone made those holes looking for something.

We of course stopped to investigate these holes and found long seams of selenite crystals running into pockets of clay that people had been digging out.

The crystals were rather small and required a fair amount of cleaning but only required getting out of the car with a rock hammer and chisel to collect. We will most definitely be returning to this roadcut and area in the future when we have some more pleasant weather.

If you follow some of the advice given here I can pretty much guarantee you that you will start to find interesting rocks and minerals at different roadcuts regardless of your location.