Emerald Creek Garnet Area (Clarkia, Idaho)

Alright, so I have family in Northern Idaho and my family and I have made several trips. I think we’ve been there a few Christmas’s and at least two summers. The two times I have been there in the summer we have drove to Clarkia, Idaho to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area and have not been disappointed.

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For $10 an adult can purchase a permit to dig “star garnets.” These particular garnets have only been found in two locations in the world. At this location in Idaho and in India.

So you park down near the river in the parking lot and “hike” up to the site.

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It’s about a quarter mile, slightly up hill, but beautiful. When you reach the site you stop at the ranger shack and purchase your permit prior to digging. Here at the shack they will show you examples of what you are looking for and talk you through the entire process. They are very friendly and knowledgable.

What they have done is pulled the sand and silt from the river up to the site and everything is done up here to prevent damage to the river from individuals “mining.” So you grab a bucket or two and head to the digging area.

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It really is just a big pile of dirt and you are welcome to dig where ever you desire. You then carry your bucket(s) to the shifting area. Please keep in mind I have only done this twice in my life and do not know if I am utilizing the proper terminology.

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So here you dump your bucket into a wire mesh box (sluice box) and shake vigorously. This process assists in removing small rocks and sand/silt. It makes utilizing the sluice easier as there will be less dirt to remove from your rocks.  You then carry your bucket(s) to the sluice and proceed to shift the remaining dirt off.

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When we were there in the summer months this was a hot and dirty process. The water is pumped into the sluice at the top and gravity flows down the sluice and the hill. So ideally you would like to be the individual at the top of the sluice so that you have the clearest water, but usually it’s so busy out there that you just take what you can get.

What you are looking for is:

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The above are raw garnets as found at Emerald Creek Garnet Area. I have four ziplock bags of them now and I have yet to take any of them to the jeweler to be cut or made into jewelry. My husband and I have talked about it for a couple years, but have been unable to find anyone in Wisconsin that we trust to cut and polish the stones. I know it’s a weak excuse, but all in due time.

If you ever get the opportunity and are near Coeur D’Alene, Idaho I strongly suggest that you make the short trip to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area. I don’t think it’s possible to go there and not find at least one garnet.

**So my absolute favorite part about heading to this area! There is a little creek just below the parking lot with the clearest coldest water. It’s amazing! It’s not the water that I’m fascinated with but rather the purple garnet sand that covers the bottom of the river. The last time I was there I took a baggie full which I have displayed in a vase in my bathroom. It’s a beautiful reminder of the full trips our family has had at this location. I have several pictures of the sand in the river, but have been unable to locate them. As soon as I locate them I will be sure to update this blog.

You know what? I think I will also take a few of the garnets in to be inspected, cut and turned into something or other and I will update with this information as well.

22 thoughts on “Emerald Creek Garnet Area (Clarkia, Idaho)”

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