ST MARIES, Idaho — The Emerald Creek Garnet Area in St. Maries closed for road construction and site improvements in 2019, and remained that way to adhere to social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
In just a few weeks, visitors will once again be able to find star garnets in Emerald Creek. Beginning May 28, the park will be welcoming people back on a permit system.
The Emerald Creek Garnet Area is one of just two locations in the world where Star Garnets are found. The other site is in India.
The 12-sided (dodecahedron) crystals range in size. They could be as small as sand particles or as big as golf-balls (or even larger).
Permits will only be available to purchase online. The website will be available every Friday through Monday once the season opens. The Garnet Area will be closed Tuesdays through Thursdays.
Permit applications are expected to go live on the website in mid-March. They are available for three hours per session and each person must have their own. The permits are $15 for ages 13 and older and $5 for ages 6 to 12. Children 5 years old and younger are free. There is a $1 processing fee for the online transaction.
Masks will be required and they will be limiting group sizes, according to Patrick Liar, the public affairs officer for the Forest Service.
"The Forest Service has developed the Garnet Area as a place where the public may collect these unique gems in a safe and environmentally friendly way," the Idaho Panhandle National Forests website says.
People used to dig in the stream bed to find the garnets themselves. But due to concerns for water quality, the aquatic habitat and public safety, the Forest Service changed the process.
Now, visitors can search for garnets through one of two sluice boxes.