Cinco de Mayo :: Colorado Tarryall Topaz

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Took the family up near Tarryall Northwest of Lake George to the Topaz Gem Mine for the first open dig of the year. Joe Dorris and his family are awesome supporters of Rockhounds and Gem & Mineral clubs and allow families to come and visit a few times per year.

We took advantage of this year’s first dig and started off pretty slow. We took a portable fold-up chair and after lunch the chair ended up getting blown into a big pit. I went to retrieve the chair and as I was bending down I saw a rock with shapes covered in dried mud. I rubbed it off and it was a specimen quality topaz of nearly 300 carats! That got everyone digging harder and everyone found one (except Trevor 🙁 ). Hunter found a huge bi-color (blue/champagne) cubic shaped beast (about 250 carats) and Daphne found a clear, near perfect crystal (about 8 carat) that doesn’t really need cutting as the facets are awesome! Erin found a couple of nice cutters too.

Hunter holding the two massive stones we found today!
Hunter holding the two massive stones we found today!
The kids posing for the camera digging for topaz
The kids posing for the camera digging for topaz
Daphne digging for topaz
Daphne digging for topaz
Huge bi-color Topaz
Hunter’s bi-color Blue/Sherry gem!
Blue Topaz
The big blue lunker I found by accident.
Daphne's beautifully faceted clear topaz
Daphne’s beautifully faceted clear topazGreat d
Blue topaz cleaned by Joe Dorris
Blue topaz cleaned by Joe Dorris

I had Joe clean my clue topaz and pressure treat it; a big improvement and it is now an amazing cabinet displayed specimen stone!




  1. Wow that was a very good collecting day! I’ll be going up there with my club on Sunday for Memorial weekend. It looks like Joe Dorris must have gotten a good concentration of topaz from a specific place on his claim this time. Sometimes there are hardly any topaz and then sometimes there are a bunch as in the piles collected for your visit. There was a hint that this year could be good as they were finding large topaz crystals just before they shut up operations last year.

    Hopefully you were able to take a few of them home as I can see that running into quite a bit of money even at his wholesale rates. I’m thinking of getting at least one of whatever topaz I find this time sent out for cutting. That mirrored serving plate has certainly seen a lot of nice minerals.

    I’m also planning to visit Joe Dorris’ Smoky Hawk claim later this year unless he decides on another claim for the club visit instead. It will be interesting to see what good pockets actually look like as it should help me later on.

    I was able to locate quite a bit of pale amazonite with one piece showing medium color at my first visit to Devils Head this year just a few days after they finally opened the road. I had gone there the prior week and the road was closed for “mechanical trimming” at least on April 24th. It was strange driving there and not seeing anyone except for one forest service vehicle when I finally got access to the area. Of course it was on a Thursday in the morning on May 3rd so that might account for it.

    Last Sunday I went to St Peters Dome with two other people and collected at the old Eureka Zircon mine after a long downhill hike from the main parking area at St Peters Dome. The climb back up was a killer for me as I had major leg cramps. I did find some nice zircon though.

    Anyway keep on posting your collecting adventures! I may eventually try collecting those selenite crystals when I drive down to Texas to visit my brother and his wife again as it isn’t that far out of the way from my parent’s place in SE Colorado.


  2. Wow, James. Great information. I found my first Amazonite at Devil’s Head the last trip of last year. Like yours, very bland color but I’ll take it! 😉 I have been super busy this spring thus far and have yet to go up there…I was hoping over this coming weekend but that may not work out.

    I have found some smaller smokeys and some a couple fluorite cubes near the Smokey Hawk on a club claim so far this year and was very disappointed that the field trip to the Holcim quarry was cancelled as that is one of my favorite places. I plan as well to go to the Smokey Hawk again this year (went once last year) and hopefully hit the Topaz Gem Mine again. Probably will do a trip to Mt Antero as well. The trip to Oklahoma was a lot of fun; although I’m still going through the crystals and sorting them…between the four of us we found some great pieces!

    Spring time is usually mostly storm chasing and then summer/fall is when I do more of the digging. Joined the Lake George club this year, along with being in the Colorado Springs club again; so I hope to do several field trips with both clubs as well. Perhaps see you on the hills!

  3. I’ve been reading up on the trips that the Lake George Club does, it sounds like you should have a good time especially with their claims. I visited the RAMS claim on one of their annual invites to different mineral clubs last year. If your club/s get an invite from them, try and take advantage of it as it is a great claim location, right next to Joe Dorris’ Smokey Hawk claim. I found some very gemmy smokey quartz crystals, and some fluorite while there. Other people found some amazonite but I didn’t find any to speak of.

    If things go as planned, I will have a claim of my own in the Crystal Peak area! I am to go over the spot with the people who are doing the claim locating, posting and paperwork for me and then decide whether to pay for it or not. That happens the middle of next week so hopefully I will be having fun collecting there.

    I haven’t done any storm chasing although I did spot a small tornado a couple years ago near the rest stop outside Castle Rock. The closest call though was in Limon where I was driving through on my sister’s car after taking another sister to the airport in Denver. It starting hailing with very heavy rain as I was about to leave Limon going south on highway 71. A low tire pressure signal came on. I had to look at the manual to figure it out and then the security system wouldn’t let me restart the car. I finally got the tire filled at a gas station in Limon after the car restarted. I saw these dark clouds just about 100-200 yards away and maybe 200-400 feet high starting to rotate in a circle a little faster than one revolution in a minute. Needless to say I didn’t stick around that area and drove south in blinding rain and hail and lighting bolts. I heard later that several tornadoes touched down around Limon. I think that was two years ago.

    The most amazing thing weatherwise I have seen was a multiple ice halo display in the Denver area quite a few years ago. There were multiple arcs, sundogs, and circles. It was a very cold day with a very light haze like weather which probably caused the great display.


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