Friday, July 25, 2008

Utah Rock Collecting Article, Guest Author

Collecting in Utah, 2008

On May 10th , Steve Smith and I left Arkansas, just ahead of a tornado, for Utah for a few days of rockhounding. After visiting the interactive dinosaur museum in Fruita, Colorado, we headed for Marysvale, Piute County in east Utah, just south of rte.70 to our first collecting site. A small pasture on BLM land, 2.8 miles north of Marysvale is strewn with boulders of banded grey-white rhyolite containing vugs of small amethyst crystals associated with micro rutile crystal sprays and complex crystal forms of bixbyite. Alas, the weather turned nasty with sleet, snow, rain, and wind, making for miserable and not-so-productive collecting.
Onward to our reservations at Best Western in Delta, Utah, where the weather improved. We stopped in at the West Desert Rock Art rock shop and were told that blasting was done a month earlier at the White Knoll spot in the Topaz mountain “cove”, 40 miles NW of Delta. The next 2 ½ days were spent collecting at Topaz mtn. On day one we were at the Knoll with hammers and chisels, which opened up small vugs, seams, and lithophysal cavities in the hard rhyolite
that yielded sherry topaz singles to 1 inch and some small clusters. The next day we explored another part of the cove, the White Canyon, where we found rare micro pseudobrookite sprays to 6 mm., and even rarer red beryl 5-7 mm. wide. Some beryls were in rhyolite maitrix in boulder float, below which we sifted for a few more loose crystals. One shovelful that Steve dumped into the sifter contained a very angry scorpion that I nearly grabbed with my bare hand! The morning of day three was spent collecting more topaz at the White Knoll area. Even though it was only Thursday, more people were beginning to show up. Best time to visit there is mid-May during the week, as weekends can be very crowded.

pseudobrookite, red beryl, topaz (photo captions)

That afternoon we made the 4 hour trip to Wendover, on the Utah/ Nevada border, to our motel. The next day we headed south on paved, then gravel roads for close to 60 miles, to the ghost town of Gold Hill, Tooele County. This mining district has a complex geology and mineralogy and was mined off and on for gold, silver, lead, copper, arsenic, and minor amounts of other minerals. Today the mine shafts have been sealed, but the BLM told us that unclaimed tailings were okay to explore. After navigating the 4WD mine road we parked on a flat area of tailings about half way up to the Gold Hill mine. Then we hiked up a fairly steep trail to the top at the South Pit and Glory hole. Here, clear and green crystals of adamite, plus austinites conichalcite, olivenite, mixite, chrysocolla ( including pseudophorphs ), and several other copper, zinc, lead, and iron arsenates, as well as some carbonates were collected. Most of these were micros, with some TN’s and miniatures. At one tailings area, a very angry rattler warned us off. This is a very isolated region, with no cell service. Plan accordingly!

conichalcite, adamite, austinite (photo captions)

The next leg of the journey took us back to Delta, then west to the private trilobite claim at Antelope Springs. $38.00( ouch! ) for 4 hours of shale-splitting yielded several complete Cambrian trilobites. This is a very popular and productive area.

trilobite- Asaphiscus wheeleri (photo captions)

Finally we headed back east, and decided to revisit the Marysvale rhyolite locale again, this time on a beautiful day. Here I found my best bixbyites. We decided to pass on the Yellow Cat petrified wood area of Utah and the Book Cliffs in Colorado due to time and lack of knowledge of access. If the road accessing these areas are at all wet, they can be impassable for even 4WD; so, homeward bound.

bixbyite (photo caption)

Utah is still a great destination for field collecting, thanks to the BLM designated areas, some of the Chambers of Commerce, and local Rock shops and private claims. Contact the BLM for current status at abandoned mines and open prospecting areas, the internet for Rockhoundingutah, the MinRec Jan-Feb 1993. and Holfert,etal. Field Guide to Topaz and associated minerals in the Thomas Range,Utah, for more info.

Ed Hakesley

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