Collecting Tourmaline in Colorado – Brown Derby #1 Field Trip

The Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, Gunnison County, Colorado- An unusual LCT-Type Pegmatite with Rubellite Tourmaline, Lepidolite and Rare Earth Element Species
Philip M. Persson
3139 Larimer St., Denver, CO, 80205
perssonrareminerals.com
Exploration Geologist

When it comes to Colorado pegmatite’s, most people think of the vivid and prolific smoky quartz and ‘Amazonite’ feldspar combinations or perhaps fluorite or topaz crystals from the Pike’s Peak batholith, which can be seen in collections all over the world. Tourmaline is certainly not a species that comes to most collector’s mind’s from the Rocky Mountains, yet Colorado does contain several unusual and interesting pegmatite’s of the ‘LCT’ (lithium-tantalim-Niobium) type which contain fairly high-quality (though not ‘gem’ in the pocket sense) tourmaline crystals along with other rarer species. The most notable and certainly the most studied of these deposits is the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, located in the Ohio City/Quartz Creek District, approximately 18 miles northeast of Gunnison in the high mountains of Central Colorado. First mentioned by Eckel (1933) and later by Staatz and Trites (1955) in their exhaustive study on the Quartz Creek Pegmatite District, this locality has long been of interest to both collectors and mineralogists. In recent years, however, due to a combination of property access issues, remoteness, and a shift in focus of Colorado collecting to ‘dig’ localities for smoky quartz, amazonite et cetera, the Brown Derby seems all but forgotten. This article is not an attempt to eclipse or duplicate the already extensive literature on this locality, but rather provide a modern and collector-oriented perspective on this fascinating deposit.

Quartz Creek Pegmatite District

Gunnison Colorado, where the Quartz Creek Pegmatite District is located


Quartz Creek Pegmatite District

Close up of the Quartz Creek Pegmatite District


Figure 1: Map showing location of Gunnison in Central Colorado (‘A’), with inset from Hanley et al. (1950) showing the Quartz Creek Pegmatite District, with the Brown Derby #1 Deposit marked with red star.

The Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite is the largest and most mineralogically-complex of a group of over 5 semi-parallel, dike-like pegmatite bodies which are situated on the western slope of a fairly prominent ~9400 foot high hill above the small settlement of Ohio City, approximately 18 miles northeast of Gunnison, Colorado, and 180 airline miles southwest of Denver. (Staatz & Trites 1955). According to Cerny (1991)’s pegmatite classification scheme, these are classic ‘LCT’ (lithium-tantalum-niobium) type deposits, and contain the geochemical and mineralogical characteristics of such deposits. They intrude ~1.7 billion year old metadiorite and associated metamorphic rocks of the Idaho Springs group, the Precambrian basement complex which covers a large portion of the State. Geochronology work by Heinrich (1967) and others found the pegmatite’s to be syngenetic to metamorphosis of the host rocks ~1.7 billion years ago, and they intruded as large sheet-like bodies parallel to the internal foliation and structure of the host rock. They strike N/NE and dip gently into the steep southeast hillside at 20-35 degrees (Heinrich 1967). The largest 3 pegmatite’s of the Brown Derby group all display exceptional mineralogical and geochemical zoning which is typical of most large LCT-type deposits, with the #1 Dike exhibiting the highest mineral diversity.

along the strike of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite
Figure 2: Looking Southeast along the strike of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite; large metal grate visible in center of photo is covering one of the underground drifts leading to a large stope on the core of the deposit. (Photo copyright Rudy Bolona/mindat.org)

Entrance to the #2 Tunnel, or main adit of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite
Figure 3: The Entrance to the #2 Tunnel, or main adit of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, showing the sharp contact between pegmatite (white rock) and overlying metadiorite (dark gray) at the hanging wall contact. (Photo copyright Rudy Bolona/mindat.org)

The #1 Pegmatite was developed from the early 1930’s through the 1970’s and was mined principally for the lithium content of lepidolite, along ceramic-grade feldspar, minor beryl, and a somewhat substantial production of microlite, a tantlum species, though it is unclear if the resulting microlite concentrate was ever processed (Heinrich, 1967). It is presently divided into two properties in legal terms; a large surface exposure with associated dumps, which sit on National Forest/BLM land and are open to mineral collecting, and a fairly small underground portion which is owned by a group which identifies themselves as ‘Precious Offerings Mineral Exchange, LLC’ and is based in Boulder, Colorado. They are involved in Bureau of Mines-mandated remediation work on the underground workings of the Brown Derby #1 Mine, and as their willingness to allow collectors underground is not presently known. The author does not want to encourage activity which may compromise their remediation efforts; therefore this article will focus on specimens and species which can be collected from surface dumps and exposures, of which there are many. Hopefully in the future, the owners of the underground mineral rights will allow collectors to participate in their efforts to recover specimens from this unusual deposit.

The Brown Derby Mine is best approached from U.S Highway 50 from a small turnoff approximately 6 miles east of the small settlement of Parlin and 17 miles east of Gunnison. Turn north here onto Forest Service road 802, also locally marked as the 44 Road. From here, continue north ~1.5 miles, bearing right at the ‘Y’ onto 802 north where some small granitic-looking outcrops start to become visible on your right. Continue on this fairly good dirt road north/northeast past a small stream crossing (may not be passable to passenger cars after recent rain or in the spring) and ~1 mile after the stream crossing, bear left at another fork up an obvious large ‘humpback’ like sagebrush-covered hill, passing a cattle fence (please respect local ranchers and close gate after your drive through!). Continue on this steepening road for another ~1.5 miles over somewhat rough terrain (4 wheel drive/AWD necessary, though high clearance is not mandatory for this section) until you reach a large flat ridgeline with small aspen trees in a grove on your left. This is a good camping spot. Continue until the road apparently disappears into the sage rush, then pick up another fairly good dirt road leading steeply downhill to the left/west towards now fairly obvious white pegmatite mine dumps below you. Continue down past several switchbacks to an eventual right turn through an open gate to a mine access road leading past an abandoned shack where core samples were stored/examined. The large dumps below you and the large gated adit to your right are the Brown Derby #1 Mine.
Tourmaline: Tourmaline is found in an impressive range of colors and several species at the Brown Derby #1 Mine. Of primary interest to collectors are large crystals and sprays of Elbaite variety Rubellite, which ranges from a dull whiteish-yellow color to choice ‘hot pink’ crystals reminiscent of Transbaikal, Russia or Stewart Mine, California rubellite crystals in color. While generally not gemmy, rare crystals to several cm. are found frozen in lepidolite and cleavelandite matrix, which do show gemmy, clear sections that could potentially yield small gems. An early 1970’s Denver Post article reported gem-quality elbaite in small amounts from the Brown Derby Mine (Eckels 1997), but the author has not seen any of this material in collections or institutions. Most impressive and aesthetic are radiating ‘sprays’ of parallel to sub-parallel pink Rubellite crystals set in coarse purple lepidolite matrix, with individual rubellite crystals up to 15 cm. or more in length. Early reports indicate that in several ‘pods’ in the core of the pegmatite, ‘logs’ of elbaite tourmaine crystals up to 30 cm. long showing ‘watermelon’ zoning with rubellite surrounding an elbaite core were found. The author has personally seen well-formed crystals up to 20 x 5 cm. in place. Also interesting are elbaite crystals which are either partially or fully psuedomorphed by lepidolite or muscovite, which are locally common. Large masses of tightly intergrowth elbaite crystals showing an amazing color gradation from lime-green to yellow to pink to reddish within a single crystal were also found fairly commonly (Staatz & Trites 1955). Staatz et al. (1955) looked at the geochemical variations within these crystals as a guide to color and color gradation, as well at petrogenesis of the pegmatite as a whole. Schorl is also found fairly abundantly at the Brown Derby #1 Mine, where it occurs in the wallzone and outer intermediate zones of the pegmatite, generally in subhedral to poor crystals, sometime radiating outward into the metadiorite.

Rubellite tourmaline crystals in quartz
Figure 4: 4 cm. long, slightly gemmy hot-pink Rubellite tourmaline crystals in quartz with partial rubellite crystals surrounding it, Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite.

‘curved’ Rubellite tourmaline crystal in Cleavelandite
Figure 5: Naturally ‘curved’ Rubellite tourmaline crystal in Cleavelandite and lepidolite. Curvature resulted from tectonic movement in pegmatite during crystallization. Scale in cm.

radiating pink Rubellite crystals to ~5 cm
Figure 6: Spray of radiating pink Rubellite crystals to ~5 cm. in fine-grained lepidolite and quartz, similar to Stewart Mine, California material. ~15 cm. field of view.

‘polychrome’ tourmaline
Figure 7: Good example of massive to coarsely-crystalline ‘polychrome’ tourmaline with gradation from pink to green to yellow, showing some translucent to slightly gemmy sections. Field of View 15 cm. across.

Lepidolite: Second after tourmaline in interest to collectors, and arguably more famous from the Brown Derby Mine is Lepidolite, the violet-colored lithium mica, which occurs here as ‘books’ and crystals to over 10” across! Books of lepidolite several inches across are common, and even 6” crystals are not unusual. Masses of nearly solid lepidolite 5-10 feet across can be observed in places in the pegmatite. Lepidolite along with other mica’s at the Brown Derby Mine were studied by Heinrich (1967), who also noted muscovite, zinnwaldite, and polylithionite, though the occurrence of the latter is questionable. In addition to the large tabular hexagonal ‘books’, lepidolite also occurs as large masses of fine-grained, equigranular crystals to several mm., which generally host more unusual species such as microlite or monazite. Finally, an unusual variety known as ‘ball lepidolite’ occurs locally in hemispherical masses up to 15 cm. composed of rounded, subparellel crystals, which supposedly have been worked into cabachons and other lapidary items. All lepidolite from the Brown Derby #1 Mine shows a handsome rich purple color and a generally bright luster.

Lepidolite to 15 cm
Figure 8: Large books of Lepidolite to 15 cm. across in quartz-cleavelandite pegmatite, hand for scale.

Monazite-(Sm): In addition to fairly common mineral like elbaite and lepidolite, the Brown Derby #1 Mine is also unusual in it’s concentration of more unusual rare earth element (REE) species. Arguably the most interesting of these is the recent discovery of Monazite-(Sm), though the possibility of this species at the Brown Derby Was first noted over 50 years earlier by the always astute E.M Heinrich (1960), who analyzed several monazite samples from the Brown Derby #1 Mine containing >10% Samarium(!) Colorado field collector and REE specialist Rudy Bolona collected several specimens of brownish-red massive Monazite associated with white Cleavelandite feldspar and lepidolite from a single boulder on the dumps in 2009, and subsequently has a sample sent to Dr. George B. Morgan at the University of Oklahoma, who analyzed it to be the very rare species Monazite-(Sm), found only at 3 other localities worldwide. While all monazite samples from the Brown Derby #1 Mine analyzed by Heinrich (1960) appear to contain enough Sm to qualify as Monazite-(Sm), Monazite-(Ce) also occurs at this deposit, so it is not safe to assume that all monazite collected at the Brown Derby #1 is Monazite-(Sm). Monazite-(Sm) occurs at the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite as subhedral masses to crude crystals up to ~6.5 cm. across, typically embedded in fine-grained lepidolite with cleavelandite feldspar and quartz. The Brown Derby #1 occurrence may represent the best locality in the world for this rare species, and new finds of this rare mineral are possible on the extensive dumps.

Monazite-(Sm)
Figure 9: Massive reddish-brown Monazite-(Sm) (analyzed) with purple lepidolite, 6.8 cm. across. (Photo copyright Rudy Bolona/mindat.org)

Pollucite: The Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite represents the only Colorado locality for this rare cesium species, which occurs as two large, ~30 cm. wide massive pods in the central core zone of the pegmatite, along with large crude crystals of opaque topaz, cleavelandite, and quartz (personal communication with Rudy Bolona, September 2009). No crystallized material is known, nor has this mineral been reported from the dumps.

Massive white crystalline Pollucite
Figure 10: Massive white crystalline Pollucite, 6.5 cm. across. (Photo copyright Rudy Bolona/mindat.org)

Stibiotantalite: Stibiotantalite is a rare Antimony Tantalum Niobium Oxide species found in LCT-type pegmatite’s and was first described from the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite by Heinrich & Giardini in 1957. It occurs as subhedral to poorly euhedral crystals generally 1-2 cm. but rarely up to 5 cm. associated with the secondary Tantalum species Rynersonite as a white to cream surface alteration of the stibiotantalite. Heinrich & Giardini found stibiotantalite on a large boulder on the dumps of the #1 Pegmatite, and thought that possibly all the stibiotantalite in the #1 pegmatite was contained in this single block, a large mass of cleavelandite, topaz and lepidolite from the core margin core. However, recent finds of small Stibiotantalite crystals by Colorado collectors on the dumps would argue otherwise.

Well-formed 8 mm. long Stibiotantalite
Figure 11: Well-formed 8 mm. long Stibiotantalite crystal on lepidolite-cleavelandite pegmatite, collected recently on the dumps. (Photo copyright Rudy Bolona/mindat.org)

Columbite-(Fe): Columbite-(Fe), the Fe-analogue of the Niobium oxide species Columbite, is found in several assemblages at the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite. In the core margin zone of the pegmatite, it is found with Cleavelandite feldspar, quartz, and mica minerals as large, crudely euhedral crystals to 10 cm. In the border zone of the pegmatite, especially towards the hanging wall contact with the metadiorite, it is found as small (<5 cm.) grains and crude crystals associated with reddish albite/perthite, Euxenite-(Y), and Monazite-(Ce). Nowhere at the Brown Derby deposit is Columbite-(Fe) an especially common nor conspicuous constituent, however it does occur through a wide portion of the pegmatite. Columbite-(Fe) in albite
Figure 12: Partial crude crystal of Columbite-(Fe) in albite, 8 x 6 cm. (Photo copyright Dean Allum/mindat.org)

Euxenite-(Y): A glassy green metamict Rare Earth species, previously identified as Betafite in some literature, is now believed to be Euxenite-(Y) (Heinrich 1967). Euxenite-(Y) is restricted in occurrence at the Brown Derby pegmatite to a core-margin albite replacement near the upper north margin of the core, but may exist in other unrecognized or mined-out zones as well. It occurs here as metamict masses to 4 cm. in weathered red albite with schorl and columbite-(Fe), and is highly radioactive.

Monazite-(Ce): Monazite-(Ce) occurs at the Brown Derby #1 pegmatite in several assemblages, making non-quantitative distinguishing from Monazite-(Sm) difficult to impossible. It is found as fairly sharp euhedral crystals to ~2.5 cm. in red albite with columbite-(Fe), probably from an analogous assemblage to the aforementioned Euxenite-(Y) zone. The Harvard University Mineralogical museum has several excellent crystallized specimens, one of which (HMM #104814) is pictured here.

Monazite-(Ce) to 2.4 cm. in perthite-albite-biotite pegmatite, Harvard Mineralogical Museum
Figure 13: Well-formed crystals of Monazite-(Ce) to 2.4 cm. in perthite-albite-biotite pegmatite, Harvard Mineralogical Museum #104814.

Microlite: Microlite, the complex tantalum oxide species, is known from several zones of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite and was one of the significant economic minerals of this deposit, though the present distribution of microlite in the dumps and in-situ would suggest otherwise. This is probably due to the fact that microlite occurred in concentrated ‘shoots’ or elongated pods in fine-grained lepidolite-quartz-cleavelandite pegmatite, a mode of occurrence similar to that at the famous Harding Pegmatite in New Mexico. These ‘shoots’ were mined selectively for their microlite content, and ~1200 pounds of Microlite was concentrated and stockpiled for processing, though it is unclear if this material was ever actually sold (Hanley 1950). Hanley also estimates that ~9,000 lbs. of microlite remained at the time of his study in 1944 at the Brown Derby #1, though it is unclear how much of that has been mined since. Mineralogically, microlite forms small crude to somewhat euhedral octahedral crystals to 1 cm. with a resinous brown to black luster and distinctive radiation ‘burn halo’s’ in the surrounding lepidolite. These crystals are often quite radioactive and may in fact be uranomicrolite.

Microlite in crude 3-4 mm. crystals in fine-grained purple Lepidolite
Figure 14: Microlite in crude 3-4 mm. crystals in fine-grained purple Lepidolite; specimen 4 cm. across. (Photo copyright John Betts/mindat.org)

Other accessory species: For the sake of brevity as well as the fact that they do not occur in ‘collector-quality’ crystals, other species such as Topaz, Beryl, Garnet, and Bismutite will not be discussed in detail here. Suffice it to say that they are present at the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, and a quick search of the already extensive literature on this deposit will yield many interesting references.

In closing, the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite remains one of the more interesting and unusual pegmatite deposits in Colorado, and unlike many similar localities, a large portion of the dumps as well as surrounding prospects remain both on public land as well being as accessible to vehicles. The Brown Derby #1 deposit is also unusual in that while it continues to yield excellent, aesthetic specimens of relatively common minerals such as Rubellite tourmaline and lepidolite, finds of extremely rare species such as Monazite-(Sm) have also been made recently. If you plan to visit from Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, please be respectful of local claim holders and property owners and exercise safety and common sense around the large dumps and potentially dangerous mine faces and outcrops. With persistence and luck, this locality should continue to yield great mineral specimens for many years to come.

References
1.) ‘Mica’s of the Brown Derby Pegmatites, Gunnison County, Colorado’, Heinrich, E.M, The American Mineralogist, Volume 52, July-August 1962.
2.) ‘A New Lepidolite Deposit in Colorado’, Eckel, F.B., American Scientific Society, 16, pp. 239-245.
3.) ‘Lithia Pegmatites of the Brown Derby Mine, Gunnison County Colorado’, Hanley, John B., 1946, American Mineralogist 31, 147.
4.) ‘Pegmatite Investigations in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah: 1942-1944’, E.M Heinrich et al., USGS Professional Paper Paper 227, 1950.
5.) ‘Stibiotantalite from the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, Colorado’, Heinrich, E.M & Giardini, A.A., American Mineralogist 45, pp. 728-731, 1960.
6.) ‘The Quartz Creek Pegmatite District, Gunnison County, Colorado’, Staatz, M.H. & Trites, A.F., USGS Professional Paper 265, 1955.
7.) ‘Paragenesis of the Topaz-Bearing Portion of the Brown Derby #1 Pegmatite, Gunnison County Colorado’, Rosenberg, P.E., American Mineralogist 57, 571-583, 1972.
8.) Mindat.org, accessed 8-01-2013 to 8-15-2013.

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Cascade Canyon Ruby Crystals – A Los Angeles Hidden Gem

Ruby crystals found near los angeles glow bright red under long wave UV light.

Cascade Canyon, located exactly 1.7 miles southwest of Mt. Baldy, is the home to many interesting, if small, minerals and veins of interesting polishable minerals. Collecting around the top and bottom of the canyon, we have found various qualities and sizes of corundum var. ruby along with small veins of beautiful, if hard to come by, pieces of lapis. In addition, we have found minerals that the area is not well known for, including small dravite crystals, epidote, diopside and uv reactive calcite.

1.7 miles from Mt. Baldy, on the south side of cascade canyon, ruby crystals are found.

The lapis deposit is near the top of the mountain, with no access that would be considered even reasonably obtainable by anyone who is not well versed in mountain climbing. In addition, the area of the deposit was covered in an avalanche years ago. Anyone attempting to reach this deposit would be doing so at risk of life itself. In the upper streams of cascade canyon, before it turns into what would be impassible for most, bits and pieces of lapis can be found. Most people we have interviewed who have collected there in the past are happy with one visit to the location.

On Barrett-Stoddard Road, though closed to vehicle traffic, you can find interesting mineralization along the roadside, which is now a popular hiking/biking trail. Calcite veins with Diopside crystals have been located, however, the diopside is not crystallized well, with a melted appearance. The corundum locations along the roadside give the viewer a understanding that the deposit of “ruby” stretches along the entire mountainside.

Along the bottom of the canyon, on the south side of cascade canyon, along the area where the mountain follows the river on the lip of the eastern mountainside. While boulders of ruby bearing matrix can be found EVERYWHERE along the mountainside, the most popular collecting location is a small canyon that dumped out the contents of several rockslides into the valley below, creating a field rich with broken chunks of rocks with small ruby crystals inside.

Ruby crystals found near los angeles glow bright red under long wave UV light.

We were delighted to read Natalie Weisiger’s article about her trip to Cascade Canyon with the Gem and Mineral Council of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. You can read about it, right here at http://omigems.com/blog/2013/07/california-corundum-from-the-ground-to-my-finger/ It is very interesting to read about the California ruby coming from the ground and into a piece of jewelry. You can certainly believe that is one unique piece of jewelry!


Natalie Weisiger in front of the landslide pile of ruby bearing rocks on the south side of Cascade Canyon

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Quartz collecting in Peterson mountain

A poster on the Reddit community “r/Rockhounds” posted a Imgur gallery of 60 photos showcasing his trip to Peterson Mountain. We are happy to be able to share the story behind the photos, by user iseriouslydislikeyou, though I’m sure he might like you, fellow rockhound!

Typical abundance of quartz, found loose at Peterson Mountain

This is Peterson mountain off of highway route 395, outside of Reno. I heard about it from a friend a long time ago. It is very rich in quartz throughout the mountain. You can pretty much start digging anywhere and you will find something worth taking home.

View of the valley below from Peterson Mountain

Please note that the very top of this mountain is a commercially mined active claim and you are NOT ALLOWED to mine into the top. I say it so stringently because the man who owns the claim, Yon Johnson, is a complete gentleman who is worried about safety, above all else. There are tempting rock walls at the top to dig in for pockets, but they are his walls because he made them so don’t trespass.
peterson8
Down the mountain on the CA side, at the state line, is where is claim seems to end so you can dig in. Alternatively, there are rubble/waste piles on the top that enthusiasts can sift through for some fun stuff. It is a mountain and there is quartz everywhere. You can find it, if you only attempt to try.
The conditions are hostile at best. During the day it is wicked high-altitude hot, and at night it is freezing. The best month to go is June near as I can tell from some research and experience. There is NOTHING out there so you need to bring everything you will need. Just remember anything you leave there stays there, and it is a beautiful and precious land, so don’t litter.

peterson7
You can stay in Reno and make a day trip of the mountain if that is your thing.
A view of the collecting area in Peterson Mountain, California

My understanding is that scepters of this magnitude only occur here in the world which makes it a real treat. The scepter examples in my imgur link are the best I have ever found out of four trips. I have never found a WHOLE one.

Scepter Quartz from Peterson Mountain

There is some killer stuff in their commercial dig from 2006 check it out: Scott Klein of Great Basin Minerals Collecting Report at Peterson Mountain

Dirty Citrine Quartz Crystal

Beautiful Gem Grade Amethyst from Peterson Mountain

Amethyst Crystal from Peterson Mountain

So there are certainly good crystals to be found there. The intersection of 395 and 70 is called Hallelujah Junction. 5-7 miles past the junction on 395 is where you want to hit the dirt. You will see it the path, the is a janky barbed wire fence.


View Peterson Mountain Quartz Collecting in a larger map

The land is BLM land so it is federal property. BLM land is a great, you can even primitive camp on BLM land. Snakes and Scorpions abound; bring gloves, boots, sun hat, and sun screen.

In addition to smoky and white crystals and scepters you can find gem quality amethyst.

Please be respectful of the claims and the land. Four-wheel drive is a must for these rugged dirt roads.
To see the full photo set, visit this photo gallery
To clean up after a long day, or weekend, collecting at the mountain, check out Hotels.com for great deals on local hotels and go take a hot shower!

Here at WhereToFindRocks.com, our FAVORITE dealer to go to for great professionally collected Peterson Mountain quartz is ScepterGuy, Joe George.
You can find him on eBay by clicking this banner.
Cascade Scepters on eBay

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When the weather is warm, St. Lawrence County is one of our favorite New York Locations for collecting!

Find more about Weather in Potsdam, NY
Click for weather forecast

Thinking about the East Coast quite a bit, our minds are set on the display cases for the NY/NJ mineral show in Edison New Jersey, April 12-14. We found ourselves involved in organizing all of the cases, nearly 50 six foot tall wall cases, filled with great minerals from the NorthEast, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The trees are blooming here in Southern California and it makes me wonder what it is like in St. Lawrence County, one of our favorite collecting regions in the United States. Well, as of the end of March, 2013, it looks like Potsdam is still getting the occasional snow flurry. So, keep an eye out for days of sunshine and take a trip to St. Lawrence County, a real wonderland of minerals.

The-Vug.com published an issue of their printed magazine on St. Lawrence County and Chester County Pennsylvania, two diversely mineralized areas popular to collectors of the 1800’s. Because of the remoteness of St. Lawrence County, many of the locations for collecting are still available to collecting. Specifically, the deposits on Selleck Road and Power’s Farm, located a short distance from the college town of Potsdam, offer interesting crystals to those who make the trip.

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting
Tremolite from Selleck Road

map to collect tremolite and uvite at power's farm and selleck road in st. lawrence county, new york

The Tremolite is abundant and easy to collect, you can simply roam the forest floor and find several different styles of crystals. The more uncommon find at this location is the brown dravite tourmaline crystals. Either way, I would enjoy spending another day or three at this location.

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

To the north a few miles, Power’s Farm is the home to one of the most famous New York locations, the classic black Uvite tourmaline crystals are found.

Collecting at Power's Farm in New York

You can read more about it in the book reprint of The-Vug.com Magazine, which is available for purchase at this link, it is very colorful and inexpensive!

You can read that issue, online, hosted by WheretoFindRocks.com by clicking the magazine cover.

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Hotel rooms in Potsdam are available on Hotels.com, a great town to visit!

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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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