Dead center in the great wide state of Montana, a deposit of quartz crystals can be found. Typically double terminated, squat crystals with very short c-axis, these come in clear, milky and smoky and available for people of all ages to find!
This photo was used in the October 1971 issue of Gems and Minerals Magazine. This shows how they can be confused with actual diamonds, with their form.
There are dozens of locations around the world where quartz “diamonds” are produced. You see, people want diamonds. Marketing has told us how desirable they are, how they signify love. Just wait until the November through March, non-stop jewelry store commercials pushing whatever diamond scheme they have this year on everyone. In 2014 it was those terrible “chocolate diamonds” which are one step above industrial grade. The truth is, there are way more diamonds in the world than there will ever be a need for, so it is an artificial market kept afloat by you and me. With that in mind, a random that has very little knowledge about minerals can pick up a double terminated, squat quartz crystal and think “DIAMOND!”. This gives the name to so many deposits. Cape May New Jersey Diamonds, Herkimer New York Diamonds, Montana Diamonds, Pecos New Mexico Diamonds, Pakistan Diamonds, Tibetan Diamonds…all…quartz. Well, everyone loves quartz crystals, so hey, even if someone was disappointed that they didn’t find diamonds, us rockhounds are happy with what they found!
Montana Diamonds are found about 20 miles from the town of Lewistown Montana, nearly smack dab in the middle of Montana. On the top of Judith Peak, an open area for collecting with hand tools, an abandoned radar installation is located. All of the road construction and removal of trees and overburden for the buildings has uncovered ample ground for searching and rockhounding. At an elevation of 6,386 feet above sea level, an igneous deposit of rhyolite has been pushed up to the surface. The rhyolite cools at different rates, the slowly cooling rock giving more time for the quartz crystals to grow larger. This deposit hit the right notes, leaving a layer of rhyolite that contains these well formed crystals.
The Judith Mountains are located in Central Montana. Judith Peak is about 20 miles outside of Lewistown.
The pinpoint on the map shows Judith Peak and the pin covers up the main collecting area.
This area is a great place to start prospecting – This is home to an defunct US radar installation.
Judith Peak itself is composed of quartz-bearing porphyry…The small, angular light colored flakes compose the crest and slopes. Pine trees grow thickly upon it, and in places they have been burned and the porphyry has been reddened or blackened by the fire.
On the north side of the slopes fall away into several steeply descending, half-funnel gulches. The angles of slope of the broken porphyry is extremely steep, and the gulches have almost the aspect of amphitheaters. Farther down the blocks of the broken porphyry naturally becomes larger.
Almost at the summit of Judith Peak, a few hundred yards north-west, the porphyry appears crushed and filled with narrow quartz seams, which are stated to carry low values in gold. Southward from here, although the porphyry is greatly rotted and broken down, it can be seen that there is a gradual increase in the number and size of the quartz phenocrysts until,…these quartzes assume a large size, the phenocrysts being often an inch or more long. The quartz crystals weather out as pebbles, and very perfect specimens may be obtained
In this photo from the 1971 October issue of Gems and Minerals, you can see a collector searching for quartz crystals in the rhyolite.
Well over 100 years of collecting quartz from this location and yet…there is still more to be found! So, if you find yourself in Montana, right about dead center, you’ll be close to some fantastic quartz collecting!
Mountain Pass is a famous mineral deposit that is found between Baker California and Las Vegas, immediately off the sides of highway 15, making access to the huge deposits of rare earth elements absurdly easy.
However, easy as the deposits are to get to, please don’t think of giant sparkling crystals…or even dull, earthy, single crystals. The diverse mixture of minerals found in the Mountain Pass district occur as frozen crystals in a barite-carbonate deposit. That means, these are just…rocks. Or, rather, solid chunks of minerals, requiring some lapidary work to enjoy the wonderful mineralogy found in this interesting deposit.
The history of the Mountain Pass district is quite interesting, from the original prospecting for silver, gold and sulphides, to the uranium boom in the 1950’s, when it was discovered that much of the belt of rolling hills north and south of the Sulphide Queen mine, which is right on the side of what is now highway 15, contained large amounts of radioactive rocks. While there was no uranium, the rocks are rich in heavy elements of cesium, lanthium, europium and neodymium. Mineralogically, we find a host rock of barium, dolomite and calcite that can have various mixtures of mica, apatite, bastensite, zircon and more. Take a peak at these microscopic drawings of thin slices of rock from Mountain Pass, as found in the USGS report HERE http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0261/report.pdf
This is not TellMeAboutMineralDepositHistory.com, this is WhereToFindRocks.com! So, let me tell you how to add a specimen or two of this interesting mineral deposit to your collection!
We can start with MRDS, one of our favorite websites and a prospecting field collector’s best friend. This site lists a vast majority of all claims made for mineral deposits and lays them out in a way that makes prospecting readily accessible to everyone.
We start out by getting close to the area we want to review, in this case, the Mountain Pass district.
Once we have this area outlined, we can request the data, using the button below the map. Personally, I enjoy using it with Google Earth and I will show you how that is done.
By selecting the google earth data output, we are given a page that shows a downloadable link to the data. Clicking the blue link and saving that file will give you a .kml file. If you have Google Earth installed, you simply need to double click this file and google earth will open up, showcasing the X’s and crossed hammers of mine sites as shown on the MRDS map.
From here we can move into the map and start looking at the landscape surrounding the deposit. We can see the Mountain Pass Molybdocorp mining area to the north of highway 15, in addition to that, there are an abundance of X’s South of highway 15.
Clicking on the X’s we can see the prospects, both inactive and active, for REE-Barium, scattered all over the hillside. You can clearly see the outline of the deposit from the borders of the prospects and note that many of these prospects are on the brown/tan outcrops along the mountainside. One simply needs to exit on Baily road and turn South. Several outcrops are readily available immediately off the road with minimal hiking.
There are so many deposits along these well graded dirt roads, one could investigate them all day…or, simply stop here and stretch your legs on a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and pick up a piece of this interesting material.
Close up view of a slabbed specimen of carbonate-barite REE mineralization from the Mountain Pass District.
This photo was taken with a 18 watt Short-Wave UV light, showcasing the carbonate content reaction.
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
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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.
You don’t even want to THINK about how much it costs to get a jump start in the desert, 80 miles from nowhere.
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!
Crack Hammer and Chisel
Paper for Wrapping Specimens
Pick Axe (Optional)
Wheeler-Rex 590 Soil Pipe Cutter (Optional)
Search for Minerals from Iowa
View a map of the locations of these geodes by visiting MinDat.org’s copy of this map Click Here to Load Map
Geodes in the Warsaw formation of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. Each ‘x’ is a geode location. Originally from Arthur E. Smith (1997): Geodes from the Warsaw Formation of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, Rocks & Minerals, 72:6, 420-423. Updated and colorized by William W. Besse.
Many sites in the tri-state area of southeast Iowa, northeast Missouri and western Illinois produce geodes of world class quality. In fact, nowhere else in the world is richer in geodes than this strange area of the Midwest, where the Mississippian geode bearing Warsaw limestone formation is exposed near the surface. The geodes can reach 20cm across or larger and are mostly lined with quartz crystals though a variety of minerals like calcite, dolomite, sphalerite, and even millerite have been found in geodes. Geodes can be found wherever the Warsaw formation can be found outcropping. They can also be dug from riverbanks. Many fee dig sites for geodes are found in the areas of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois rich in geodes.
A pipe cutter, specifically the model above (Wheeler-Rex 590 Soil Pipe Cutter) is great for opening geodes. Simply score the geode around the perimeter lightly with a hammer and chisel, clamp the cutter around the perimeter of the geode, and then carefully apply pressure until the geode splits. It is most desirable to split geodes into two equal sized hemispheres.
Large quartz geode from Keokuk area- 20 cm diameter. Collected by David Wixom. K. Nash specimen and photo.
Typical geode and associated minerals (calcite and dolomite) from Keokuk, Iowa area. 4cm x 4cm. Rolf Lutcke specimen and photo. Ex. Paul Griswold
Sheffler Rock Shop and Geode Mine:
RR1 Box 171
Alexandria, MO 63430
At junction of Highway 61 and 27, 6mi S of Alexandria
(660) 754 – 1134
$25 per day for 50 lbs of material. 75 cents for each additional pound
Calcite and quartz geode from the Sheffler Geode Mine. A good specimen for the locality. 10 cm wide. Roger Sedgwick specimen and photo. Collected by owner.
Geodes are very abundant at this locality, hence the high limit for material. They are typically filled with quartz crystals but some other interesting mineralization can be observed. Dolomite, calcite, and pyrite are common accessories. It is best to use a prybar to free the geodes from the limestone matrix and open them at home or wherever they can be carefully cleaned, opened, and sorted.
Des Moines River, Iowa and Missouri
Geodes can be found abundantly in the outcrops on the shores of the Des Moines river. Bring a shovel to loosen geodes from the muddy banks and wash them in the river so the surface features can be seen. Some rocks at these riverbank localities may be deceiving and look like geodes but are just cobbles that have been well-rounded by erosion. These geodes can be filled with a wide variety of minerals and be of extremely varying but most will only contain quartz and typically at most one other species such as calcite or dolomite.
Jacobs’ Geode Shop and Mine:
823 East County Rd 1220
Hamilton, IL 62341
Caption: Collector with large pile of geodes in Jacobs’ Geode Mine workings. E. Harrington photo.
Call before visiting. It is best to dig while the owners are around so they can show you the best technique to use at this site. It’s a good idea to call in advance to make sure they will be at the mine. The all day fee is reported to be $20. Apparently the owners only allow visitors to crack certain geodes on site so most of the prep work should be done at home. Reported to produce very nice material
7cm geode with 3.5cm calcite crystal. E. Harrington specimen and photo.
Marcasite crystal in geode. FOV 4.5mm. Collected and photographed by David Hanson.
Dennis Stevenson Geodes:
625 S. 18th St., Hamilton, Illinois
Call ahead to plan a trip: 309-337-3089 or 217-847-2952
$20 for one bucket, $15 for each additional one.
Mostly quartz based geodes, but some have nice calcite crystals as well. A staple Midwestern geode locality.
Find out what minerals Iowa is and has produced, check out what is new on eBay