• Caelen Burand

Rockhounding Colorado: Rico

The quaint town of Rico is 40 minute drive south of the far more famous Telluride and poses as an intriguing rockhounding nook for any and every rockhounder in the area. As always Cholla Lapidary recommends ensuring all recommended sites are still public as land ownership changes rapidly in such an area. As well as taking the proper safety precautions involved in rockhounding.




Our Finds:

Rico's specimens are lucrative. Do not anticipate finding large quantities of perfect specimens at this locality. Instead spend time looking for the small, exceptional specimens of galena and pyrite. We spent our first day without finding anything, only host metamorphic material. It wasn't until we were planning on leaving Rico and calling it a bust when we found the best two sites in the area and spent the subsequent day searching the tailings! The highlights of the trip included finding perfect galena, and perfect octohedral pyrite! We also found a variety of lead-zinc carbonate related materials, quartz, and cerrusite. Below we show examples of our finds. The first slide is the octohedral pyrite, and the second and third slides show galena, chalcopyrite, lead-zinc carbonates, and pyrite we found in the area.


Where to Search:

Rico's negative feature: confusing roads. Even with years and years of off-road navigation Rico hosts some of the most complex intertwined road systems we have witnessed. This, in tandem with the complex public-private land barriers can make Rico a daunting locale (always check land rights, they are very complicated in Rico, check the area to make sure it has not switched ownership since this post). Luckily that is why you're reading our Rockhounding Review where below we have a beautiful google map showing you the location of the dumps we found the best for rockhounding. A key note of rico is to not be necessarily drawn only to the larger tailings piles, we found they are often far less promising than they may appear. In our experience the white to blue shades of tailings produced only low-grade quartz and other metamorphic host rocks. We mark the tailings we found were busts on our map in red. Instead search in the yellow-burnt orange shades of dumps, we mark the two we found the specimens above on the map in green. Interestingly there are also several tailings that are crushed to a powder and pose as tailings where nothing can be found.

Note: There is an old mill that is very accessible and easily seen both in person and on google maps. DO NOT enter, this is private property.

(our map of the area with our favorite sites marked)


Nearby Amenities and Accessibility:

The town of Rico is not very large. The town has a restaurant, two gas stations, and two hotels. Camping can be difficult with the combination of high altitudes, a lack of flat ground, and dense undergrowth from the incredibly wet environment. While we did camp in the area we found finding a suitable

site was difficult. (Our campsite, to the right)

The area's roads are quite accessible, and when compared to other nearby rockhounding, Rico is a walk in the park. Four wheel drive is needed on occasion and the dense undergrowth does make it harder for large vehicles. A small truck (like my 1999 Tacoma) works beautifully to navigate the area. The only difficulty with access is the incredibly complicated nature of the local road system. This is easily mitigated by using the satellite view on google maps where you can view the many unmarked roads. Be cautious of dead-ends and private roads in the area, they are very common.


Final Thoughts:

We came to the conclusion Rico is an unsung hero of the area. The site was incredibly rural without any other rockhounders. Compared to the crowded regions of Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton, Rico is a wonderful escape with specimens of comparable quality. With patience and this guide Rico is a true treasure trove of rockhounding potential!

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