This is the fourth in a series of press releases I wrote to send to local papers along with the September 2015 Rock & Gem magazine.
Rockhunts are a tourist attraction in the Big Bend that have not been well publicized in the past, says Teri Smith, local rockhunting guide. “In the past there were a couple of ranches that were open all the time for rockhunters, but not much beyond that. Now only the Stillwell Ranch open all the time, but I lead periodic field trips that allow rockhunters access to ranches that they would not be able to go to otherwise.”
Although the rockhunts occur in ranches in both Brewster and Presidio counties, all of them begin at the Antelope Lodge in Alpine. This makes it convenient for rockhounds to stay at motels and RV parks in Alpine.
The economic impact of rock hunting can be extrapolated from the number of rockhounds that go on Teri’s field trips each year. In 2014, 175 people came to Alpine to go rockhunting with Teri on local ranches. In addition to representing all parts of Texas, these rockhunters came from 15 states from coast to coast, and from Canada.
The average rockhunter went on 4 field trips, meaning they stayed at least 4 days in the Big Bend.
While most of these visitors came to the Big Bend specifically to go rockhunting, they also visited other tourist destinations, such as Big Bend National Park and Fort Davis National Monument, stayed in local motels, RV parks, and campgrounds, ate in local restaurants, and shopped at local stores.
Others came to the Big Bend for a vacation and decided to try rockhunting while they are here. One day of rockhunting can lead to a lifelong hobby, and many people who go on one of Teri’s trips make their next trip to the Big Bend just for rockhunting.
Rockhunts are scheduled regularly during the cooler months from October until May. Twice a year, Teri hosts the “Big Bend Agate Roundup”, which is two weeks of daily rockhunts. These concentrated rockhunting events are popular enough that more than 30 people have signed up for a specific field trip.