Friday, December 08, 2023

Rockhounding site closed for repairs

| November 1, 2023 1:00 AM

NORDMAN — The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed an approximately 5-acre parcel on the Priest Lake Ranger District to manage significant safety hazards and damage incurred from amateur mining activities.

The Solo Creek quartz site, located just over the Washington border in Pend Oreille County, has long been a destination for rockhounds seeking to dig quartz crystals. The digging has created significant hazards, undermined trees, and created slope stability and drainage issues from bare soils, and giant holes and tunnels. The site contains dozens of hazard trees at risk of falling into the diggings, and some trees have fallen recently as a result of the extensive digging beneath their roots.

Forest Service officials said they will be removing dozens of dead and dying trees that present a safety hazard. Unstable slopes will be contoured, holes will be filled, and the site will be seeded and planted with trees for long-term recovery. 

The current order closes the site to public entry through Oct. 23, 2024, unless rescinded sooner; however, it should be noted that digging for rocks and leaving huge holes is not a permitted activity in the first place.

Rockhounding activity is limited to “little to no surface disturbance.” More extensive diggings that could result in significant surface disturbance, such as that seen at the Solo Creek site, is classified as mining activity and requires a permit with a reclamation plan to be approved by the District Ranger.

"Regardless, digging large holes and leaving them unfilled is never OK; nor is killing trees by digging up their root systems," officials said.

Information: Priest Lake Ranger District, 208-443-2512

    Some of the extensive damage caused by amateur mining activities at the Solo Creek quartz site near Nordman.
    Some of the extensive damage caused by amateur mining activities at the Solo Creek quartz site near Nordman.  

Recent Headlines