The 16 Legit Places To Find North Carolina Petrified Wood in 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 16 Legit Places To Find North Carolina Petrified Wood in 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Have you ever held a piece of wood that turned into stone? That’s basically what petrified wood is! It’s not just wood anymore— it’s a beautiful rock with colors and patterns that tell a story of a time long, long ago.

Finding petrified wood in North Carolina can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s just that they’re hiding! Without the right guidance, you could walk right past a goldmine of these stones and not know it!

But guess what? We’ve found the legit places where you can find North Carolina petrified wood. We’ll be sharing with you where these are, how you can go there, and what types of petrified wood you’ll find in our state.

Whether you’re an experienced rockhound or just starting out, North Carolina has something special waiting just for you!

What Is North Carolina Petrified Wood

A beautiful piece of raw rainbow petrified wood
Petrified wood photo provided by and available for purchase at ProspectingArizona

Petrified wood is one of the coolest things you can find in the world of rocks and fossils! Imagine a tree that lived millions of years ago slowly turned into a hard and colorful rock that kept its shape and details.

So, how does this happen? When trees fall and get buried under dirt, ash, or other materials, they get protected from rotting away. Over time, water filled with minerals seeps into it. These minerals start replacing the wood’s cells bit by bit. After millions of years, the entire tree becomes a rock!

Petrified wood is often found where there were once ancient forests and where there’s been a lot of volcanic activity. This is because volcanic ash helps in preserving the trees under it.

And guess what? North Carolina is one of the places where you can find it!

The Types of Petrified Wood Found in North Carolina

If you’re planning on finding petrified wood in North Carolina, it’s important to review your knowledge of what petrified wood is and how you can identify one. It’s also important to get familiar with the different types of petrified wood you can find here, such as:

Silicified Wood

“Silicified” might sound like a big word, but it’s just a way of saying that the wood has been replaced by silica. When you look at silicified wood, it can be really beautiful.

The original wood structure is still there, but it shines and can have a bunch of cool colors like red, yellow, brown, and even blue. This is because as the silica took the place of the wood, it brought along other minerals that add color.

What’s really neat about silicified wood is that you can still see the details of the original wood. This means you can spot things like growth rings, the bark, and sometimes even tiny cells!

Agatized Wood

Agate is a colorful, shiny type of mineral that often forms in layers or bands. So when it replaces the wood’s internal composition, it’s like looking at a rainbow inside a tree!

Agatized wood can have layers of bright colors like blues, reds, yellows, and greens. This is because agate can come in so many different shades.

Another cool thing about agatized wood is how detailed it can be. Even with all those dazzling colors, you can still see things like the tree’s growth rings and the pattern of the bark.

What makes it stand out from other types of petrified wood is its layering of colors. While other types can be colorful, the unique bands and patterns of agate give this wood a special touch.

How We Found Petrified Wood in North Carolina
Petrified wood can be pretty tough to find in our state if you aren’t strategic about your search. We’ve compiled a list of great locations where you can find it from a number of proven sources. These are the main inputs we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience of our team
  • Input from a variety of local rockhounds and rockhound groups
  • The difficulty in accessing a location
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both the experienced and newbie hunters who are just starting out

Using these inputs we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding petrified wood for our collections!

Rock pick being used

The tools every petrified wood hunter will need

When you're out looking for petrified wood having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced petrified wood hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The petrified wood-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southeastern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

The Best Places To Find Petrified Wood In North Carolina

Endowed with an amazing array of natural treasures, North Carolina has many great rockhounding sites. But if you want to focus your search on petrified wood, you should be aware that not all of these sites have them.

Here are our recommended legit places that you can explore:

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Pee Dee River

Amazing view of the Pee Dee River from the side

Pee Dee River stretches a long way, starting from the Appalachian Mountains and winding its way down to the coastal plains. Along its journey, it travels through a variety of landscapes, each more beautiful than the last.

It’s mainly found in the southern part of our state, making its way toward South Carolina. It’s surrounded by lush green forests, gentle rolling hills, and sandy banks.

The river has carved its way through layers of rock, some of which are super old. As it flows, it exposes different types of rocks and minerals. You can find petrified wood, shiny minerals, or even gemstones here.

If you want to pay a visit here, it’s pretty easy to get to. Major roads and highways lead to various access points along the river. But before you head out, make sure to review our local collecting guidelines at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website.

Where we found petrified wood in Pee Dee River

You can find agatized wood if you explore the gravels of the Pee Dee River and its tributaries.

Beaverdam Creek

Serene photo of the Beaverdam Creek and its surrounding trees

Flowing through the scenic landscapes of the Tar Heel State, Beaverdam Creek offers a glimpse into the beautiful world of nature and geology.

It weaves its way through parts of our state, surrounded by woodlands and open fields. The areas around it are just as diverse, if not more. In some spots, it’s surrounded by dense forests. In other areas, it stretches across open fields.

If you’re wondering about its accessibility, Beaverdam Creek is quite visitor-friendly. The roads leading to it are well-marked, and there are several spots where you can park and start your adventure.

Where we found petrified wood in Beaverdam Creek

We recommend searching through the gravels of Beaverdam Creek to find fascinating samples of petrified wood.

Cumberland County

A beautiful creek in Cumberland County

Cumberland County is a spot where geography, terrain, and geology all come together to paint a fascinating picture.

It’s comfortably positioned in our state’s Sandhills region. This means it’s not too far from the coast, but it’s also got some unique features that set it apart from its neighboring counties.

Geologically speaking, Cumberland County is a treat for rockhounds. While the sandy terrain tells tales of ancient seas, the area is also rich in minerals. It’s not uncommon to find different natural wonders here, including petrified wood.

Another great thing about this place is that with major highways running through it, including Interstate 95, it’s easily accessible wherever you’re coming from. Once you’re here, a network of local roads makes it simple to explore it.

Where we found petrified wood in the Cumberland County

You can collect agatized wood countywide in Cumberland, particularly in stream gravels and alluvial deposits, gravel pits, excavations, and road cuts.

Cape Fear River

Aerial view of the stretch of the Cape Fear River

Stretching over 200 miles, Cape Fear River runs from the center of our state all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the longest rivers here and has played a big part in our history and growth.

The river starts in the Piedmont region, where smaller streams come together. Along its path going to the Atlantic, the Cape Fear River passes through varied landscapes— from dense forests to sprawling wetlands.

The terrain around this river is diverse. Upstream, you might encounter rolling hills and valleys, while downstream, it widens and is bordered by marshes and swamps. The river’s banks and bed are also prime spots to find rocks and minerals.

To get here, look for major roads and highways that crisscross the river’s length (it wouldn’t be hard to find because it has plenty of access points).

Where we found petrified wood in Cape Fear River

If you want to find agatized wood, make sure you explore the gravel beds of Cape Fear River and its tributaries.

Eno River

Close look at the shallow waters and surroundings of the Eno River

Eno River spans around 33 miles, which is smaller than some. Despite this, it’s packed with wonders and stories.

This river springs to life in Orange County and flows eastward. As it moves, it dances through Durham County before eventually joining the bigger Neuse River.

Around the river, you’ll see gentle hills, thick woods, and even some rocky outcrops. Eno River itself sometimes flows calmly and at other times rushes over rapids, which is very interesting!

Wondering how to get here? It’s a piece of cake! Eno River is well-connected with roads, and there’s even the Eno River State Park which offers easy access. It has trails, camping areas, and informational signs to guide and teach visitors.

Where we found petrified wood in Eno River

To find agatized wood, you can search through the gravels of Eno River.

Other Great Places To Find North Carolina Petrified Wood

A piece of petrified wood with interesting details in black, brown, and cream colors
Petrified wood photo provided by Fossilicious

Aside from our top recommendations, there are a few other North Carolina petrified wood-bearing sites that you can consider visiting, such as:

County Location
Durham Area fields, cuts, and gravels of Bethesda
Durham Near junction of US 75 and Route 98 in Durham
Halifax All exposures of Quaternary gravels throughout the county
Montgomery Area stream gravels of Troy
Orange Area woods, fields, creek gravels of Chapel Hill
Richmond Area streambeds of Ellberle

General Areas You Should Try

Polished petrified wood branch
Petrified wood photo provided by Fossil Age Minerals

If you want to find petrified wood in rather wide areas, your best chance to find them is to explore the following general spots where they usually hangout:

Rivers and River Banks

Rivers and river banks are legit places to find petrified wood. Its water’s movement digs deep into the earth, pulling up treasures from beneath. When it slows down, especially near the banks, the heavy pieces, like petrified wood, settle down.

That’s why when you stroll along a river bank, you might just stumble upon a piece of ancient, stone-like wood.

Streams and Creeks

Streams and creeks are another great area to find petrified wood. They’re always on the move, even if they’re slow. They scrub away the earth and uncover layers hidden below.

These little waterways, with their twists and turns, are nature’s best excavators. They dig and wash away soil, bringing to light treasures underneath. Heavier pieces like petrified wood get lodged in the slower parts of this movement, like in bends.

Sediment Deposits

Sediment deposits are like nature’s treasure chests waiting to be opened! And they’re awesome spots for finding petrified wood.

North Carolina has lots of places with sediment deposits, thanks to its ancient rivers, lakes, and seas. These areas have seen lots of action over millions of years, burying countless trees in the process.

Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In North Carolina

Close-up look at a stunning piece of petrified wood
Petrified wood photo provided by Fossilicious

To help you ensure a successful petrified wood hunting experience, we’ll answer some of the most common questions when it comes to finding petrified wood in North Carolina:

How old is Petrified Wood in North Carolina

Most of the petrified wood from North Carolina dates back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods, making it between 230 and 190 million years old!

During these eras, our state had a vastly different landscape filled with expansive forests. As trees fell and were swiftly covered by sediments from nearby rivers, lakes, or even volcanic activity, the conditions were just right for petrification.

Can you find Petrified Palm Wood in North Carolina?

While we have petrified wood in our state, petrified palm is not commonly found here. Our past environments and conditions were more conducive to other types of vegetation rather than palm trees.

If you’re on the hunt specifically for petrified palm, regions with a known history of ancient tropical or subtropical climates might be more promising.

The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In North Carolina

A look at the front store window of Mineralogy

Another great way to observe, get your hands on and take home North Carolina petrified wood is by visiting our trusted local shops that sell them. We’ve listed down some of our most recommended stores below:

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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