Rockhounding 101 – How to REALLY FIND minerals and rocks!

Rocky Rockhammer MascotOn this website we are sharing information about locations that some of the various contributors to this site have gone to. All of us find out about these mineral locations from various sources. Many locations have been talked about in every media format available, some published locations are so well known it is common to run into another collector at any time, some of the locations published are visited less than a couple times a year, if at all. By media, I mean, printed in magazines, books, club newsletters, posted online in forums, websites, on homemade video, on professional video and on television. Some collectors will grumble that all this publicity will make the location run dry. It makes local officials either look forward to increased tourism, or look for ways to restrict access, as if rockhounding was a hobby that allows one to retire early (on public gains!), rather than typically be retired to enjoy! Mineral collecting is a truly patriotic hobby! Knowing and understanding minerals and the deposits has always been a matter of national security, public knowledge and scientific outreach.

While many websites will tell you about what tools you need and speak of rock hammers, backpacks and boots, our #1 tool is knowledge. First hand, published and in modern mythic tales, obtaining information about locations is something that is the first step to find out as much as possible about a location before ever visiting it.

Field Guides are a great resource, as well as magazines focused on rockhounding, from now all the way back into the beginning of the 20th century! Old magazines like “Rockhounds” and “The Mineralogist” are great resources, as well as old and current issues of “Rocks and Minerals” and “Rock and Gem”. All of these can be found for sale on eBay and at various mineral shows around the united states. You never know when you are going to come across a great article about a location you had JUST heard about! One of the most amazing online databases is the complete run of “American Mineralogist” on http://www.minsocam.org/msa/ammin/toc/
The older issues have articles that have lead me to locations that might have been completely forgotten about.

Mindat.org is an amazing database that many of you are already familiar with, however, we often forget to think about just how amazing this database is, including lists of references for corresponding articles and books about the subject.

Geology Departments of the state you live in or adjacent to you, has produced several state reports on mines and minerals, which will often include information that can be very useful now. In the early 1900’s, feldspar was an important commodity, unlike now. Knowledge of mineral deposits will tell us commercial feldspar deposits also had garnets and schorl tourmaline, sometimes quartz or even topaz. Often an entire hardcover book has been produced, detailing the minerals and the locations they are found, across the state. California has at least THREE editions of this kind of text and I’m sure there are several people planning the next edition.

Road Atlas are great to have when you are planning and while you are en route. I personally love the DeLorme series, nice large print maps that have helped guide me to countless locations. The BLM has a program you can use, the LR2000, but my personal favorite database is the MRDS, Mineral Resource Data System, detailing the principal and secondary ore and location of all working, placed and closed mines and mineral locations. Just load the map and locate your location. I think you’ll be surprised what you might not know about the mines in your proximity. While traveling through Utah and Colorado, our Road Map was invaluable, showing BLM land that was open for public camping.

Clubs are a real mixed bag, but as such, you will inevitably come across information from all directions. Both of my favorite beach and fossil collecting spots were told to me by a lady at the Searcher’s Rock Club in Anaheim California. Right now in 2013, I’m cleaning minerals and going field collecting with a friend I made from attending the Culver City Club back in 2004. That is a collecting friend who has gone on dozens of collecting trips with me over 9 years. I’ve learned about so many parts of this hobby from mineral clubs and it has been an enlightening experience in many ways. You can get a complete list of mineral clubs here.

We loved this idea so much, we made it. The Mineral Search Page located Right Here on WheretoFindRocks.com, is something that we made from our LOVE of the general searches for states, countries and forms on eBay. The idea behind this is that if you check out the eBay results for your state, or general area, you’ll come across people who have gone out collecting at public locations and put something on eBay. This can easily lead you to general areas to collect minerals. It is a great first step in researching current producing locations.

Museums and local collections are great resources. You’ll find the museums thing to be easy, if not a long term task. Searching out collections, both old and current, are wonderful sources of information. For instance, if you wanted a good run down of California locations, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has an entire wall devoted to very beautiful representations of our state, as well as the California Mining Museum in Mariposa. I LOVED the Wagner Free Institute which had this amazing OLD collection, untouched for a century. In the same vein, the Natural History museum of Prague featured minerals that had not been updated in decades, revealing a great deal of history that is so often removed from the more mainstream commercial museums. Local collections require a bit more finesse and luck. For example, getting to visit private collections can be mind expanding, as many long time private collectors have seen things that were so common for a small amount of time and now virtually unheard of. However, without some sort of recommendation from someone of some sort of personal relation ship with a private collector, most of them are not exactly looking for random visitors. However, if you had been a member of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California, you would have had the chance to visit with several outstanding collections belonging to members of that club. Which takes us back to Mineral Clubs, and why it is a wise idea to be involved with at least one of them.

Going to mineral shows is a great source of information, as the display cases often reveal locations that are open to collection. In fact, the name tags in the cases often match up to the club member’s name tags, the people running the mineral show, and often you can strike up a conversation about their display case.

Libraries all around have lead me to some wild collecting adventures. Your local library is going to have a couple things for sure, often books about the geology of the area, as well as a collection of the state’s publications on geological topics. A great for instance is back in the very beginning of my collecting days, some friends of mine discovered the 1962 edition of “Mineral Collecting in Pennsylvania”, which drove us in a search for the “Azurite” included quartz crystals of Kunkletown. The book was wrong, but there is nothing wrong with Anatase included Quartz, which we found. My most recent discovery of Lawsonite on the beaches of Southern California due to a geological sand sample report. You can read all about that in my upcoming blog entry.

Google Maps and Google Earth are to powerful tools that everyone has at their fingertips. You can do amazing amounts of research with both of these tools, locating mineral locations right down to their visible mine tailings! Understanding the various uplifts, errosion patterns, depressions and faint roads to nowhere are very useful for today’s mineral collector. A simple test, pick your favorite collecting area and look at it on google earth. You will see things you might have never noticed on foot.

Now, my secrets are revealed to you. I hope you use them wisely!

I want to leave you with this note, written by Rock Currier in the publication, “About Mineral Collecting” released by the Mineralogical Record.

Field collectors are a remarkable and accomplished breed. They are perhaps the rarest and purest kind of mineral collectors. They hearken back to the very beginnings of what we now call the earth sciences, and in many ways they embody the simple thrill and youthful joy of the treasure hunt. If you look you will find them “out there” trekking over just one more mountain, digging down just another foot, and hoping for just a little bit longer that they will find something. But remember, the first law of field collecting states: “The best to be found is still in the ground and the best that has been found has be ground!” (that is, ground up into powder in the mill and processed into metal)

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2012 Christmas Gifts: Ideas for the Rockhounds in your life!

Gift giving season is officially upon us and for the RockHounds in your life, we made this list of our top 10 suggestions for gifts this year! From stocking stuffers to the item that will make a certain someone squeal with joy, everyone in the office had our eyes set on a few of these items.

#10. Mindat.org Sticker Book – A few years ago Mindat.org published this cute stickerbook and the sticker sets were somewhat difficult to put together. The 10 sticker set is fun, one sticker for each number on mohs hardness scale. For $8.00, these are fun stocking stuffers for kids and adults!

Mindat.org Sticker Book

#9 Colored Mineral Tack – We love this idea, tinted mineral tack. One of the best ways to stabilize a specimen for display, the goal of using mineral tack is to hide it from view. The stark white color makes this task difficult, but these tinted tacks can be a close match for the matrix or crystal color, allowing you to not worry as much about the white tack being the thing distracting from your crystals. In little lumps of colored tack at $1.49 each, you could visit this eBay store and select a few colors and make a set. Every mineral collector NEEDS mineral tack, you can’t go wrong with giving a rockhound mineral tack!

Colored Mineral Tack

#8 The Mineral Art of Hildegard Konighofer – Hildegard Konighofer’s art is shockingly realistic, capturing the spirit of each crystal she paints. This book features dozens of her paintings, which feature a wide array of selections and locations. A beautiful way to cross the worlds of art and minerals together, these limited edition books are sure to be a long treasured item for any mineral collector. Available from Blue Cap Productions for $170.00

Hildegard Konighofer

Hildegard Konighofer
#7 A Rock Tumbler – Rock tumbling is a wonderful way to get something done with all the rock chunks pouring out of every knapsack and cardboard flat in garages of rockhounds around the world. Everyone, seriously, everyone, can use a rock tumbler! This website, RockTumbler.com, has everything you need to know about selecting a unit, and this Lortone is the perfect universal size and under $100!

RockTumbler.com most popular rock tumbler the Lortone Model 3a

#6 Cuprite T-shirt – If Copper is wrong, I don’t wanna be Cuprite. A funny pun that will be highly appreciated at any mineral club meeting, collecting trip, mineral show or geology class! Available in Small through Double Extra Large, this is a great christmas gift idea, available for under $20 shipped, fortysevenpress.com

Mineral Pun T-shirts
#5 Arkansas Diamond Combo – Diamonds! There is only ONE public diamond mine in the world and it is in the tourist friendly section of the rural south, Murfreesboro Arkansas. For a nominal fee you can visit the park and try your luck at finding a diamond. The Blue Cap Productions combo pack includes two DVDs, hosted by Glenn Worthington, one of young mineral collectors searching for diamonds, the other a professional video tour of the area. Everything you need to know about collecting at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is found between these two items! Over $10.00 off the retail price, both DVDs for $32.99

DVD set Find your own Diamonds in Arkansas
#4 Magazine Collection/Vug Book – For the book collector that has it all, we can certifiably say that they do not have a full set of The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine. These sets were HARD to put together, as some of them were only available in Europe, some of them had very small print runs and they were all distributed around the world at different mineral shows. The publisher has made a few complete sets available, but it might be a wise option to buy the full reprint book instead. The magazine (and book) have tons of beautiful photos, articles, maps and information. Any rockhound would love to get this book as a gift! The Original Magazine set is $229.99, the book reprint of the entire series is $34.95

Mineral Website Magazine Book Reprint
#3 All in One polisher – The classic, workhorse all in one flat lap. The perfect item for so many various uses for the rockhound, from grinding matrix, making things display better, polishing cabochons, making freeforms, putting a window on an agate, polishing a face on a quartz crystal, the all in one flat lap is a great gift item for the rockhound in your life! A model like this one, with a series of different grit wheels, runs around $549.99 new. They hold their resale value for many years.

Ameritool All in One Universal Grinder
#2 Blue Cap DVD Sets – Blue Cap Productions produces these fantastic, high quality, in-depth videos of minerals, mineral shows and subjects related to the hobby. I have been witness to what happens when these DVDs are played in a room of mineral collectors…silence. Everyone is so fixed on the screen, looking at the beautiful crystals being presented. These DVDS are awesome, you can put them on anytime, you learn by experiencing all these minerals shown by the people who know them best! Blue Cap productions has these sets of DVDs, one that has all of the What’s Hot in Tucson DVD’s and the other has EVERY DVD produced by Blue Cap, with some great topics! We highly recommend these. $145.00 for the What’s Hot in Tucson Set and $315.00 for the whole production line, the most complete documentary of mineral collecting in the last decade.

What's Hot in Tucson DVD Package

Complete Blue Cap Productions DVD Set
#1 Best sized Sledge Ever – 12 pound short handle – You can NEVER, EVER, have too many short handled sledge hammers. If the rockhound in your life has never had one of these short handled sledges, they are in need of this eye opening experience. The short handle allows for higher accuracy and the ability to work in a tight situation. Short handles fit into your knapsack with ease, better than trying to haul that long handled sledge on a hike. At $34.95, these are a great gift item for your favorite rockhound!

Short Handled Sledge Hammer

And of course, rocks rocks rocks! Everyone loves rocks! Quartz Crystals, Kyanite, Tourmaline, Garnets, you can never go wrong with some rocks for the rockhounds in your life! We suggest checking out Jewels Fine Minerals on eBay, you can not go wrong with any single item in that entire selection. That dealer ships quickly and is worth checking out.

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Agate Collecting in Colorado – Wolf Creek Pass Zeolites

Near the border of Archuleta County in Colorado, Wolf Creek Pass and Treasure Mountain contain a deposit of silicates and zeolites that have made their way into mineral collections around the world. The collecting area, spread out over the rocky mountainside, is often referred to as Wolf Creek Pass. However, Wolf Creek Pass is actually a 10,000 foot mountain pass that wraps around Treasure Mountain and follows the Wolf Creek. The mountain does not bear gold or jewels, but the volcanic basalt deposits are near a very photogenic waterfall, Treasure Falls. Surrounded by scenic views, this basalt deposit is one of the most thrilling areas of Colorado. Hotels.com has great deals on hotels around Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado

Quartz specimen with banded agate and a crystal center with a slight purple hue.
Quartz specimen with banded agate and a crystal center with a slight purple hue.
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)

Treasure Mountain is named after the legendary stash of gold, left behind by a French expedition in 1790. Several search parties have tried to find the fortune of gold bars acquired from a gold deposit near the Peak of Treasure Mountain, but none have been successful in finding the bars or the deposit.

Much of the collecting area is adjacent to highway route 160 and in the boulders and exposed rock of the mountainside just north of the falls. The mineralized area is fairly large and boulders containing the material have been distributed across the area, both naturally and due to the construction of route 160 and Wolf Creek Pass. In fact, due to the close proximity to Archeuleta county to the south, part of the deposit crosses this manmade border separating the counties which only serves to cause confusion in geographic labeling of specimens from this deposit.

Map of the Treasure Creek Agate and Zeolite location
Map of the Agate and Zeolite locations around Wolf Creek.

Rounded amygdaloids fill the voids in the volcanic deposit of basalt, as with many occurences. These host crystals of quartz and about half a dozen zeolite minerals.

The quartz and agate are similar to that found in many other volcanic silica deposits. The agate is typically clear, white and/or shades of blue, often with alternating layers that make it desirable for lapidary use. Some have crystallized centers. Typically the crystals form on a layer of agate, which varies in thickness from miniscule shells to thick rinds. Sometimes the crystals are amethyst, making attractive specimens on dark colored volcanic matrix. Though the agate and quartz found here do not rival that found at many other locations, it is one of only a few still open for collecting.

Of course, the zeolite species are what makes the location a true Colorado classic. Analcime is typically found as very small crystals usually below 1 cm in size. However, at one location, analcime is found up to 3.5 cm. Chabazite occurs here, but not in crystals larger than a few millimeters in size. Heulandite is sometimes found as crystals up to 5 cm across. However, typically the crystals are only millimeters in size, lining the cavities and serving as matrix to other minerals. One such mineral is mordenite, which is found as well formed clusters of white fibers. These clusters, up to a few centimeters in size, were referred to as being one of the best locations for the species in the United States for many years.

Mordenite crystals in a vug of basalt
Mordenite crystals in a vug of basalt
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)
Mordenite Crystals up to 2 cm long can be found at the location
Mordenite Crystals up to 2 cm long can be found at the location
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)

Other associated minerals include globular common opal, small rhombs of calcite, and small pyrite crystals. The locality is also a classic locality for the clay minerals celadonite and nontronite, which form in abundance. Laumonite, natrolite and wellsite also occur in the deposit, but they occur rarely and only as small crystals

Isolated Heulandite crystal on matrix.  Specimen size is 6 millimeters
Isolated Heulandite crystal on matrix. Specimen size is 6 millimeters
Photo by Luigi Mattei
Several voids filled with celadonite
Several voids filled with celadonite overall size 10 x 5 x 3 cm.
Photo by Martins da Pedra

Due to the vast deposit and mountain conditions, this source of colorful quartz, agate and zeolites will always exist in the mountains of Colorado. Maybe the lack of gold is a bit disappointing for a mountain with such high aspirations, but to many mineral collectors around the world, the real treaures are the mineral collecting opportunities and the often-visited Treasure Falls.

If you enjoyed this article, it was originally printed in The-Vug.com Magazine, which was released as a hardcover coffee table book, collecting all 16 issues of the original magazine. It is 324 pages, hardcover and full color, available directly from the publisher at FortySevenPress.com For $34.95, it is full of great photos, articles, collecting locations and more! Get your copy to add to your mineral book library!

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Field Guide Review: Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona

Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona is a thick field guide to 90 locations across the state of Arizona, most still available for collecting in 2012!

Originally published in 2006, this book contains complete, easy to follow maps and directions to each location, along with colorful photos by Jeff Scovil.
For the absolute beginner, there is a nice chunk of informative reading in the front of the book, giving the basic information for several minerals, along with global mineral information like cleavage, hardness and luster. A bit of time is spent on rock formations and geologic conditions, which will help understand the basics behind why minerals are found where they are.

The copy we have has been used to travel to nearly half of the locations in the book. The book gives clear instructions for reaching a location, along with GPS directions, which are easy to punch into google maps while en-route to a location. In addition, each location pinpointed in the book has produced the material described and only once has there been claim markers up on a location showcased. We have collected Hematite crystals, UV minerals, Dendrites, Calcite, Selenite, and Serpentine. Several trips inspired by this book have resulted in fine specimens that are in our permanent collections.
Clicking the book cover will show you available copies for purchase on Amazon.
Book Cover of Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona by Neil R. Bearce
Check out eBay for copies of this book for sale and other minerals of Arizona

There are a lot of field guides to choose from, each with their own unique features. In addition to the easy to follow directions, colorful photos and the accuracy of the information presented, the book also does a great job covering the state, listing collecting spots all over the state, with close proximity to other states. For instance, the residents and visitors to Saint George Utah might be surprised to find that a deposit of Gypsum/Selenite is available in the hills stretching out into Arizona, available from the back roads connecting through Utah. More locations spill across into New Mexico and several of them are a perfect distance between Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Many field collecting guides are simply shelf filler, this book has a wide variety of information, collecting options and we can not recommend another mineral field collecting guide more.

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Maryland’s Chromite Deposits – A Mineralogical Monopoly

The Serpentine Barrens of Central Maryland produced an interesting landscape for a 19th century business monopoly on chromite ore, being the sole resource for world looking for new metal alloys. In addition to the facinating story of this legacy of chromite ore, the mines also produced a line of fine minerals, brucite, antigorite in fine crystals and the gem variety of serpentine known as “wiliamsite”.

Today, much of the serpentine deposits in Maryland and Pennsylvania serve as a wildlife sanctuary. The serpentine rocks and their serpentine soils were not fit for cultivation, providing a natural host for sparse grasses, scrub brushy oaks and acid loving pine trees. In addition, rare wildflowers are found only in these uncommon serpentine soils. Because these areas were never fit for cultivating, only nice flat farm land has been turned into housing developments, leaving these woodlands free from destruction. At one point in time, these areas of scrub oaks and rocky soil would have looked barren in comparison to the rich tree heavy forests surrounding that land. Now, in contrast to the houses and civilization popping up in every direction, the serpentine barrens are a rich forest

You can read this full article on this PDF, just click on the page below. This is an excerpt from the book reprint of The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine, which contains all sixteen issues of the magazine. You can buy the book on The-Vug.com and it has dozens upon dozens of articles like this, written by a variety of world traveling mineral collectors. We highly suggest this book, it is a STEAL at $34.95

line pit chromite article free pdf link

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