Emerald Creek Garnet Area to reopen this year

The Emerald Creek Garnet Area, located on the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, will reopen this year for the first time since the fall of 2018.

The Garnet Area typically receives large groups of visitors, over 5,000 in a single season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, resulting in eager crowds looking for the state gem, especially in the digging and sluicing areas.

It is one of only two locations in the world where Star Garnets are found. The other site is in India.

The 12-sided crystals range in size from sand particle to golf ball or larger, and they’re called star garnets because of a unique property that causes some of them to display a reflection like a four or six-pointed star.

The unique and very popular rock digging destination remained closed in 2019 for road construction and site improvements, and then closed again last year to adhere to social distancing guidelines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Forest Service will reopen the site this year, from the Friday before Memorial Day May 28 through Labor Day September 6, and has adopted a permit system to manage group size in accordance with CDC guidance.

“We’re very excited to reopen the garnet area to the public this year. We know how popular it is with people from across the country, and how much tourism it brings to this corner of the state,” said St. Joe District Ranger Matt Davis. “With the help of a permit system, we’ll be able to ensure people can once again visit this special place on their National Forest.”

Permits will no longer be sold on site; instead they will be available through www.recreation.gov for every Friday through Monday during the open season.

The Garnet Area will be closed Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Permit applications are expected to go live on the website in mid-March. Once available, applicants can also seek a permit over the phone by calling recreation.gov at 1-877-444-6777 or TDD 1-877-833-6777.

Permits are available for three hours per session and each person on site must have a permit. The cost will be $15 for everyone 13 years and older, $7 for children ages six to 12, and free for children five and under.

Recreation.gov will charge an additional $1 processing fee on each transaction.