Locations

There are many locations in the Big Bend that have wonderful, collectible rocks.  But the Big Bend is all private land or National and State Park land, so you can only hunt at ranches that are open to the public for rockhunting, or with a private guide like me.  Currently, I have access to four ranches available for rockhunting field trips during cool weather (from around October 1 to around June 1). There is also a fifth ranch that is open occasionally (during the Agate Roundups in April and October) for large groups.  Different ranches may become available in the future, and there is no guarantee that the ranches I currently have access to will remain open in the future.

Rollin’ Rock Club membership is required for all my field trips.  An alternative is membership in a club that has declared my field trips to be official field trips for their members.   Club membership is required because the South Central Federation of Mineralogical Societies has insurance that covers the landowner in case we damage a fence or something. The cost of the Rollin’ Rock Club is $10 per year for a single membership, or $16 per year for a dual membership. You can join when you go on your first field trip with me.

The Ritchie Ranch (also known as the TW Ranch)

The Ritchie Ranch is close to Alpine. It is very easy terrain. There are lots of smaller pieces of agate found (under the size of an orange), and some bigger ones (from basketball to Volkswagen sized), but not much in between. There is agate and jasper in reds, oranges, yellows, and browns, and some with greens or pinks, and a blue background. There are also chalcedony nodules in blue-gray, white, and occasionally yellow, carnelian, and pink.  There are geodes and individual quartz crystals, which are a favorite with kids.Because of the ease of access to the ranch and the ease of terrain once you are on the ranch, this is a great place for everyone, including families with children, and people with mobility concerns.  As the ranch is close to Alpine, not much driving time is required, and half-day hunts can be scheduled for those who have lots to do, or have kids with limited attention spans.  Of course, I recommend spending at least a full day there if you can, and it would easily take three days to cover the whole ranch!The cost for this ranch is $10 per person entrance fee and $1 per lb. for the agate and other collectible stones you take with you.  Payment can be made by cash or check.  Credit cards are not accepted.Recently, at the Ritchie Ranch, a rock was found that had two very different geodes in it: one was a fantastic yellow and pink fortification piece with pinkish quartz crystals in it, and the other was a bare cavity with a few individual quartz crystals in it. These two geodes had formed in the same rock, only about 2” from each other, yet one was very rich in quartz while the other was almost barren! I’ve got no idea which one formed first or how they managed to be so different, but it will surely make an incredible display.

East Needle Peak

East Needle Peak is about 100 miles away from Alpine. It comprises a full section (a square mile, or 640 acres) of some amazing geology:  part of the tiny Sierra Aguja range, it’s a jumble of sedimentary and volcanic layers interspersed, upthrust, and folded in dramatic ways. You can find agate, jasper, petrified wood, and fossils, including fossil bones, shark teeth and ammonites. This area is known for “Pom Pom” agate, which has yellow saginite bursts in it, often with green moss and a clear background. There is a little bit of the pompom agate on this ranch, but also lots of other beautiful agates. The cost for this ranch is $40 per person per day, and that covers whatever collectible rocks you find.  Payment can be made by cash or check.  Credit cards are not accepted.

There is one special hill, called Duck Foot Hill (since that’s what it resembles on a map), that is home to five different forms of quartz in one place: agate and jasper, which formed in the holes and cracks in volcanic rock; chert and flint, which are sedimentary; petrified wood, which is a fossil replacement; quartzite, which is metamorphic; and quartz crystals.  Duck Foot Hill is the only place I know of where all these types of quartz minerals can be found together.

New things are being discovered at East Needle Peak all the time!  In October 2014, I found a piece of petrified wood that is basically a clear chalcedony with red and yellow color bursts throughout it. The only way to tell it is petrified wood is that the outside of the piece is in the shape of the wood, with rings and bark showing at the ends.  Within the same hour, I also found a huge piece of green moss agate, about 20 lbs, that has cute little gold pompoms all through it, and one of the best arrowheads I’ve seen come out of the location!

East Needle Peak is very rough terrain, and a 4wd vehicle is recommended for access. Or, you can get close to the best sites with a high-clearance vehicle, and walk the rest of the way.  If your vehicle won’t make the drive, you can possibly rent an appropriate vehicle from Far Flung Adventures in Terlingua, or often arrangements can be made for you to ride in with someone else, so don’t give up on this trip just because you drive a Prius!

Because of the difficult terrain, please make sure that you are in good enough physical shape to enjoy your rockhunt down there.  You need to be able to climb up a fairly steep dirt hill for about 20 or 30 feet, walk a mile on rough ground in an hour, and stand up for most of the day to really take advantage of this field trip.  Also, the temperature on this site can occasionally get quite hot (in the 100s) and the air is very dry, so be sure you are prepared for the heat if you go to Needle Peak in October, November, April or May.

 

The Singleton Ranch

The Singleton Ranch is located south of Marfa on Highway 169. It comprises 10 sections, or about 6,400 acres. The scenery on this ranch is spectacular, and the agate is incredible.

There are at least four major collecting areas on the ranch, and several sections of ranch land that I have not yet looked at. If you haven’t hunted at the Singleton Ranch before, it’s an amazing experience. There is so much agate out there that in some places you can’t walk without stepping on it. Not all of it is agate you’ll want to cut or collect for specimens, but there’s enough amazing bouquet, plume, water-level, moss, and fortification agate out there that you will no doubt find something spectacular. In many locations, the agate is so plentiful that you could build a house out of it.

The agate differs from the agate found south of Alpine in several ways, most particularly in the color of the plume structures within some of it. While south of Alpine, the plumes in the agate tend to be black, grey, or red, the colors of the plume in bouquet agate are pastels, including yellows, oranges, pinks, peaches, reds, and occasional lavenders and greens. There’s also lots and lots of black plume agate, some of which looks metallic because of the occurrence of hematite in the plumes. Another type of agate that is common on the Singleton Ranch is water-level agate, which contains bands that are absolutely straight. Sometimes the water level agate forms in a nodule after bouquet agate has already formed there, and the results can be wonderful.

Two of the four major collecting areas can be accessed by most vehicles. There is a special location open to people with limited mobility, where you can literally hunt agate while resting in an armchair. For the other two locations, a high-clearance vehicle and confidence in your driving skills are absolutely necessary to get to the collecting sites, and a 4wd vehicle will make your trip much easier. If you don’t have that type of vehicle, there are places where you can park just off of the main ranch road, and we’ll find someone you can carpool in with. I can usually fit 1 or 2 people in with me, if I know in advance that I need to get my jeep cleaned up so you’ll have a place to sit.

The cost for a day on this ranch is $50 per person, in cash only. Checks and credit cards are not accepted. The entrance fee includes the first 5-gallon bucket’s worth of agate. Additional buckets of agate are $40 each, measured in ¼ bucket increments at $10 each. I lead four-day scheduled trips on the second and fourth weekends of each month, from October through May. You can attend one day or all four, as you wish. I can also lead field trips there on other dates if you can’t make the scheduled ones.

 

South Larremore Ranch

South Larremore Ranch is about 45 miles south of Alpine on Highway 118. It’s 2,500 acres on the east side of the highway, between Elephant Mountain and Santiago peak. The ranch is flat, and consists of alluvial deposits containing many types of quartz stones. Calamity Creek is a seasonal creek that fa south, and it runs through the property from north to south. The whole set of Calamity Creek channels have agate in them that formed on the Walker and Woodward ranches, including red, black, and gold plume agates, saginitic agate, and fascinating moss agates in all sorts of colors!
Also on the ranch are some very interesting gravel mounds poking up through the dirt which contain agate, including moss agates, fortification agates, and plume agates; petrified wood, some of which is completely agatized in beautiful colors; jasper in all colors of red from orange to purple, along with yellow, orange, and green; and flint and/or chert in nodules of different colors. There are also some shell fossils, and some interesting things I call “Terlingua Nodules” that appear to be at least partly agatized on the outside, and often are filled with calciferous mud on the inside. The cost for this ranch is $40 per person if I take you out, and $50 per person if the owners take you out.  This is payable in cash or by check.  Credit cards are not accepted.

 

 The Walker Ranch

The Walker Ranch is currently CLOSED.

The Walker Ranch is open on occasion for large groups.  It is located on Highway 118 south of Alpine, and it shares a fence-line with the famous, now-closed Woodward Ranch.  The Bird Hills, home of the red plume agate for which the area is famous, cross through the Walker Ranch from the Northwest to the Southeast.  Walker Ranch has the same materials that were found on the Woodward Ranch, but in greater abundance. Red and black plume agate and “flower garden” agate are some of the more famous varieties of agate found on the ranch, along with amethyst and quartz crystals, abundant moss agate, and “peanut” jasper. Unusual finds include fortification agates that look similar to the famous Mexican agates of Laguna and Coyamito, in colors ranging from purple to pink and yellow.

The terrain of the Walker Ranch is moderate to difficult, and some hill climbing is to be expected to find the best material.  It is, however, possible to rockhunt entirely on flat terrain, and within a few yards of where you park your car, if you have limited mobility.

You can access the Walker Ranch with just about any vehicle, but high ground clearance is recommended.

The Walker Ranch is usually open for week-long hunts twice a year, in April and October. It’s possible that a special hunt could be arranged for a group of 20 or more. Arrangements are dependent upon the landowner’s schedule and may require several months’ notice.  The price is still the same as it has been the last couple of years: $75 per person per day, or $150 per person for all 3 days.  Dry camping on the ranch is sometimes available during rockhunts.  Payment can be made by cash or check.  Credit cards are not accepted.

22 thoughts on “Locations

    • You can hunt without a guide at the Woodward Ranch and the Stillwell Ranch. Those ranches are open all the time for rockhunting. My guide service is free, and the only way to go rockhunting on the ranches I have access to. Not only do I get you on the ranches, I take you to the spots that are best for the type of material you’re looking for (agate for cutting, specimens, fossils, etc.). I’ll point out what to look for, and you’ll hunt on your own until whatever time we agree to get back together. I promise to take you to the best spots –I don’t keep the “good places” for myself. There’s plenty of top-quality agate, jasper, specimens, and fossils here when you can get to where they are. So consider coming on one of my trips and see if it’s something you’ll like. In 12 years and over 400 field trips, I’ve never had anyone disappointed with my services!

  1. I’m excited to find your web site. Very nice. We are in Austin but have a place in DMR that we go to every few months. We would love to use your services, maybe on one of your scheduled group hunts. We will be out there for about a week starting a few days before the end of the year. Do you have anything scheduled

    • Hi! I will have the Ritchie Ranch and the East Needle Peak site available after Christmas. I don’t have anything on my calendar now for that time frame, and there are two other families interested in hunts that week, so hopefully we can get things scheduled so the hunts work for everyones’ schedules. The only thing we’ll have to contend with is the weather. What day or days will you be available?

      Have you looked for agate on your place at the DMR? There are little patches of agate throughout that area, and it’s often quite distinctive. It’s usually black, grey/blue and white, and often looks like toothpaste that’s been squeezed out of the tube in circles. Occasionally it has a druzy coating. Pieces can be as small as a dime, and as large as a saucer, although the tiny ones are much more prevalent. I can post some photos if you’re interested!

      Probably the best way to reach me is to email me at agatehunter@sbcglobal.net, or call my home at 432 837-1026.

      I look forward to meeting y’all.

      Regards,

      Teri

      • If you have pictures of agates from the DMR I would love to see them. I am up on High Lonesome Tr. and I have looked but it sounds like I did not know what I was looking for.

        I should know in the next week when we will be in the area. My wife had a hip change a few months so the Ritchie Ranch may be our best bet. I do have to say I have wanted to go to Needle Peak for years.

        You mention membership in RR club. I am not a member yet but do you know if the club in Austin recognizes your field trips?

        We are novices but love rock hunting.

        Thanks

        Keller Groves

        • Hi1 I’ll take some photos of the agate I have from that area the next time I run across it (hopefully within this century!) and I’ll send them to you.

          As for the Austin club, they don’t have the insurance from the SCFMS that covers the ranchers from damage rockhounds do while on field trips. This is because they had to get other coverage for their show, and didn’t want to basically duplicate coverage. So you;ll have to join the RRC.

          I look forward to getting to meet you when you get out here!

          Regards,
          Teri

    • Hi! Yes, the Woodward Ranch was sold, and the rockshop has closed. However, there are several great rockshops in the area, including Many Stones in Study Butte (owned by Ring Huggins), Moonlight Gemstones in Marfa (owned by Paul Graybeal), Ocotillo Enterprises in Alpine (Owned by Judith Brueske), The Rock Shop in Fort Davis (Owned by Donna Trammell), the Balmorhea Rock Shop in Balmorhea (owned by Sue and Jim Franklin), and Smith and Wife in Alpine (owned by me and my husband, John Smith). All of the rockshops in the area are open on the weekends, and some are open all week, as well.

      Regards,
      Teri

  2. I’m interested in the rock hunt in October, but probably will camp somewhere with bathrooms. So, would like to know where would be close and best? I sent email yesterday, probably in your spam.

    • The closest places to camp other than the Walker Ranch itself are the RV parks in the area. The closest to the Walker Ranch is the La Vista RV Park, which is on Highway 118 about 5 or 6 miles south of Alpine. The Walker Ranch is on Highway 118 about 18 miles south of Alpine. You can contact the La Vista RV park at (432) 364-2293.

    • Hi Bill! June is too hot for rockhunts. Most of the rockhunters who go out with me on field trips are not used to the 4500 foot elevation, coupled with the heat and the incredibly low humidity (often in the single digits). When you’re on the ranches, there’s generally no shade to be had except in your car. And besides, the snakes are out at that time of year, and the silly things think they own the rocks!
      Anyhow, with those conditions, the ranchers and I don’t want to potentially risk your health on a summer rockhunt. So I quit rockhunts at the end of April and start again in October.

      • My family is going to big bend np 19 oct to 25 from oklahoma city….do you have a recommendation for fossil and agates in those ranches ? do you have any groups we can join for a day on our way down or way back ?or hire you for private tour ? love to hear from you. jeff we honda 4wd no problem rough terrain

        • Hi! If you don’t mind, I’ll put you on my email list and send you the set of emails I just released about October hunts. Those should answer most of your questions. Email me with anything else you’d l9ke to know!

          Regards,
          Teri

  3. Hi, Teri. I will be visiting a friend in the Big Bend area in October 2016. I would like to hire you as a guide during that trip. How do I get ahold of you?

    • Hi! If you don’t mind I’ll put you on my email list and send you the set of emails I just released about the October rockhunts. They should answer most of your questions.

      Regards,
      Teri

  4. I rock hounded on the Woodward ranch a few years ago and have the itch again could you put me on email list of future trips in the alpine Marfa area

  5. Hi Teri, please e-mail me if there are hunts my husband and I joinin the next couple days. We are in bb until Saturday. Thanks. Trent & Jennifer Wheeler

    • Hi! Here’s what I’m doing from Thursday through Monday:

      Singleton Ranch Start Time: 8:00 a.m. at the Antelope lodge in Alpine.
      Cost: $50 per person, which gets you up to a 5-gallon bucket of agate
      (if you find more it’s $40 per bucket, charged in 1/4 bucket increments).
      Cash only.
      Details: About 25 miles south of Marfa (50 miles from Alpine). Four
      major hunting locations on one ranch. Terrain goes from flat to rolling
      hills. Two locations accessible by passenger car, but high clearance vehicle
      recommended. The other two require high clearance vehicles, and 4wd
      recommended. All areas are accessible by those with limited mobility.
      Finds can include agate, jasper, quartz crystals, calcite and aragonite. No
      collecting of Native American artifacts or live plants.

      You’ll also need to join the Rollin’ Rock Club, which is $16 for a dual
      membership for the calendar year.

      Email me with your questions.

      Regards,

      Teri

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