The Emerald Creek Garnet Area is expected to reopen by the end of the summer after finding a new garnet source.
According to Christine Plourde, recreation manager for the St. Joe Ranger District, the Forest Service is awaiting the construction of a new road to reopen the site. The road will connect the area to a new source of garnet-rich sand which is expected to last several decades.
The area was closed at the end of 2018 after visitors exhausted the previous source of garnet-rich sand used for the site. No excavation takes place at Garnet Creek itself for safety and environmental reasons; instead, garnet-rich material is mined from another location and transported there specifically for visitors to excavate themselves.
“We import the material for safe digging for the public,” she said. “We exhausted the material in the existing gulch we’ve been importing it from, so now we have to finish building a road to the new material site.”
Construction on the road was anticipated to begin in June or July, pending dry enough weather conditions to allow workers to build.
“The last I heard, we’re going forward with contracting as we speak,” she said. “In terms of timeline I can’t say much more than that, but we’re hoping it’ll get done by the end of summer.”
The Emerald Creek Garnet Area typically receives about 6,000 visitors per year in the summer, and is one of only two locations in the world where the Star Garnet, Idaho’s state gem, can be found. For more information on the area, visit www.fs.usda.gov/ipnf or contact the St. Joe Ranger District at 208-245-2531.