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Discover a Wealth of Rock Knowledge at Llano Prospectors Conference and Swap Meet

Don MacDonald of North Lake Jewelers in Marble Falls holds up his ‘holy rock’ that a customer found in the Highland Lakes. This area, particularly the Llano Uplift in the western part of the Highland Lakes, offers a bounty of rocks, gems, fossils, and minerals (even gold) for those who know what to look for or even just willing to look. A good place to get a little education on rock hunting, gold panning, and metal detecting is the Prospectors Conference and Swap Meet from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Llano County Community Center, 2249 RR 152 West in Llano. Admission is free. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

LLANO — If you’re looking for the heart of rock hunting, gold panning, and other treasure-seeking pursuits in Texas, you found it in the Highland Lakes.

“This is the central mineral region of Texas,” said Frank Rowell of Enchanted Rocks and Jewelry in Llano. “The Llano Uplift is probably the most mineral-rich area in the country.”

Rock hounds, metal detecting enthusiasts, and gold panners already know this. The rest of us out there with a hankering to do some treasure hunting probably need a little help. A good place to start is the third annual Prospectors Conference and Swap Meet on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Llano County Community Center, 2249 RR 152 West in Llano. Admission is free.

Rowell explained that a lot of prospectors, rock collectors, treasure hunters, and metal detecting enthusiasts from across Texas are descending upon Llano for the event, but beginners can definitely benefit from the wealth of knowledge at the conference.

“For a lot of the people, it’s a chance to sit, visit, share stories, and look at the new things that have come out,” Rowell said. “In the swap meet, there will be a lot of things related to gold panning, rock collecting, and metal detecting for sale or swap, usually by private people.

“But a lot of the people are great about sharing what they do with others,” he added.

Don MacDonald, owner of North Lake Jewelers in Marble Falls, won’t be able to attend the event because he has to run his shop. But he said a person just getting started in rock collecting, prospecting, and the like would “absolutely” benefit by attending the conference.

“You’re going to have a lot of experts and people with so much knowledge there,” he said. “You’ll get a good start.”

The Llano Uplift is a dome of precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks that are exposed or just under the surface of the Highland Lakes, particularly in Llano County. In other parts of Texas, these rocks are well beneath the ground.

It makes this area an amazing place to hunt for gems, minerals, and rocks.

Rowell said if you’re going to find any gold while panning in Texas, you’re most likely going to find it in the Llano River.

It’s not just gold; the Highland Lakes boasts a large variety of gems and minerals, just not necessarily large quantities. Still, it’s a big draw for treasure hunters.

“It’s surprising the number of people who know this area for the minerals and things,” Rowell said. “A lot of times, they’ll have these (gold panning and rock hunting) outings in Llano, and they’ll have sixty to eighty people on the river.”

MacDonald pointed out that enthusiasts can also dig up Native American arrowheads and tools across the Highland Lakes. There are laws governing where you can hunt for these artifacts. A good group of folks who can tell you that information are the ones attending the conference.

“There’ll be a lot of people there who can help you get started and answer questions,” Rowell added. “It’s a great chance to just learn.”

Along with the conference and swap meet, there will be a silent auction and chances to win a $700 metal detector. Proceeds from the auction and raffle go to the Friends of the Llano Red Top Jail to help restore the historic Llano jail.

Contact Rowell at or (325) 248-1067 or Earl Theiss at or (325) 388-9234 for more information. Or, visit

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