With more than 70 species of stones that can be found in abundance across the state, Idaho is the rock hounding mecca of the United States. There is one area of the Gem State where the public is allowed to reserve time and acquire a permit to legally collect Idaho's most valuable and treasured stone.

My wife is a collector of precious and non-precious stones. She spent several years in Idaho attending gem and mineral shows to add pieces to her collection. It's a hobby that runs in her family. Her mother operated a stone shop in Twin Falls for a number of years.

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Most Idahoans know that the Star Garnet is considered the state's most unique natural treasure, and it was designated Idaho's official gem back in the sixties. The one place in the state where collectors can legally search for and collect the stone is in the lower panhandle. The Emerald Creek Garnet Area is south of Fernwood, and 450 miles northwest of Twin Falls.

The public is allowed to reserve a time to visit the area and take home these beautiful gems, which got their name from the four and six-point star-like pattern that can be seen on the stone. Tickets have to be purchased several weeks prior to visiting Emerald Creek and are not available on-site.

Individuals are allowed to reserve six permits a year, and no more than five pounds of Star Garnets can be removed from the site per visit. For more information on the Emerald Creek Garnet Area, call 208-245-2531.

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