Monday, March 07, 2011

Descriptions and Ratings of Rock Hounding Sites

Trilobite Trip - Delta, Utah - A New Dig Mine

There are over 15,000 species of trilobites. Many collectors and experts believe Utah is home to as many as 600 of those species. An individual species can be described from a single trilobite or even a part of a trilobite. The fun of trilobites is that everyone recognizes them. We like to say that they are 350,000,000 year old roaches, but they are actually ancestors of the Horseshoe Crab. Utah trilobites range in size from less than 1/8 inch to a whopping 12+ inches. In recent years some very rare trilobites (olinoides sp.) were discovered in the Little Drum Mountains that exceed 12 inches. At our favorite collecting site (A New Dig) there are several species including: Elrathia kingi, Modocia typicallus, Altiocculus, Peronopsis, Alokistocare, Agnostus, Asaphiscus wheeleri, and more. Other fossils found in the Utah trilobite beds include corals, sponges, Gogia sp. (Sea lily flower head), Chancelloria (Jelly Fish), several different brachiopods, worm tracks, trilobite tracks, star fish, jelly fish, and more. Parking for the pits is within a 100 yards.  It is uneven ground but mostly flat.  Collecting is very easy and kids 3 and up will easily find trilobites with some adult help (and often without help).  It is very rare that someone doesn’t find a good amount of trilobites with a small amount of effort. Tools that are needed include; a fossil hammer, chisel, (some find a flat tip screw driver & a putty knife helpful but these are optional).

Tools: Fossil Hammer (or Rock Hammer with Fossil Chisel), Crack Hammer, Buckets and Wrapping Materials. 

Available Facilities: Outhouse Style Restrooms on Property. Parking less then 100 feet from pit. 

Required Vehicle: Suitable for small cars with low clearance. 




Green River, Utah 

Collect agates, petrified wood, and some fossils, but mostly agates.  It is abundant in various shades of reds, yellows, mustards, mauve, some limy greens, and white.

This may be the easiest collecting you'll do all year!!  There are not tools required, but a bucket to put your rocks into.  Good for collectors of all ages that can walk.  Typical desert ground that is uneven but there are large flat areas that can be collected in.

Tools: Bucket (you may want a shovel). 

Available Facilities: Less then 15 minutes away from the town. 

Required Vehicle: Suitable for small cars with low clearance. 




Gold Hill, Utah

Gold Hill is in the north end of the Deep Creek Mountains. These mountains have been mined since the min-1800's. These mountains proved to be rich in silver, copper, arsenic, cobalt, and tungsten. When the miners first started at Gold Hill, they were after gold, and thought that they hit it rich. But the mine was low in gold, and rich in copper and arsenic. Gold Hill itself was closed in 1925. It was reopened and mined for a short period of time during W.W.II for arsenic. The geology consists of three intrusions into a Paleozoic limestone. This is what created the skarn deposits that produced the garnets (grossular-andradite in solid solution), wollastonite, diopside, and zoisite. The primary sulfides were deposited by hydrothermal ground water after the skarn. This is where the main copper minerals came from. The Gold Hill Mine, was fairly extensive. From the top of the peak the mine went down to the 925' level. There are a number of levels that can still be accessed, though ground water has reached the 400' level, making to impossible to go deeper.  Austinite & juanitaite were first discovered at Gold Hill.  Austinite was encountered near the surface in the first diggings at Gold Hill.  Juanitaite was discovered in the 150’ level. Tools needed at Gold Hill include; a rock pick, chisels, crack hammer, a good quality hand lens, toilet paper and something to pack specimens into.

This expedition requires hard work.  There is a steep trial to the top of the mine.  Tools must be carried up and specimens add to the weight to come back down.

Because this is a old mining area, there are inherent dangers.  It is not advisable for kids under 12. Click Here to see a list of minerals that come from this location. 


Tools: Rock Hammer, Chisels, Shovel, Crack Hammer, Geo Pick, Buckets and Wrapping Materials 

Available Facilities: None

Required Vehicle: 4x4 to reach the site, Small cars with half mile hike to the site. 



Turquoise ~ Colorback Mine ~ Nevada 

One of the most recognizable gemstones to anyone in the world is the blue stone turquoise.  There is not another like it.  It has become the symbolic color and gemstone of the American southwest.  Its history starts in ancient Egypt where it was mined on the Sinai Peninsula.  Later Prussian turquoise was mined as a solid sky blue and Tibet turquoise is wondrous blue-green and is so sacred it is considered a national treasure.  More recently, the Native Americans of the southwest have mined it in many shades of blues and greens.
In the 1950’s to the 1970’s turquoise was highly prized and sought after by consumers.  It was to the point that a poor prospector could find a new deposit and be wealthy beyond dream within months.  By the mid-1970’s turquoise was loosing favor with consumers and the demand dwindled to a small trickle we see today.  There is still some demand for high quality gem material with jewelers and mineral collectors but not enough to cause the huge price spike from the 1970’s. 
In recent years the demand has increased.  Much quality turquoise, like at the Colorback Mine, sell for as much as a $1000 per pound or more.  That’s nearly $70 per ounce or $1.80 per carat.  Carat per carat this price doesn’t seem like much when comparing prices to a diamond.  That shouldn’t diminish the value of turquoise as its beauty far exceeds the beauty of a clear diamond. 




Colorback Mine I and II:
The Colorback mine I or in the old days Turquoise Boy mine is one half mile north of the famous Badger mine ( another famous turquoise mine) and 3.5 miles North-Northwest of Tenabo ( a mining district & ghost town known for its gold) just south of Crescent Valley, Nevada. 
Turquoise is associated with an opalized sill that dips intruding black chert. The chert adjacent to the sill is brecciated and that is where the turquoise was formed. 
The Colorback II mine has more Chalcosiderite and Variscite rather than turquoise as the major constituent. The Chalcosiderite has a beautiful black spider web pattern with white, blue, green, yellow, or orange hues. T
he variscite is a beautiful light green to “icy” green with black spider webbing or matrix throughout the stones. 
Much of the material from this mine is a mix of turquoise, variscite, and chalcosidierite.  An easy and fairly reliable way to determine what you have is by color.  If your stone is more blue it is predominately turquoise.  If it is more of a strong green it is predominately variscite and if it is pale green or whitish then it is predominately chalcosidierite.  However, on the gem market it is usually ALL sold as turquoise. M
ixing of minerals like this is not uncommon.  Much of the turquoise from around the world is a mix of turquoise and other minerals. 
This may be the most strenuous expedition we do.  It is not advisable for kids under 12.  To find the turquoise requires a huge amounts of work with little reward.  But when that reward comes, it comes big! W
ith turquoise from this mine fetching prices in the $1000 per pound area, it doesn’t take much to make the entire days work worthwhile. 
Tools required to be successful here will include a shovel, a good rock pick, crack hammer, and an immense amount of patience.  Not everyone is successful in finding 3 full pounds of high grade turquoise! 
In my opinion, the other minerals found here are a rewarding 2nd place prize.   Chalcosiderite and variscite from this mine are all sold as turquoise but are a different shade of green with a hint of blue.





Tools: Rock Hammer, Chisels, Shovel, Crack Hammer, Geo Pick, Buckets and Wrapping Materials 

Available Facilities: Camper with Restroom

Required Vehicle: Small cars are okay but you'll have to hike a small distance (less then a mile), 4x4 cars can drive up to the site with no hiking. 




Topaz, Bixbyite and Red Beryl ~ Solar Wind Claim ~ Utah

The Solarwind claim is most famous for its unusual and large Bixbyites! However, the Topaz found here is also unique in that it doesn't turn clear in the sun light it turns pink! There are also the famous Red Beryl found at this location. Previously owned by J. Holfert and famous world wide for the stunning specimens it has produced. To see more of what comes from this claim CLICK HERE

Tools: Rock Hammer, Chisels, Shovel, Crack Hammer, Geo Pick, Buckets and Wrapping Materials 

Available Facilities: None

Required Vehicle: Small cars are okay.




Septarian Nodule Claim

Septarian nodules are hardened mud balls.  They are very common around the world.  Many are plain and solid on the interior.  The septarians that come from southern Utah are famous for their bright yellow interiors.  Often they are hollow with with yellow calcite crystals growing in the hollow spaces.  Often there is a fracture pattern of the brown or grey mudstone that has been filled with the yellow calcite.  The mud balls usually formed around something that gave them a starting point.  Crabs, clams, and shells are just some of the things found in the centers.  Septarians with large open cavities have been speculated to have formed around algae that decayed away leaving the hollow cavity where later the yellow calcite filled in. Other minerals have been found in the centers also.  Barite, pyrite, amethyst, snow white quartz, and siderite are not that uncommon.
This expedition requires some walking around.  There are lots of hills to climb.  Collecting is very close to the road and may spectacular specimens have been found in the road.  This is a good trip for the whole family.



Tools: Shovel, Geo-Pick and Buckets

Available Facilities: None

Required Vehicle: Small cars are okay.




Azurite & Malachite ~ Blue Crystal Mine ~ La Sal, Utah

There are not a lot of tools required for this expedition.  Hammers should NOT be used as they cause to much damage.  A garden trowel with 3 prongs on one side is the ideal tool.  Wrapping for your specimens should be kept handy as the collecting is easy and plentiful. 
Small cloth bags and toilet paper or paper towels are a must. 
Parking for this site is right off the paved road and the collecting site is all within a couple of hundred yards.  The ground is very uneven but not strenuous at all.  The blue berries are very abundant but the crystal clusters require a lot of patience and hard work to find.  The majority of people last year were able to find good clusters with hard work.



Tools: Hand Trowel, Rock Hammer, Wrapping Materials 

Available Facilities: Camper with Restrooms, and Restroom

Required Vehicle: Small cars are okay.




Sapphire & Garnet ~ El Dorado Bar ~ Montana

This expedition is best done as a 2 to 3 day trip.  It is an easy 8 hour drive there.  We will be collecting at the El Dorado bar.  This is a world famous sapphire location.  Sapphires from here have been used in jewelry and royalty jewelry all over the world for over 100 years.  We will be collecting raw sapphires, meaning that they color or be very pale in color.  The colors are blue, blue/green, green, yellow, pink, and very rarely orange.  They may or may not have inclusions.  But many that are found are gem grade and can be used in jewelry once faceted (this is offered by the mine owner as a special service and can take an up to 3 months to get them back at the cost of $20 per faceted carat with a one carat minimum).  There are garnets found along with the sapphires.  They can be a brilliant red to strong orange.  In recent years these have become almost as valuable as the sapphires. At the mine we will be sorting through 5 gallon buckets of gravel to search for the sapphires.  These buckets are virgin material (not high graded) and are NOT salted.  We get 10 buckets, which is a good days work. Tools required for this expedition include a set of screens.  The larger screen should be 3/8th inch and the smaller screen should be 1/8th inch. THESE SCREENS ARE NOT PROVIDED. YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN OR SEE THE ROCKS SHOP FOR MORE DETAILS. A shovel and garden trowel are also handy.  We are high in the Rocky Mountains at this mine and weather is at best unpredictable.  You will want to bring winter clothing, spring clothing, and a tee shirt just in case. This expedition is successful to the hard working and lucky.  It is appropriate for all age groups.  The beauty of this area is breath taking. A beautiful agate fossils replaced with goethite (a brown rusty mineral similar to hematite), and petrified wood are also available for collecting and are sold by the pound (half price for our group) if you want to collect them.  Additional gem gravel may be purchased also.

Tools: Hand Trowel, Gold Pans, Rock Hammers, Screens, Bags, Wrapping Materials

Available Facilities: Less Then 15 Minutes

Required Vehicle: Small cars are okay.



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