The noon sun hung in the sky with a dull yet irritating heat. It was early Spring, and I was traveling to a place nobody had any reason to be, an empty valley in Central Utah. I grabbed the canteen swaying from my hip, took a hearty swig, and wiped the small beads of sweat slowly forming on my brow. The dry earth crunched with each trod of my heel, one after another like a rhythmic drum, each thud forming a slow monotonous beat.
I took in my surroundings. At surface level there was not much to see, canyon walls and plateaus, little wildlife, and less trees. What little vegetation was found here often amounted to sagebrush. It peppered the dirt in various shades of chartreuse, flowing lightly with the siblant hissing of the wind. I was two miles south of Marysvale, Utah, a small town with less than five hundred residents. On this particular expedition, I was alone.
The area I was headed to was the now abandoned Elbow Ranch. On my shoulders slung a backpack stuffed lightly with supplies: a fold up shovel, a pair of gloves, a chisel, a spray bottle of water, a rag, the morning newspaper, a loupe, and a geologists hammer. I also made sure to leave some empty space for any of the various specimens I hoped to collect.
I’d spent the earlier half of the day in the Durkee Creek area. Durkee Creek was much easier to reach than the hike to Dry Canyon had to offer. Most Rockhounds with already impressive collections probably wouldn’t have bothered spending the time there. The red-brown earth of Durkee Creek offered an abundance of zeolite, but they were often small specimens that didn’t equivocate to the effort involved.
It wasn’t until one o’clock that I found an area that had seemingly been untouched. I unfolded the shovel, wedged it between the cracked earth, and began digging. With each downward stroke I hope for the sound of metal scraping rock. It was four feet down where I found it: mordenite, an orangeish pink rock like rusted iron. With my chisel and rock hammer I chipped at the rock, a tedious process requiring delicate precision. When I’ve made enough of the outline I wedge the pick in and remove the specimen like a loose brick.
A quick spray from the bottle and a wipe of the rag gave the rock a quick polish. The mordenite was about half a centimeter thick, forming a crust for the interior of crystalized white quartz. I held it over head where the light could reach, twisting it in hand, watching it blink and shimmer in the afternoon sun. I recall thinking a familiar thought, an image of this same area long ago. A memory strung together from vague recollections of scientific studies and my own personal imagination. It was a hostile world, fiery and volcanic, but one small pocket of that world had been preserved. A fracture of time lying dormat, imprisoned and pressurized for thousands of years, found by me after a series of seemingly coincidental happenstances.
I tore a page from the classified section of the day’s paper and wrapped the mordenite with care, then I climbed my way out of the hole. The sun stood due west, glaring. My wrist watch read 4:00 pm. In Marysvale Utah many of the residents are returning from work, preparing for dinner and the days end. I grab the canteen, and wipe my brow. Then I gather my gear and continue on. I’ve yet to try my luck at the Blackbird Mine.
by Various Authors
The Must Have, if nothing else than to have an IDEA about the collecting spots in your state, the gem trails books are a wealth of information at a low price. The perfect beginner guides that are refrenced by serious field collectors! Click on the book covers to view them on Amazon, or search the eBay link below.
How to prepare your 4×4 for rock collecting.
Rock collecting may be a popular, family oriented activity, but how often do you think of the safety of your family first when you go off the beaten track to hunt for that one, perfect example of a billion-year-old rock? How often have you heard of people being stranded without food and water for days, just because the driver did not check his vehicle before leaving home? Don’t let this happen to you and yours! Simply follow the few easy-to-follow tips listed here to reduce the possibility of vehicle breakdowns when you could be hundreds of miles away from the nearest repair shop.
Check radiator hoses.
This might appear to be self evident, but according to the AAA, engine overheating is the leading cause of vehicle breakdowns in America. Radiator hoses must be firm to the touch, and free of oil, and even oil residue. Oil degrades the rubber of radiator hoses, which makes it imperative that oil contaminated hoses be replaced before your next trip.
Check all V-, and other drive belts.
You may think your belts are OK, but the most damage occurs when the pieces of a broken drive belt work themselves in under the other drive belts. This can cause all your belts to jump their pulleys, and because of their high rotational speed, the flying pieces can destroy the radiator, the battery, the radiator fan, and critically important wiring. When in doubt, don’t procrastinate, replace all the belts, and observe the proper tensions on all.
Check the charge rate.
The proper rate of charge on 12 V vehicles is 14.2 – 14.6 Volt. Anything above or below this value is indicative of a faulty alternator, or maybe worse, damage to wiring in places where you cannot repair it in the wilderness, so fix it now, while you can.
Check battery condition.
Don’t just look at the outside, and maybe clean off acid accumulations. A battery needs to be able to deliver specific currents at certain times, such as during starting. Have an authorized battery dealer perform a draw test, to determine the ability of the battery to deliver sufficient starting current. Also, compare the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each cell against the specs for your battery. Differences of one or two percent are normal, but differences or deviations that approach 5% are not, and you should replace the battery.
Check the suspension.
Check the suspension and steering systems for excessive free play between related components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, steering dampers, draglinks and control arms. You may think that since the tie rod ends have been a little loose for the last two years, they are OK because they have not pulled from their sockets yet, but off-road driving places extreme loads on a vehicle, and the last thing you want to happen is to lose your steering while going down a steep, rocky hillside. Think of your family, and replace all worn components before you leave home.
Check the brake system.
Check the entire system for signs of leaks, and do NOT forget to check the slave cylinders inside the brake drums. These cylinders can lose up to 60% of their effectiveness before they even start to show signs of leaking, which means you could be driving around with less than 50% of your braking capacity. Moreover, if you had been topping the brake fluid reservoir regularly, but cannot see a leak, remove the master cylinder from the brake booster to check if the brake fluid is not leaking into the booster. If this is the case, replace the entire master cylinder because you can never be sure the rubber seal kits available today will not fail you when you need them most; such as when you are going down a steep, very narrow mountain pass, with a 1000-foot drop off, and no safety barrier.
Better safe than sorry.
Performing basic vehicle maintenance procedures before heading into the wilderness is not a hassle: it is a vital precaution against being marooned hundreds of miles from the nearest repair facilities. It is also great way to prevent potentially fatal accidents caused by parts that failed because they should have been replaced months ago, but was not. Think of the safety of your family, if not your own, get your vehicle into great shape, and enjoy the rock hunting, which is what you go into the wilderness for, right? Only make sure that by taking care of your vehicle, you can safely make it out again!
WhereToFindRocks.com was made to share public collecting locations, taking away the mystery of rockhounding and inviting more participants to our hobby. Several individuals have produced articles for WhereToFindRocks.com and we always welcome more submissions! We can never have too many!
Just in case you think this is merely an altruistic cry for submissions, let me inform you, submitting an article to WhereToFindRocks.com can be very beneficial!
If you submit an article, you are allowed to have a linked banner at the top and bottom of your article. If you have a rockshop/show/club to promote, you can work that into your article. For example, a great regional show trip often includes a rockhounding trip. Promote your show or local rock shop with a field trip article. Write an article to promote your local rock club and a field trip you have gone on with the club.
We only ask that you follow our main rule…
Any location published on WhereToFindRocks.com must be available to the public via open access given by the owner or government or a pay to visit location. While access to locations changes all the time, we strive to showcase locations that are open to the general public.
We ask that you submit articles between 500 and 2000 words long. You need to include a few photos of the area, material that comes out of the area and pinpoint the location on a map. We ask for at least 6 photos. You may also include a banner, no larger than 600 pixels wide, which can link to your website.
Here are some examples
Pocket photos help to set the mood – any sort of photos with the digging are super
Photos of people at the location, always timeless!
Photos of people collecting, or rockhounding
We like to create interactive google maps, if you give us whatever map you have, we can make a google map out of it.
And show us what you could expect to find on a day collecting, if you work hard!
E-mail us directly at
to submit your rockhounding article for
Two recent news stories came up that warrant some attention in the rockhound community.
In this article by Erin Place in the Sun Journal, mineral collecting location is closed due to one person’s greed.
Above, you can see Mount Mica employee David Bechtel pointing to the hole where a chunk of a rare mineral was gouged out on Saturday. Due to this incident, tours and access to the famous Maine Pegmatite mine are now restricted. Mine owner Gary Freeman has been working with various Maine Camping groups doing frequent tours of Mount Mica, a working gem mine. During these trips, it would be noted that the pods of columbite in the front of the mine were highly desirable, which lead to some visitor returning and helping themselves to a huge chunk of this material. The greed of some people will now have a negative effect on the visitors to Maine’s Gem Pegmatites.
In southern California we have a new National Monument, the San Gabriel Mountains. This National Forest has been blessed with some amazing mineral deposits and breathtaking geology. Two famous locations will now be closed to collecting, the Actinolite deposit in Wrightwood and the Ruby/Lapis deposit of Mt. Baldy. Under the new National Monument standards, it will be illegal to remove or disturb any rock or mineral within the park boundary.
The Actinolite deposit in Wrightwood is the better known of the two, featuring a bright green, massive mineral, actinolite. In those mountain ridges, occasionally one is rewarded with a bright pink rhodonite specimen, massive material that you can cut spheres and decorative slabs. Many of the actinolite deposits in Wrightwood are massive in size, sometimes it is hard to find a specimen small enough to take home, soon you could be serving jail time for doing this. If it were not for the promise of Actinolite specimens, I would have never ventured up into this area of California. The view of the mountain ridges rippling out, covered in tall conifers, simply fantastic and a future generations of rock hounds will not have that same reason to appreciate a day in the mountains of Southern California.
Less well known, but even finer of a location for minerals, Cascade Canyon, a few miles south of Mount Baldy Village. From the bottom of the canyon to the tip top, outcrops of matrix rich in small hexagonal crystals of Corundum, red in color, often called ruby, but not of gem quality like one would envision. These outcrops are vast and numerous, both easy to access and tucked away in folds of this mountain canyon. Along with these ruby crystals, small crystals of dravite tourmaline, epidote, pyrite and mica appear. Along Barrett-Stoddard Road, a closed off dirt road popular with hikers and bikers, deposits of ruby and calcite/diopside appear and further up into cascade canyon, small bits of Lapis can be found in the wild skyless canopy of mountain vegetation that is the upper levels of Cascade Canyon. Years ago there was a working Lapis mine, however several landslides have rendered the area unworkable. For our 9th anniversary, my wife and I collected a few bits of Lapis from the stream, as Lapis is one of the traditional gifts for the 9th year of marriage. Once the park boundaries are set, we could face fines and a few months in jail.
Above: Photo of a field trip to the bottom of Cascade Canyon, in search for the metamorphic chunks containing small crystals of red corundum.
The Cascade Canyon deposit had the advantages of being an easy hike, somewhat adventurous, with a great mineralogical reward and an amazing geological tour. The folds in the rocks leading down the canyon tell a story that will now get quieter, as mineral collectors who are interested in the rock’s stories will vanish, like so many ghosts of time that litter Southern California. The hike down the old mountain road, into the woods, across the river, along the foot of the mountain to the site of one massive spill of ruby filled goodness might be stuck into the magnetite grains that make up some of the local rocks in the canyon, playing back like a ghostly tape, documenting amazing experiences.
Top 10 International Mineral Shows
By Jeremy Zolan
The newest finds and choicest mineral specimens are always the hottest items at the world’s biggest mineral shows. The most popular mineral shows are those that allow both businesses and the public the best and most exclusive specimens at the most competitive prices. Displays and activities also make shows notable. Many museums take the privilege to display extraordinary specimens rarely seen by others aside from the curators if they fit with the theme of the show, which many but not all shows have. Here is a selection of ten shows that currently attract the most notable attention, of course, as with all things in this world, in a few years, some of these shows might have ceased to be and new events will rise up.
#1 Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows- Tucson, Arizona, USA
One of the largest shows in the world, The Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows are held for about a month, starting in late January and running until mid-February. The environment is exciting and busy, perhaps overwhelming for some. At the main show at the end of the events, Vendors are typically larger, more established dealers selling mostly mineral specimens, but a few sell fossils or lapidary material as well. The displays at the show are very well known for highlighting extremely fine specimens with exciting themes. 2014’s main show theme was Diamonds and Gold. One of the greatest mineral show displays in history was featured at the 2008 Tucson Mineral and Gem show- the American Mineral Treasures exhibit. This show united many of the US’ finest native specimens in the same display cases.
Here is an ad for ONE of the shows, the Tucson Gem and Rock Crystal Show!
#2 Denver Gem and Mineral Show- Denver, Colorado, USA
The majority of the largest and most popular mineral shows in the US are held in the Southwest. The Denver Gem and Mineral Show certainly fits that category. This show is very similar to the TGMS show and is also themed. The 2014 show’s theme was be agate. It generally attracts a very similar crowd of dealers as well. The displays are especially famous- many of the world’s famous mineral museums and greatest private collectors put in mouth watering specimens.
The-Vug tours the Denver Mineral Show
Official site: http://www.denvermineralshow.com/
#3 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines show, France
Outdoor mineral shows are always a great time, especially if they are held in an ancient mining town like the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Show! The gorgeous scenery and rich history of the French countryside setting make this perhaps the world’s most scenic major mineral show. It is one of the premier mineral events in Europe as well and has thousands of visitors. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the show. Check out this show from Thursday through the last weekend in June if you’d like to attend a superb European event!
Official site: http://www.sainte-marie-mineral.com/an_index.php
#4 Munich Mineraltage – Munich, Germany
This show takes place right around Halloween, late October, first days of November, typically. The show is located in three huge halls, which are formerly airplane hangers! The whole Trade Fair Center is the old Munich airport, converted into a giant convention center. The show has over 1,000 dealers from all over the world, separated into areas for mineral dealers, lapidary, fossils, crystal healing, and all sorts of other fun niches. Each year the show has a theme and the exhibits are never short of amazing. The show is run by the Keilmann family and you can see them breezing by on their scooters from hall to hall, ensuring that the show runs like clockwork.
Official site: https://munichshow.com/en/
#5 Tokyo International Mineral Fair- Tokyo, Japan
First held in 1988, the Tokyo International Mineral Fair is the largest and oldest mineral show in Asia. This show is focused on compact and high end booths geared towards a retail rather than wholesale audience. Rare and systematic mineral dealers are fairly numerous at the show due to the higher than average national interest in systematic mineral collecting. This is a good show to go to for those who are looking for unusual or specialized material. Japan also has many mineral localities that have produced wonderful specimens that are rarely if ever seen in the west. This is a great event to look at or purchase unique local Japanese material. The next show is being held on December 6th through 9th in 2014.
Official Website: http://www.tokyomineralshow.com/english/
#6 Rockhound Gemboree- Bancroft, Ontario, Canada
Every summer during the first weekend in August, Canada’s largest show is held in the nation’s heartland of mineral collecting. Bancroft is widely referred to as “Canada’s Mineral Capital” for having an abundance of abandoned mines and other mineral collecting localities open to the general public. This mineral show usually has an excellent selection of local material and esoteric specimens. It often attracts smaller dealers as well as major Canadian dealers. Swapping specimens is also encouraged at this show. Visitors looking for a fun outing in nature should consider mineral collecting in the region. Ask local museums or dealers what their recommendations are based on your experience. Many different kinds of minerals can be found like apatite, sodalite, rose quartz, and fluorescents.
Official site: http://rockhoundgemboree.ca/
#7 Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Shows- Quartzsite, Arizona, USA
This event has been an agate licker’s paradise for nearly 50 years. This unique series of mineral shows is held outside and dealers often sell specimens out of their RVs. Quartzsite offers a total of nine show locations with events being held from mid January to late February. These events are great for bartering or swapping of all kinds so bring plenty of trading material if you plan on going! While you are in Arizona for this event, you also may want to check out the many world famous mineral and gem shows in Tucson which happen at the same time.
#8 NY/NJ Mineral Fossil, Gem, and Jewelry Show- Edison, New Jersey, USA
The NY/NJ is the newest out of all the shows in this list but is a true up-and-comer. It is held yearly in Edison, NJ during mid-April and over 300 dealers attend making it the largest current mineral show held in the NYC metro area. There is something for everyone at this show and dealers selling material ranging from very inexpensive to the finest quality are present. Many dealers also have a small selection of locally dugs specimens too. Though the focus is mostly on minerals and fossils, jewelry and lapidary materials are sold in abundance too. The displays at this new show have big hits. They have featured wonderful classic East Coast specimens that have both been dug recently or are of historic importance.
Official Website: http://www.ny-nj-gemshow.com/
#9 Houston Fine Mineral Show- Houston, Texas, USA
The Houston Fine Mineral Show is one of the few major mineral shows that is free to the public to attend. Texas is home to many of the US’ finest recently assembled collections and their collectors, which means the displays at this event are typically some of the best that can be imagined. Dealers at this show typically specialize in fine minerals, meaning their specimens are of very high quality but are often quite expensive. Many of the world’s most advanced collectors visit this show and it serves as an important place for them to meet as well as purchase specimens.
Official Website: http://www.westwardminerals.com/finemineralshow/pages/houston.html
#10 Changsha Mineral and Gem Show – Changsha, Hunan Province, China
China has been cranking out plenty of new specimens over the past two decades so it should not be surprising that mineral collecting is getting extremely popular in this country. This is a new phenomenon; mineral specimen collecting culture is fairly new to China in comparison to other nations. Hunan province, where Changsha is located is home to many mineral specimen producing mines that are currently being worked. This mineral show is very large and growing quickly. It attracts international dealers and may soon become the largest mineral show in Asia. The 2014 show is being held May 15th through 20th.
Official site: http://www.changsha-show.com/html/en_index/