Central Queensland gemfields

Big Bessie fossicking area

Although Big Bessie is a small area that has been extensively worked in the past, it remains popular because of its proximity to Sapphire township and its shallow wash.


Turn off the Capricorn Highway at Anakie, and take the sealed road for 10km to Sapphire. From there take the unsealed road to the west for 2km to the signposted entrance. Minor tracks lead north to the Big Bessie diggings and to the south to the Little Bessie diggings. The main track continues to skirt the Rifle Range Reserve to the south, and then branches left to Graves Hill and right to Reward designated fossicking land (4WD only).

While roads are unformed they are suitable for conventional vehicles except in wet weather.



Camping is allowed for a maximum period of 3 months. Camping permits can be obtained from our regional offices or fossicking licence agents.

There are no facilities and water needs to be carried in.

Fossicking notes

Sapphire-bearing wash covers most of the area and is generally less than 500mm from the surface.

West of the Rifle Range, shallow wash consisting of pebbles and boulders in a red-brown soil extends to a depth of 500mm. In places it is overlain by 300mm of chocolate soil.

In the Little Bessie section, shallow surface wash containing white quartz fragments and billy cobbles in reddish to chocolate sandy soil overlies basement schist and limestone. The area has been extensively worked and some parts have been scraped to basement by machinery. Very little virgin ground remains and the area has only limited potential in disturbed ground.

In the Big Bessie section, surface wash to 300mm deep ranges from pebbles to boulders of billy and silicified pebbly sandstone, and lies on basement rocks. Much of this area also has been worked, but there are patches of virgin ground that are likely to contain sapphires.

Special conditions

Fossickers must not enter the Rifle Range Reserve and MHP leases to the north of the area.

In this guide:

  1. Willows designated fossicking land
  2. Glenalva fossicking area
  3. Middle Ridge fossicking area
  4. Big Bessie fossicking area
  5. Graves Hill fossicking area
  6. Tomahawk Creek fossicking area
  7. Sapphire/Rubyvale designated fossicking land

Print entire guide