The Texas Road Runners' Safety & Other Rock Hunting Tips

The information below is pretty much common sense.  So, let this page just serve as a reminder.  A successful hunt includes a safe trip in, and back out. Enjoy!



           Maps are essential. Common road maps, such as those provided by gas stations and state tourist bureaus are valuable, however, more detailed maps are frequently needed, such as topographic maps published by the United States Geological Survey. Also good, are state atlas's which shows a quadrangular area designated by the name of the town or prominent natural feature. These maps can be purchased at the Texas Road Runner Gift Shop. The maps in the Gem Trail and other rock hound books are pretty good to follow if the site is off a main road.  However, if not, use the state atlas as a further navigational aid.

Your Vehicle

     The rock-hunting vehicle, whether jeep, camper, trailer, or family car, should be put in first-class condition before it is taken on a trip. Most cars are not designed for rutted roads or trails across the desert. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is ideal for venturing where only a mountain goat or antelope would feel at home. Most of the areas listed in this guide, however, can be reached with the family car.

Some equipment that would come in handy once in awhile are:

  • roll of chicken wire for traction in desert sand
  • tow rope
  • spare fan belt
  • bumper jack located where can be easily reached
  • change of crankcase oil
  • five-gallon metal safety can filled with gasoline
  • five gallon can with radiator water and a spout

Rock Hunting Equipment

     The choice of clothing and rock hunting equipment depends on the type of area where gems will be sought, but there are some items that are always needed:

  • pick with a square hammerhead on one end, and a pick point on the other
  • cold chisel with square point
  • large pickax
  • sledge hammer
  • large and small crowbars
  • shovel and trenching tool
  • screen, if gravel is to be worked over

Once you have your specimens, some equipment to protect them:

  • cardboard boxes
  • burlap and paper bags
  • egg cartons
  • wrapping paper and labels
  • zip lock plastic bags

     Clothing should cover your whole body, even in hot weather. Clothing protects your skin against sunburn, insect bites, and abrasion by rocks and cactus. Good shoes are essential. The most comfortable and safest for climbing on rocks are shoes with six-inch uppers and broad toes. High boots usually are too hot and too exhausting. Work gloves save hands from blisters, cuts, and broken fingernails. A hat is the best protection against sunstroke and a burnt forehead; sunglasses are helpful. Suntan lotions and insect repellent belong in the personal kit, along with a pocketknife, a magnifying glass, and a few raisins, nuts, and a candy bar. Also, a first-aid kit and snake bite kit. And of course, some water. (You should always carry an extra coat, storable food, and plenty of water in the event you get stuck overnight. The desert in the summer gets cold at night and winter days can get quite warm

Out in the Field

     You must not forget common courtesy and good manners. Many areas with excellent gem materials have been closed forever to collectors because someone was careless, insolent, hoggish, or a litterbug. (Some desert rats can have serious attitudes and should be approached only with caution) Some things to consider:

  1. Always obtain permission to enter private property.
  2. Know and heed the laws governing collecting on public lands.
  3. Be careful with fire.
  4. Clean up your campsite.
  5. Don't contaminate wells or creeks.
  6. Fill in holes that you dig.
  7. Leave gates as you find them, open or closed.
  8. Don't trespass on growing crops or drive across grasslands.
  9. Report any vandalism you find.
  10. Leave firearms and blasting materials at home


     Rock hunting, like any other outdoor activity, is not without physical hazards. Rocks can fall from a shattered quarry wall, a frost weakened cliff, or an overhanging mass. Open mine shafts are obvious dangers. Children and pets must be kept close at hand and constantly supervised.

     Safety in rock hunting, like safety anywhere, is based on common sense and moderation. The greatest risk is getting lost. Leave word where you will be going and when you expect to return. Try to stay within sight of your vehicle. Old mines present a clear hazard. The best advice is to stay out of them. Poison gases, rotten timbers, hidden shafts, roof rocks ready to fall, snakes and wild animals can make an old mine a deathtrap. (Wild burros are known to use old mines for shelter)

     Dynamite is often abandoned around ghost towns and old mine sites. It has become touchy with age and may explode at the least jolt.

     Rocks in some desert areas harbor a fungus that can cause serious illness. The careless collector who licks a rock to make its pattern visible could contract the disease. Even breathing the dust stirred up by collecting activity may spread the infection. Wash up thoroughly before eating.

If you get stuck in the desert, try these remedies:

  1. Tap the sand down hard in front of the wheels.
  2. Lay chicken wire under the wheels.
  3. Place burlap bags, filled half full of sand and tied, under the wheels.
  4. Let air out of the tires until they are about half deflated. You can re-inflate them later.

     Campers in desert regions are advised not to set up in dry stream beds or canyons where they might be caught by flash floods.

     Rattle snakes and scorpions are the most commonly encountered poisonous critters in this region. The best advice is to stay away from them. Snakes take shelter from the midday heat under bushes and logs and sun themselves in cool weather in open spots. They are more active at night. Keep hands and feet out of holes and crevices. Turn over rocks with a stick first.
(Do not walk quietly through the desert. You could surprise a sleeping rattlesnake and get bit. If they hear you coming they'll get out of your way.)


     To summarize, when you hunt for rocks, gems, or mineral material, know what your looking for. Know how to recognize it when you find it. Give yourself plenty of time. Go prepared for the kind of work you'll have to do. Respect the rights of the man who owns the land you're hunting on, even Uncle Sam, and of those other gem hunters who will follow you.

      The attached collecting areas list the rocks and minerals that can be found in the Edwards area. Directions to all the areas has been researched, but not actually been visited in all instances. If you have occasion to visit the areas listed and find the directions in error, please keep track of your mileage traveled and a better description of the area. Report this information to the this site.   With your assistance, we can make this an extremely comprehensive guide for rock hunting in the Texas areas.

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Copyright 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.

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