Panning for Star Garnets in Clarkia, Idaho

Jun 29, 2008Updated 7 months ago

Uncut Star Garnets
The northwestern U.S. is resplendent with family outdoor recreation opportunities. Kids relish playing the grizzled mineral prospector - picking up a shovel, digging for treasure, and heading to the sluice in search of star garnet gemstones.

Star Garnet Facts

Star garnets are rare semi-precious gemstones found in large quantities only in parts of Idaho and India. Clarkia area star garnets are purple instead of red due to higher levels of magnesium. The purple stones contain asterisms (stars) formed by needles of rutile, a mineral formed from titanium oxide.

Star Garnet Value

Star garnet values vary by carat weight and number of star points. Garnets with 3 pointed stars are valued at $20-30 per carat. Those with 4 points garner $30-40 per carat. Six pointed star garnets are extremely rare and found only at Emerald Creek. Amateur prospectors sometimes find star garnets worth thousands of dollars at the Emerald Creek star garnet site.

Where to Find Star Garnet Gemstones

Star garnets are found near Emerald Creek Campground in Idaho Panhandle National Forest near Clarkia, Idaho. Clarkia is located on Highway 3. The turnoff to the Emerald Creek star garnet area is located 5 miles north of Clarkia. Follow County Road 447 for 8 miles to the star garnet parking area. You will need to hike ½ mile uphill to the star garnet sluice site. The forest service will open the gate for handicap access.

Star Garnet Permit Fees

The Park Service has restricted panning to a designated sluicing area to prevent stream degradation. A $10 permit fee provides a shovel, bucket, and sifting screen. Kids 6-12 only pay $5. Garnet rich gravel is available next to the sluicing site. Get a few shovels of dirt, sift, and head to the sluice to find gemstone treasures. You can remove up to 5 pounds of star garnet with a one-day permit, or purchase additional permits for star garnet collections exceeding 5 pounds.

Star Garnet Hours of Operation

The Forest Service currently runs the star garnet panning operation from 9 AM to 5 PM, Friday through Tuesday. The season generally starts in late May and closes in the late fall. Call the Clarkia office at (208) 245-1134 for more information.

Idaho Food and Lodging

Bring lots of snacks and camping gear for your star garnet prospecting adventure. Clarkia offers limited services, sporting a combo restaurant/bar/gas/convenience store with little more than chips and soda pop. There is a grocery store with a restroom 10 miles north in Fernwood- Emerald Creek offers only outhouses. The area has no cell phone reception to call AAA if you have car trouble.

Plan your star garnet hunt as a day trip from Spokane, Washington, Coeur d’Alene, or Moscow, Idaho, or take advantage of the Emerald Creek campsite. Emerald Creek is situated in a beautiful upland forest and meadow setting. The primitive campsite is a perfect for a fun family camping vacation. The remote location ensures that even during peak season, you will find peaceful relaxation.

The U.S. Forest Service also rents a guesthouse that can sleep 15, with 2,3, and 4 person rooms available. The vacation lodge can be reserved through Idaho Panhandle National Forest, with reservations made up to six months in advance. For those requiring more luxurious Idaho resort accommodations, the Coeur d’Alene Golf and Spa Resort is only 85 miles from Clarkia.

Other Clarkia Area Recreation Attractions

Fifteen miles from the star garnet area, you will find the motocross track featured in “Children of the Metal God”. The Fossil Bowl Motocross gets its name from a fossil filled Miocene era lakebed abutting the track. The Keinbaum family owns both the track and fossil site and rents fossil hunting tools at a reasonable fee.

Your kids can find star garnets, collect fossils, and ride their dirt bikes all in one fun-filled day of Idaho outdoor family adventure.