POPULAR GEOLOGY

Rocks & Minerals

Geology is the study of Earth as it pertains to the composition, structure, and origin of its rocks. Rocks are classified based on their formation and mineral content. Minerals are classified by their chemical compounds, a combination of two or more elements.

Rocks vs. Minerals

From the U.S. Geological Survey the difference between rocks and minerals is defined as:

Rocks

Rock comes from the Latin rocca, meaning “rock” or “stone.”

Rocks are made of different kinds of minerals, or broken pieces of crystals, or broken pieces of rocks. Some rocks are made of the shells of once-living animals, or of compressed pieces of plants. A good way to think about it is if a chocolate chip cookie was a rock, then the flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate chips are the minerals that make up that rock! Rocks are divided into three categories: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

Read More

What are Igneous, Sedimentary, & Metamorphic Rocks?

Minerals

Mineral comes from the Latin mineralis, meaning “something mined.”

Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic elements or compounds having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. Minerals generally form crystals and have specific physical and chemical properties which can be used to identify them. Sometimes single minerals form rocks, as in quartz. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica and is the second most common mineral on the earth’s surface.

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How Do Geologists Identify Minerals?

Rocks

Rock comes from the Latin rocca, meaning “rock” or “stone.”

Rocks are made of different kinds of minerals, or broken pieces of crystals, or broken pieces of rocks. Some rocks are made of the shells of once-living animals, or of compressed pieces of plants. A good way to think about it is if a chocolate chip cookie was a rock, then the flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate chips are the minerals that make up that rock! Rocks are divided into three categories: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

Read More

What are Igneous, Sedimentary, & Metamorphic Rocks?

Minerals

Mineral comes from the Latin mineralis, meaning “something mined.”

Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic elements or compounds having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. Minerals generally form crystals and have specific physical and chemical properties which can be used to identify them. Sometimes single minerals form rocks, as in quartz. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica and is the second most common mineral on the earth’s surface.

Read More

How Do Geologists Identify Minerals?

Download Rock Cycle Poster
(English Version)
Download El Ciclo De Las Rocas Poster
(Spanish Version)

Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Collecting

Utah’s rock, mineral, and fossil collectors must adhere to rules and regulations established by owners or managing agencies of the lands on which they wish to collect.

Prior to collecting, rockhounds should determine ownership of the lands they intend to visit and familiarize themselves with the regulations that apply to collecting on those lands. Consult surface-management status maps (online or sold by various agencies and outlets, including the Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management) or site-specific land-ownership maps (at the Recorder’s Office in the county where you intend to collect).

Identify Your Utah Find!

Under the three different rock types, sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic, many rocks can be identified using color, texture, grain size, and many other observations. Read What are Igneous, Sedimentary, & Metamorphic Rocks? to learn about the common rock types or contact a UGS geologist to get help identifying your find!

More Resources:

How do geologists know how old a rock is?

What kind of rock makes a good wall?

Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary Rocks in Wasatch Front Canyons

There are over 4,000 known minerals, and approximately 80 to 100 new ones are discovered each year. Of all these, only a few hundred are considered common. To help with identification, geologists must look closely at the physical properties of a mineral. These properties can include: color, streak, hardness, cleavage, specific gravity, crystal form, and others. Feel free to contact a UGS geologist to get help identifying your find!

More Resources:

How do geologists identify minerals?

Field Specimens vs. Museum Specimens

Fossils—remains, traces, or imprints of past plant and animal life are widely found throughout Utah. Depending on land ownership, some fossils (such as invertebrates and plants) can be collected for personal non-commercial use. However, dinosaur and other vertebrate fossils may not be collected on any federal or state lands except by permits issued to accredited institutions.

Whether you can keep a fossil or not depends on the type of fossil, and who owns or manages the land where the fossil was found. For more information on collecting and identifying fossils, contact the land managing agency or the Paleontology Section at the Utah Geological Survey, (801) 537-3300.

More Resources:

What should you do if you find a fossil?

Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Collecting Rules

Permit Application for Paleontological Investigations

Twenty-seven meteorite finds in Utah are listed in the Meteoritical Society’s Meteoritical Bulletin Database. Most likely there are meteorite finds and falls in Utah that are not reported. Meteorite numbers in neighboring states range from 215 in New Mexico to 6 in Idaho. The odds of finding a meteorite are slim even if you see it fall. Most disintegrate before reaching the ground.

More Resources:

Meteorite or Meteorwrong?, Utah Geological Survey

Have meteorites or meteorite craters been found in Utah?, Utah Geological Survey

More Meteorite Information, Randy Korotev, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

A Comprehensive Guide to Meteorite Identification, Geofrey Notkin, Aerolite Meteorites, Tucson, AZ

Do I have a meteorite?, Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona State University

Meteorite Testing and Classifying Institutions, meteorite-identification.com

Utah’s Clark Planetarium has a few meteorite experts. Contact them for help identifying a find.

Artifacts are any objects made by a human that are more than 50 years old. This definition includes the arrowheads and pottery sherds that are commonly found on prehistoric sites in Utah, and also extends to metal nails and glass insulators from historical sites.

The removal of artifacts and the disturbance of archaeological sites (both prehistoric and historical) is illegal under both federal and state laws. If you believe you have found something significant, take a photo of it and record where you found it (GPS is great if you have one) and let the land managing agency know.

More Resources:

What Prehistoric and Contemporary Indigenous People Were in Utah?

What Do I Do If I Discover Damage to an Archaeological Site?

What are Historic Artifacts?

Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Collecting

Utah’s rock, mineral, and fossil collectors must adhere to rules and regulations established by owners or managing agencies of the lands on which they wish to collect.

Prior to collecting, rockhounds should determine ownership of the lands they intend to visit and familiarize themselves with the regulations that apply to collecting on those lands. Consult surface-management status maps (online or sold by various agencies and outlets, including the Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management) or site-specific land-ownership maps (at the Recorder’s Office in the county where you intend to collect).

Identify Your Utah Find!

Under the three different rock types, sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic, many rocks can be identified using color, texture, grain size, and many other observations. Read What are Igneous, Sedimentary, & Metamorphic Rocks? to learn about the common rock types or contact a UGS geologist to get help identifying your find!

More Resources:

How do geologists know how old a rock is?

What kind of rock makes a good wall?

Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary Rocks in Wasatch Front Canyons

There are over 4,000 known minerals, and approximately 80 to 100 new ones are discovered each year. Of all these, only a few hundred are considered common. To help with identification, geologists must look closely at the physical properties of a mineral. These properties can include: color, streak, hardness, cleavage, specific gravity, crystal form, and others. Feel free to contact a UGS geologist to get help identifying your find!

More Resources:

How do geologists identify minerals?

Field Specimens vs. Museum Specimens

Fossils—remains, traces, or imprints of past plant and animal life are widely found throughout Utah. Depending on land ownership, some fossils (such as invertebrates and plants) can be collected for personal non-commercial use. However, dinosaur and other vertebrate fossils may not be collected on any federal or state lands except by permits issued to accredited institutions.

Whether you can keep a fossil or not depends on the type of fossil, and who owns or manages the land where the fossil was found. For more information on collecting and identifying fossils, contact the land managing agency or the Paleontology Section at the Utah Geological Survey, (801) 537-3300.

More Resources:

What should you do if you find a fossil?

Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Collecting Rules

Permit Application for Paleontological Investigations

Twenty-seven meteorite finds in Utah are listed in the Meteoritical Society’s Meteoritical Bulletin Database. Most likely there are meteorite finds and falls in Utah that are not reported. Meteorite numbers in neighboring states range from 215 in New Mexico to 6 in Idaho. The odds of finding a meteorite are slim even if you see it fall. Most disintegrate before reaching the ground.

More Resources:

Meteorite or Meteorwrong?, Utah Geological Survey

Have meteorites or meteorite craters been found in Utah?, Utah Geological Survey

More Meteorite Information, Randy Korotev, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

A Comprehensive Guide to Meteorite Identification, Geofrey Notkin, Aerolite Meteorites, Tucson, AZ

Do I have a meteorite?, Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona State University

Meteorite Testing and Classifying Institutions, meteorite-identification.com

Utah’s Clark Planetarium has a few meteorite experts. Contact them for help identifying a find.

Artifacts are any objects made by a human that are more than 50 years old. This definition includes the arrowheads and pottery sherds that are commonly found on prehistoric sites in Utah, and also extends to metal nails and glass insulators from historical sites.

The removal of artifacts and the disturbance of archaeological sites (both prehistoric and historical) is illegal under both federal and state laws. If you believe you have found something significant, take a photo of it and record where you found it (GPS is great if you have one) and let the land managing agency know.

More Resources:

What Prehistoric and Contemporary Indigenous People Were in Utah?

What Do I Do If I Discover Damage to an Archaeological Site?

What are Historic Artifacts?

Interactive Maps

Public Interest Articles

Search:
TitleTopicYear
Bixbyite, Rutile, and Amethyst Crystals near Marysvale, Piute County Rocks and Minerals 1998
Easily accessible examples of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in Wasatch Front canyons Rocks and Minerals 1998
What are “colloidal mineral supplements” and where do they come from? Minerals 1998
How do geologists know how old a rock is? Rocks and Minerals 1997
Agate, chert, jasper, and petrified wood, Wayne County Rocks and Minerals 1997
New Utah Minerals: Frankhawthorneite, Jensenite, and Leisingite Minerals 1997
Smokey Quartz and Feldspar Crystals at Rock Corral Canyon in the Mineral Mountains, Beaver County Rocks and Minerals 1997
What are igneous, sedimentary, & metamorphic rocks? Rocks and Minerals 1996
Gypsum sand near Knolls, Tooele County Rocks and Minerals 1996
“Onyx” Near Mount Nebo, Juab County Rocks and Minerals 1996
Oolitic Sand on Stansbury Island, Tooele County Rocks and Minerals 1996
Utah’s State Symbols Rocks and Minerals 1995
Obsidian in the Black Rock Desert, Millard County Rocks and Minerals 1995
New Utah Minerals: Mcalpineite Minerals 1995
Topaz and other minerals found at Topaz Mountain, Juab County Rocks and Minerals 1995
Special Issue on Utah Minerals, Fossils, Geology Rocks and Minerals 1994
New Utah Minerals: Cannonite, Fangite, Gillulyite, and Tooeleite Minerals 1994
Utah Stone Rocks and Minerals 1993
Sunstones at Sunstone Knoll, Millard County Rocks and Minerals
Wonderstone in the Vernon Hills, Tooele County Rocks and Minerals

Rock and Mineral Articles: 70