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
What are the Oldest Rocks in Utah? Rocks 2022
What is Utah’s Largest Meteorite? Meteorites 2022
What Gives Utah’s “Red Rock Country” its Color? Landforms 2020
El Ciclo De Las Rocas (Spanish version of Rock Cycle: Always Changing) Rocks and Minerals 2020
What were those strange white mounds along the shores of Great Salt Lake? Great Salt Lake 2020
What are Moqui marbles? Rocks and Minerals 2017
Do ants mine gold? Rocks and Minerals 2017
Bingham Canyon’s Manefay Landslides and the Future of the Mine Mining 2016
Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake County Rocks and Minerals 2016
Today’s (and tomorrow’s?) phosphate Minerals 2015
Utah still supplying gilsonite to the world after 125 years of mining Mining 2014
Is Utah’s State Rock Good, Bad, or Ugly? Rocks and Minerals 2014
Frack Sand in Utah? Mining 2014
How can sedimentary rocks tell you about Utah’s history? Geologic History 2014
What is a Metamorphic Core Complex? Rocks and Minerals 2012
Utah’s potash resources and activity Mining 2012
What are the roots of geobotany? Soils 2011
Rock Cycle poster (pdf) Rocks and Minerals 2011
Utah potash: resources, production, and exploration Mining 2010
What is magnetic declination? Rocks and Minerals 2008
So you think you’ve found a meteorite; is it really a meteorwrong? Meteorites 2008
Colorful Coal “Clinker” close to Castle Gate, Carbon County Rocks and Minerals 2007
Race to ore: the beginnings of open-pit copper mining, a century of open-pit mining at Bingham Canyon Mining 2007
When I find a mineral or fossil in the field, why doesn’t it look similar to specimens in museums or at mineral and fossil shows? Rocks and Minerals 2006
Igneous and Metamorphic Geology of Utah Rocks and Minerals 2006
New Utah Minerals: Holfertite & Nukundamite Minerals 2006
Utah’s Limestone Rocks and Minerals 2006
What are fulgurites and where can they be found? Rocks and Minerals 2005
Selected mining districts of Utah Mining 2005
What kind of rock makes a good wall? Rocks and Minerals 2004
New Utah Minerals: Bobjonesite and Anorthominasragrite Minerals 2004
Reading a stone wall Rocks and Minerals 2004
Rules and Regulations Regarding Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Collecting in Utah Rocks and Minerals 2003
New Utah Minerals: Orthominasragrite and Oswaldpeetersite Minerals 2003
How do geologists identify minerals? Minerals 2003
Use a settling container to determine the relative amount of sand, silt, and clay in sediment Rocks and Minerals 2002
What are minerals used for? MInerals 2002
New Utah Minerals: Juanitaite and Dickthomssenite Minerals 2002
Red beryl = What gemstone is found in Utah that is rarer than diamond and more valuable than gold? Minerals 2002
Rainbow of Rocks: mysteries of sandstone colors and concretions in Colorado Plateau Canyon Country (pdf) Rocks and Minerals 2002
Landscape Rocks Public Collecting Localities Rocks and Minerals 2001
Where can I collect landscaping rock on public land? Rocks and Minerals 2001
What is a rock formation? Geologic History 2001
Why is the Wasatch Front “blessed” with abundant sand, gravel, and rock? Rocks and Minerals 2001
New Utah Minerals: Utahite, Juabite, and Blatonite Minerals 2000
Dugway Geode Beds, Juab County Rocks and Minerals 2000
How can I stake a mining claim? Rocks and Minerals 2000
Rockhound Guide to Selected Rock and Mineral Localities in Utah Rocks and Minerals 1999
Building Stones of Downtown Salt Lake City, a walking tour Rocks and Minerals 1999
Birdseye Marble in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah County Rocks and Minerals 1998

Rock and Mineral Articles: 70