FIELD TRIPS -Vancouver Island Rocks and Where to Find Them

To begin, in British Columbia no one owns the land below the high water mark. This is different than other provinces. This means that you can access rocks along most beaches and river gravel bars. The expectation is that most rock hunters will only take small quantities for personal use.

However, you need to be aware of private property access, Private land, First Nations reserves, ecological reserves and parks. Sometimes as well, there are spawning channels in some streams where funds have been expended to enhance fish reproduction. These areas would be off limits to rock hunting.

Still there are ample areas to search for local rocks such as Gordonite, Dallasite, Porphyry (Flowerstone), Rhodonite and Laurelstone. Some of the best books are: A field Guide to Gold, Gemstone and Mineral sites of BC ; Volume 1 Vancouver Island, by Rick Hudson; West Coast Fossils; A guide to the Ancient Life of Vancouver Island by Rolf Ludvigsen and Graham Beard; Secret Beaches of Central Vancouver Island; by Theo Dombrowski and the BC Rockhound magazine.

The first book gives an account of over 100 sites on Van Isle and adjacent islands with general maps. The second is about fossils. The third is about the 119 public access points to ocean beaches from Victoria to Campbell River, while the last is the magazine supported by the BC Lapidary Society which has articles about rock hunting events and things you can do with your rock samples.

As well, being a member of our rock club entitles you to attend any rock hunting excursion with the BCLS. They publish a list of rock hunting trips to BC coastal and interior areas for a wide variety rocks. Our Parksville club has Jim MacKinnon as our field scout and he arranges field trips to a variety of beaches, river gravel bars, old mine sites and roadside locations. Usually the second Sunday of each month from January to June and then again from September to November a field trip take members to potential sites. Jim announces to those members on the distribution list and sometimes on the club’s activity webpage, details of where to meet and what you might find on the rock hunting adventures. Jim also provides rock and mineral identification kits for a small fee.

There are two rock shops on Vancouver Island; Eagle Gems in Courtney and The RockHound Shop in Victoria. Each carries a limited supply of raw rocks and lapidary equipment and supplies. Other mainland shops in Greater Vancouver include: Burnaby Mountain Gems, Capiliano Rock and Gems and The Happy Prospector in Agassiz.  As well, each year beginning in March there are Rock and Gem Shows where both finished and raw rock may be purchased from club vendors in Port Alberni, Victoria, Courtney and Parksville (April) Campbell River (June). The Big Rock and Gem show for BC is held in April in Abbotsford. Our club may be organizing transportation to the BC show in 2018. 

Access can be challenging to any of the forested areas via logging roads since some places they use off-highway logging trucks. The safest day for travel is usually Sunday. However, some areas are gated and may be closed to the public during high fire hazard or when logging operations are in full swing. Heavy fall rains can preclude access to some of the river gravel bars. 

Local beaches such as Columbia (near French Creek)  and Saratoga Beach can have a Red Jasper, Dallasite, Flowerstone and even some Quartz and Epidote rocks. But you must check with the Tide charts to determine the low tide that will provide you with a safe opportunity to walk and find specimens. Later in winter as higher elevations become snowed in, the river water levels may drop enough to allow safe access and expose various gravel bars. Meade creek (at the bridge crossing) above the highway from Lake Cowichan to Youbou has a trail that will lead you to ample Laurelstone. Please be aware that area is under an active gold Placer claim. Lower quality Rhodonite can also be found in the creekbed. Gordonite is found near 9-12 km on the Kokish main near Telegraph Cove, White river and Georgie Lake near Port Hardy. Marble is also found in many locations on Vancouver Island.

By being a member of the Parksville and District Rock and Gem Club, many members have knowledge of rock hunting adventures that they may want to share at a variety of general meetings each month. Thank-you for expressing an interest in our club. Hope to see you in the New year.