Geodes in San Rafael Swell, near Green River, UT

Geodes in San Rafael Swell, near Green River, UT

Geodes are hollow rocks, embedded with crystals on their insides. They can be found in a variety of places in Utah, but one that I’ve enjoyed exploring is in the San Rafeal Swell, just north of I-70, west of Green River. You can find geodes near the base of the hills all along the swell as it travels north from I-70.

If you are not familiar with geodes, there is more information here –> Geology.com: Geodes

It does take hiking and careful exploration to find the geodes. You need to wander the wilderness, looking for rocks that might be geodes. And then you take them home, cut them in half, and see what is inside. Some people will use a hammer to crack rocks open on-site, but that risks doing more damage to the crystal, and the anticipation of getting home to open them up is half the fun.

How do you identify a geode?

Geodes will be round. And they are hollow, so they will feel lighter than you think they should be for their size. They are typically found, at least, in this particular location, at the bottoms of hills, as the hills themselves are eroded by the weather, the geodes are exposed, and they roll down. So your best bet is to literally pick a hill, and walk its base, looking for round rocks. If you find one that isn’t too heavy, take it home.

How to Get There

The map below marks exactly where we park our car when we explore this area. It is a small area where we commonly see people on the weekends camping or rock climbing. But there is enough room for everyone to park their cars, and you can wander the hills from this starting point.

Specifically, how to get here is a little different. Google Maps won’t even really show directions, but I’ll try to explain:

You need to be on I-70, heading west from Green River. After Mile marker 149, just before you hit the San Rafael Swell viewing area, you will be heading downhill. At the bottom of the hill, before the viewing area, you will see a dirt road going off the right side of the Interstate. Pull off to take that road. There will be a closed gate — go ahead and open it, drive your car through, then close the gate behind you. Drive through the gate, and follow the dirt road. The very beginning of the road has a few turns, but continue on it, generally northeast, which will appear to be the most-used path. You’ll quickly be past the turns, and find yourself on a straight stretch heading north. About the time this stretch ends, there will be a left hand turn. Take it, drive to the end and you’ll find the parking area.

If you don’t want to drive off-road, you can also simply park at the San Rafael Viewing Area and walk down into the hills. We prefer to go ahead and drive off-road, but it depends on your comfort level with taking your vehicle out into the dirt.

How to Get Back Out

I’ve never had too write this up before, but because this spot comes off the interstate, you cannot exactly just make a left turn to head home. To get back out heading eastbound on I-70, you need to follow the dirt road back to where you came off the interstate. But instead of going back up to the gate, take the turn that takes you under the interstate. There is a small tunnel there that will put you on the south side of the highway. Once you are on that side, look for a turn heading left, and that will take you back up the other side of the highway, to another gate, which you can go through to get on I-70 eastbound.

Alternatively, you can just backtrack to I-70 westbound and continue on to a different destination. We also have had some fun afternoons going up to the next exit westbound, where the dirt roads will connect all the way through the Swell, and take you back up to Price. Going that route also lets you drive through some amazing scenery, with canyons, and petroglyphs. I’m going to write up the details of that adventure one of these days, but I need to re-do it to take photos… just telling you about it won’t do it justice.

How to Cut Open a Geode

If you have a rock saw, that is the easiest way. If not, ask if you friends have one. Otherwise, use a tile saw with a diamond blade. Hold the rock with a vise while cutting. Run water over the blade and rock while you are cutting, and wear eye protection.

I recommend simply cutting the geode directly in half. Once it is open, you can decide if you want to keep the halves, or if making smaller slices would give you better specimens.

 

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