West Virginia Rocks and Minerals

West Virginia is, of course, famous for its coal, but not so much for its rocks and minerals.

The western two-thirds of West Virginia is a rough area of hills and valleys cut in sedimentary rocks and forming a part of the Allegheny Plateau that extends from New York to Alabama. The eastern part lies in the Great Valley, in which mountain ridges and valleys have been the result of intense folding and erosion of the sedimentary rocks. At times, much of what is now West Virginia was covered by swamps, marshlands, and shallow seas, accounting for the wide variety of sedimentary rocks covering most of the state, as well as its wealth of coal and natural gas deposits.

The Plateau area contains mineral resources unmatched anywhere else in the eastern United States. West Virginia has coal deposits, extending from the Virginia and Kentucky borders in the south to the Pennsylvania and Maryland borders in the north. The Pittsburgh coal bed, which lies throughout a broad area of southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, has been called the world’s single most valuable mineral deposit. Coal has been mined in West Virginia for well over 150 years, and continues to be a major producer today.

In fact, West Virginia actually named bituminous coal as its state rock in 2009.

West Virginia's western counties are rich in natural gas and petroleum. Natural salt brines are also found here, most notably in the Charleston-Kanawha Valley area.

West Virginia also produces limestone, cement, common clay, construction and industrial sand and gravel, crushed stone, dimension stone, and lime. No metals are mined in the State, but it does have small iron deposits and tiny specks of gold have been reported to be found in several creeks and rivers.

Most of the surface of West Virginia is fossiliferous sedimentary rock which doesn’t usually produce gem grade rocks and minerals, but it does contain fossils. Lithostrotionella fossil coral, a type fossilized coral, found in the Hillsdale Limestone in portions of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties, was named West Virginia’s state gemstone in 1990.

Though agates are actually rare in West Virginia, you can find quartz crystals, calcite and petrified wood. The southern Alleghenies between Alderson and Asbury are probably the best place to search for quartz crystals. If you look in the area streams and gravels you can sometimes find clear or even smoky quartz crystals. Petrified wood can be found in the area just south of Charleston. Smokey Hole, Judy Gap, and Harman within Pendleton County area are great rockhounding areas.

Before venturing out-do some research on where and what you can collect. Remember you must have permission to collect on private property.

See my page on Rockhounding Rules for general information on the rules of collecting rocks on various lands.