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(19 April 2014)  My name is Tim Bondy and the owner of this website.  As of Jan 1st, 2014 we moved to a different domain.  Please head over to the Bondy Blogs Website at  Different address, different system but same type of great articles, photos, stories and information. 

You are here: Mtn Home Outdoor Local Outdoor News Dismal Swamp Idaho Rock Hounding Trip Report – Aug 2010

Dismal Swamp Idaho Rock Hounding Trip Report – Aug 2010

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Views along the road to Dismal Swamp

Quartz crystals and some excellent smoky quartz specimens were what we were after on this Boise National Forest rock hounding trip. Dismal Swamp is located roughly 20 road miles north of Featherville, Idaho off Trinity Ridge Road. The road to "Dismal" is scenic and can be done in a regular truck but it does get rocky and rough in certain sections. We decided to do the trip in our Arctic Cat 500 ATV and headed out from the Featherville River Hotel at about 9:30am. It took us about 1.5 hours to get into the Dismal Swamp area as we stopped a few times to enjoy the mountain views plus we try to keep our speed to less than 20mph.

From experience, we know this area can be crowded at times and very buggy so we tend to stay away from the true "Swamp" area. We also don't like slogging through the stream and ripping up the ground just to harvest a few smoky quartz crystals. We also know that some excellent specimens can be found laying on the dirt roads so we did some road walking and did find one small but beautiful crystal.

Our destination was a little used dirt road southwest and below Dismal Swamp called National Forest Service Road 290 where we have found a number crystals on previous trips. Once we got down to this road we did some road walking along it in hopes of finding the "low hanging fruit". But we didn't find any crystals on the road this time. We eventually made our way to a little known area where small crystals can be found in the loose soil or occasionally laying on the surface. We call this place "Crystal Rock".

Dismal Swamp Rock Hounding Secret Weapon

Crystal Rock Hounding
Crystal Rock is really just an area with some low rock outcroppings just above the road. Today we brought a new secret weapon called a "colander". The colander sort of takes the place of heavy soil sifters but can be bought at any store that sells ordinary kitchen utensil. Total cost for this secret weapon was $2.16, is light weight but is less effective than the wood framed, wire mesh soil sifter. After working the area over with the colander for a while we started searching the rock faces. We found a few nice vugs and broke out the hammer and chisel. But chiseling into rocks is tough work and requires a delicate touch at times. Delicate and hammer are not two words that fit together in my hands. But we got a few half broken crystals out of the vugs we mined.

Coordinates of Crystal Rocks: 43.717865, -115.379500
What we found: a number of small crystals ranging from clear to smoky blue to cloudy gray.

Rock City Crystal Area Hounding
We moved on down the road to search a new area I found on Google Earth. This area looks promising as there is large quantity of pure white quartz laying all around. Searching the big boulders in the area one can find large vugs in the base rock containing translucent and smoky quartz with embedded crystals. There are signs that other rock hounds have found this place but it will take work extracting the crystals. With hammer and chisel, we dug into a promising looking vug where we chipped and forcefully removed some partial crystals.

Dismal Swamp Quartz Crystal Vug

This was quite a fun and memorable trip for us. We got experience in locating vugs, digging into them and learned how not to chisel and hammer on this area's quartz crystals. The important thing would be to learn how not to break the crystals or act like a bull in a china shop. Eventually I'll learn the proper technique.

Coordinates of Rock City Crystal Area: 43.716715, -115.378842

What does the Dismal Swamp Area Look Like
I took two "on the ATV" videos while riding out of this area. The 1st half of the video is a ride on the main road going through Dismal Swamp. The second half is from the area we did all of our rock hounding and quartz crystal finding. Note: For some reason, the two videos portions got out of order when I uploaded it. Also in the narration I said we were north of Dismal Swamp? I should have said southwest of Dismal. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what "The Swamp" looks like and you'll give it a try. We were very lucky on this Tuesday August 10th, 2010 afternoon to have the whole area to ourselves. We could plainly see no one else had driven down the road from the time we got into the area (11:00am) to the time we left around 4:00pm.

Dismal Swamp Area Video from 10 August 2010

Other information you might like to know:
  • The road into Dismal Swamp is NFS Road 290 or Deadman Creek.
  • Coordinates to turn west off Trinity Ridge Road: 43.723444, -115.361610
  • Tools and stuff we used: Rock hammers, chisel, mini-sledge hammer, rock bag, water, GPS unit, digital camera, water and some water.
  • Dismal Swamp is notorious for horse flies and mosquitoes. You've been warned.
  • I've heard it is illegal to dig in certain sections of Dismal Swamp due to environmental concerns. Research the rules if you plan on rock hounding in the stream or swamp itself.
  • There appears to be mining claims in this area. Do your homework before embarrassing yourself or getting into a spat with the law or claimants.
  • Have fun and explore the area. You never know what you will find just off the beaten path but be kind to the land. Not too sure hammering on rocks is exactly being kind but don't think it's all that damaging.
  • Walk the roads in the area. You'll find some amazing crystals if you're lucky.

Thanks for visiting and commenting on this Dismal Swamp Rocking Trip.

Tim Bondy
The Bondyweb.Com author

Comments (3)
  • Larry D.  - Thanks for that trip report!

    It always nice to get a report from a boots-on-the-ground person. I have claims a few miles from the swamp and I hope to visit it someday.


  • Ian Wall  - Question about topaz at Dismal Swamp

    Idaho Dept. of lands documents a topaz deposit located at Dismal Swamp, in Elmore County. No further details were provided by the report.
    The geology seems different from western Utah, where there is a very nice lode.
    Friends and I will be mining gold in Elmore County beginning in July. It would be great to try our hand at screening for topaz while were around. I was hoping to learn a bit more about the site in question. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreasiated.

  • Donna Ahern  - mining info

    Who do I contact to find out the sites of mining claims? I would like to go rock hounding at dismal swamp but would like to do so legally.

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