Rockhound’s Guide to Identifying Federal Mining Claims

Federal Mining Claims are granted to US Citizens for the purpose of extracting the minerals for commercial gain.  Rockhounding does not require a mining claim, however Rockhounds cannot mineral trespass on active mining claims.

The BLM’s Guide to Rockhounding is helpful for defining the general rules and responsibilities for Rockhounding.  The BLM’s Guide to Mining Claims defines the claim owner’s responsibility to clearly mark their claim so that Rockhounds have the ability to know where they can dig.  As part of maintaining a claim, the claim owner has to agree to erect corner posts/markings on the claim site:

The undersigned testifies all monuments required by law were erected upon the subject claim(s), and all notices required by law were posted on the subject claim(s) or copies thereof were in place, and at said date, each corner monument bore or contained markings sufficient to appropriately designate the corner of the claim to which it pertains and the name of the claim(s).

Note that a mining claim only grants mineral rights to the claim owner, it still is public land and unless there are dangers (which will be clearly marked) citizens still can use our land.

In my prospecting I have seen several types of markings for Federal Mining Claims.  As a rockhound I appreciate when the claim owner posts documentation on each of the corner posts with GPS coordinates so I can quickly identify the claim boundaries in my GPS unit.  I appreciate when on the road into the claim or near pits/digs there is an obvious posting on a tree stating that the area is claimed.  I’ve seen center/side posts erected which is helpful too!  The easier the claim owner makes it to let the Rockhound know where the claim is the easier it is to not have accidents.

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

That said, I know that many times claim markers are tampered with, sometimes completely removed.  I have talked with many claim owners that have to deal with marking their claims over and over again because the markers are removed or vandalized.  Thus, I have learned how to do a little extra research before I head out to help me know when there are claims in the area that I will be prospecting.

When prospecting an area I always look for claim markers and signs, and if I find a place I want to get serious about digging I typically pull off the pack and take a walk around looking for corner posts in one direction.  A little internet research ahead of time will also help in knowing how much hiking I want to do to ensure I’m not on a claim.

The BLM provides Federal Mining Claim information online for free at LR 2000 website. If you look at the BLM Mining Claim packet, and their online help, they recommend to use the Pub MC (Mining Claim) Geo Report.  This report requires that you know a little bit about the area you want to search, specifically the MTR or Meridian Township Range, the Administration State, and the Case Disposition (Active, Closed, etc).  So as an example, I will show how I would identify active claims at one of my favorite areas in Colorado, Devils Head.

For this example, I already know the Administration State (Colorado) and Case Disposition (Active), but I need to find the MTR(s) that I want to research.  I do this by visiting another BLM site GeoCommunicator.  From the menu on the left side of the webpage I choose Interactive Maps and then All Layers.  A map displays allowing me to drill into the area I am interested in.  I then use the toolbar to choose the Identify option.

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

Then I click on the map to identify the Township where I’m interested in.  You can click the checkbox in the information box and it will outline the entire township visually.

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

I then repeat for as many townships as I want to research in the LR2000 database.

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

 Now I have 6 townships that I want to research identified.  The format is (for example the lower left):

  • State:  CO
  • Meridian:  06
  • Township:  10 South
  • Range:  69 West

Now I can enter the required fields in the Pub MC Geo Report on the LR 2000 website. The first thing I do on the LR2000 Reporting website is to select the criteria I want to use.  Obviously you don’t get a choice with State and Case Disposition, but for the other required field I choose MTR (Meridian, Township & Range) and then click the Select Criteria button.

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

Click the Set button to set each of the criteria.  For the MTR, you use the drop-down to select Meridian (06 – 6th PM) and then enter your Township (plus direction from the list) and Range (plus the direction from the list) and click the Add to MTR List button.  Do this for each of the MTRs you want to research, in my case I chose all six I found on the GeoCommunicator site.  NOTE, if you want to select multiple dispositions (for example, active and closed, hold the CTRL key and click all the options you want).

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Now it is time to run the report by clicking the Run Report button.  I have noticed you may have to click it again if the pop-up window does not show up.  NOTE that this site uses pop-ups, so ensure that your pop-up blocker doesn’t suppress the report output window!!!  You will see a pop up with all your selected criteria and then another window will appear with all the claims in the area.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM's Oracle/Hyperion database.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM’s Oracle/Hyperion database.

The output doesn’t tell you the GPS coordinates of the claim, but it will tell you the Section and Subdivision along with the claim’s details including MTRS, name, serial number and information about the claim holder.  If you refer back to the GeoCommunicator website, the identify information “window” will let you drill into detailed information that will say what Section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) your identified point is in.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the 'S' in MTRS) that your location is on.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) that your location is on, in this example section is 029.  You will see this in the LR2000 database (if recorded) to know if your location on the map is in the same section as the claim.

As far as I have found, this is as detailed as you can get, but it will get you in the ballpark of where the claim(s) exists; and then you can visit the area in person and identify the claim by the corner posts that should clearly identify the claim name and which corner post you are looking at.

Please comment if you have other useful ways to identify federal mining claims.  Happy Rockhounding!

Rockhounding Wigwam, Jefferson County Colorado

June 8, 2014.  I had the opportunity to visit a private claim with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club in this famous Colorado locality in spring 2014.  The area and drive to the locality is beautiful; a stretch through the Hayman Fire burn area which occurred on this same date twelve years prior in 2002.

Wigwam area is in the heart of the Hayman Fire burn area.  This is 12 years later (to the day).

Wigwam area is in the heart of the Hayman Fire burn area. This is 12 years later (to the day).

Hayman burn area, June 2014.

Hayman burn area, June 2014.

The area is typical pegmatite digging; although it is several feet deep.  I ended up digging a few test holes but found no peg and only found float type material that didn’t pan out.  I started checking out natural washed tailings from previous digs and noted there was some amazonite in a certain area, so I started to dig in that general area.  After a while I started seeing stepped/parallel growth on top of quartz chunks mostly anhedral with some faces.  I tuned into where these were running finding a general seam and out popped some amazonite and quartz crystals that were really cool, in the soil no more than 8″ deep.  That seam pinched out but I came home with some really unique crystals.

The first crystal I found in this spot which prompted me to spend 5 more hours in this area!

The first crystal I found in this spot which prompted me to spend 5 more hours in this area!

Cool capped quartz with multiple growth periods, terminated on both ends.  Before the acid bath.

Cool capped quartz with multiple growth periods, terminated on both ends. Before the acid bath.

After the acid bath.

After the acid bath, about 3 inches long.

 

Awesome shaped amazonite euhedral crystal!

Awesome shaped amazonite euhedral crystal, about 4 inches wide!

My second visit was to see if I missed this seam going in any other direction.  After digging many hours I didn’t find any further remnants of the seam but in the general area there were many types of crystals–some partial amazonite crystals, some more quartz chunks with parallel type growth which in some cases grew bigger as the seam opened up slightly, and more clear quartz growths on other crystals or host rock.  I even found a fluorite crystal!  I pulled out very few euhedral crystals but there were some amazonite and milky quartz.

Awesome parallel growth crystal cluster from Wigwam locale.

Awesome parallel growth crystal cluster from Wigwam locale.

Shard of quartz with parallel growth tip.

Shard of quartz with parallel growth tip.

Awesome parallel growth where the seam opened up just a little bit allowing larger crystals to form.

Awesome parallel growth where the seam opened up just a little bit allowing larger crystals to form.

Cool clear fluorite!

Cool clear fluorite!

 

I call it "The Right Foot", awesome unique crystal!

I call it “The Right Foot” (due to it being found in the rightmost foot of my dig, among other obvious reasons), awesome unique quartz crystal!

It was fun to meet other members of the club and to visit this locality I’ve been meaning to pay a visit for years!

Devil’s Head Prospecting Trip – October 2013

Had an open Sunday so I decided to venture up to Devil’s Head Colorado to prospect in a new area that has much less digging than the typical Virgin’s Bath area.  From my neighborhood, I could tell there was snow up on Devil’s Head and the Rampart Range but I decided to give it a try anyway.  Worst case, I figured, I could hit an old site or even prospect some of the old mines that are on the map that I haven’t searched before.

Upon driving up the snow was covering the ground in the trees but the flatter, more open areas appeared to be snow free.  I decided there was enough snow-free area to make it worth a prospecting hike.  I headed a couple miles off of the road and started to see some good signs; but alas there was digging in the area where all looked good.  All the digging was very old; but still it seems that there is no virgin ground around!  I ended up finding a nice white quartz point in that area but decided to continue further off the beaten path.

A little after noon I found a snow-free spot that had some quartz shards that weren’t very crystallized but pretty clear; and some pegmatite so I started to dig.  I ended up pulling an okay crystal of good size out (about 2.5″) and then a great looking microcline crystal; so I figured there could be some finds.  I pulled out the camera and shot some video of the crystals I dug out.  Check it out!

The sun started to get low on the horizon and behind the clouds and with the wind the nearly 40 degrees started to fall quickly; and the clouds were encroaching while flurries started.  Given the car was about 2 miles uphill (much of it very steep) I decided to bury the hole and head out.  Nearly an hour later I was heading out in a cloud/fog looming over Devil’s Head.  All in all, a wonderful Sunday adventure, perhaps the last one of the season for this locale!

Bigger crystals than usual, the largest is about five inches!

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

Thanks to James for identifying the microcline (smaller of the two below) crystal as a Carlsbad Twin due to the 180 degree reversed twin!

3" Twinned Microcline, 4" Quartz and LARGE Microcline

Red Feather Lakes Crystal Hike

For the kids fall break I took a couple of days off of work and we visited my folks in Northern Colorado.  On Sunday morning my dad and I were talking about visiting Chicken Park where we have heard stories of Kimberlite Pikes (diamonds, we are in that part of Colorado), gold, Amethyst and other fun stories of the area.  Given that is a 20 minute drive from their house we decided to check it out.

Our journey was abruptly cut short, however, due to a road closure.  There was another way; but it would have been at least an hour drive so instead of turning around and heading home; we decided to check out another road; the only one available.  After a rough road we got out and took a hike.  A little while into the trail we came across some float that caught our attention and we decided to dig a little to see what we’d find.

Float that sparked our interest

Float that sparked our interest

Another float that started the digging...

Another float that started the digging...

Dad ran back to the truck to get the pick and rock hammer while I stayed and scoped the area out.  By the time he returned I had an idea where we should dig and we started.  We spent about an hour digging and pulled out a bunch of rough chunks with faces; almost all with crystallized formations showing.  I ended up finding some red clay and small crystal clusters started coming out.

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some of the clusters we pulled out

Some of the clusters we pulled out

These took me a while to clean up; the mud was really sticky.  We had to get home for lunch and so we left the diggings to come back the next day, a little more prepared to do some serious excavation; except it snowed six inches!  Oh well; my dad said he’d check it out further on some warm day–the luxuries of being retired!

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

All in all a wonderful hike with my dad and adventure on the mountain back roads in his area!  Hope to do this again soon!

Devil’s Head Rockhounding Late Summer 2013

I’ve made several trips up to Devil’s Head during the late summer this year. The last was September 29th (okay, I know, it is early fall, not late summer as the title suggests).  The USFS closes the gate December 1st or earlier so hopefully I’ll make it up a couple more times this year.

In very late August I went with a couple of fellow Rockhounds I met through the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society. (If you want to read a very informative rockhounding blog, and see big crystals (!!), head over to Kevin’s blog, or check out Badger2410’s YouTube channel; both are local Rockhounders). The goal on this trip was to show my guests some successful places from the past and then head out deep into the forest and prospect in fairly new woods away from where everyone ventures! Well, we didn’t really venture too far as the spot we started we ended up at all day.

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

I found one really nice gemmy crystal and a couple of other so-so ones. I also snagged a couple of small ones that Kevin didn’t want (my daughter always asks me to show her the smallest crystals when I get home; I can’t disappoint!) in addition to the several small ones I found. Bob found the largest of the day following float up the hill. All in all a very fun day!

I went a couple of weeks later and prospected looking for a partially cleared pocket that someone had left and I had buried.  I know the area pretty well but for some reason this has eluded me for 3 years now in searching.  Perhaps it was just a dream…except for a have a couple of nice smokey’s I pulled out of that pocket.  Next year will be the year!

My latest venture so far in 2013 was Sunday September 29th.  It was a beautiful fall day and I was surprised that the trees had not begun turning yet; which was a little disappointing and part of the reason I chose to go there.  I decided I was going to explore a new area so I parked and then hiked about 2 miles into the forest.  I saw some signs of digging and kept going until I didn’t see many holes or previous diggings.  I then started prospecting and after about an hour I started finding some very cool signs.

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

I followed the float up the very steep hill and kept finding good signs; most with lichen making me think it had been undisturbed and I was going to find a cool pocket.

More float

If this isn't a good sign then what is?

I then ran into this nice crystal face (above) and was getting excited.  A little ways up the hill I found the source; and it had been all dug up.  Bummer!  It appeared to have been dug a very long time ago as all the shards were well buried in dirt and under the needles.  I was a bit disappointed but curiosity got the best of me and I dug around in the previous diggings as I always do to try and figure out what they saw; in addition to what they missed!  In excavating what I thought to be previous tailings I started to find good crystals, covered in red mud, in red dirt.  Ended up this was a side branch of the main pocket and it was untouched.  I dug here for the rest of the morning and pulled out some nice microcline and crystals.  They appeared so-so but I never second guess until they are cleaned up so I usually take them home anyway.  After about 4 hours there, and realizing I had a small bucket of cool garden rock and some potential keepers, I decided to head out another direction and continue to prospect for later this or next year.

Crystal under the iron?

No clue how this will clean up, some nice small crystals on the side

Again, needing some serious cleaning

Again, some tabbies needing some serious cleaning

After about 10 days in acid, far from perfect, but still a nice crystal.

Some nice sized ones, we'll see how they clean...

 

Cool double terminated clusters

 

Sidewall cluster

I love this crystal; terminations are great on the concave bottom!

Findings of the day including floaters

Findings of the day including floaters

 

I especially like the floaters as they all have lichen and look great in the garden with the rest of the shards and other pieces I’ve brought home over the years.  They will also remind me of the pocket that I was 50 years too late on!  LOL!

I’ve just started a Phosphoric Acid bubble bath.  My friends from the CSMS procured a gallon of the acid that they were kind enough to sell to me and I’m excited to use this in a crock-pot bath to see about cleaning these heavily stained crystals.  This is my first time using Phosphoric Acid, so I can’t wait to see the results; if the crystals aren’t embarrassing, I’ll post some cleaned-up pictures!

Nice floater on the way back...

Nice floater on the way back...

On my way back to the car I found this microcline cluster sitting by a tree.  Usually that means it has rolled down hill from another’s diggings; but I followed it up.  There was what appeared to be a very small digging up the hill; too small (so it seemed) to have anything cool like this come from it (or the person would have dug more); so I don’t know.  The diggings were VERY old again, so perhaps I’ll check it out on a future trip!

July Rockhounding

July was a good month for Rockhounding for us; we did only a couple of trips, however, due to a busy summer with many other fun things on the weekends!  Both of my July trips were to Joe Dorris claims; the first was a makeup trip to the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine (originally with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society, but with the Littleton club on this make up day) and the second was the famous Smokey Hawk claim with CSMS.  Both were in the Lake George area.  If you are interested in visiting either claim, contact Joe or Krystle.  Here is information on Visting the Topaz Mine.

The Smokey Hawk trip was a lot of fun; I found a bunch of small chips of really great colored Amazonite.  Joe stated that they had just opened a small pocket of incredible colored Amazonite but most of it was crushed.  He was thinking chemistry must have played a role in the color and condition of the Amazonite.  Perhaps we’ll see more in this year’s Prospector’s show.

I had recently tumbled some Amazonite chips I found in prior trips to the Smokey Hawk, so I decided to hit the tailings pile and see what I could find in the “trash” mounds.  Others went up to the hills and did some prospecting, and some did quite well (see Kevin’s Rockhounding blog).  I dug through rocks at the base of the piles (the stones tend to roll down to the bottom) and also walked around the piles themselves.  Although I didn’t find anything super spectacular from an Amazonite perspective, I did find many really dark blue/green colored chips, many with a face or two intact.  I also found a couple of larger chunks.

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

I was able to find a couple of nice Smokey Quartz crystals as well.  Most had a small flaw or two (mostly small chips).  I did find this Goethite crystal.  I’ve seen these in pictures with Amazonite/smokey quartz clusters.  I think these are great crystals; always funky but definitely pronounced crystal structure!  I’ve found 4 or 5 like this over the years; this one is one of the best!

Goethite crystal

Limonite after Stibenite crystal

The find of the day, however, came near the end of the day as a thunderstorm was encroaching on our fun!  I was digging in the tailings pile where there were some small funky Smokey Quartz clusters that a fellow club member turned me onto.  There was a small pocket embedded in an excavator bucket load that had some interesting items in the pocket mud/clay.  After rinsing when I got home, most ended up being pink microcline clusters, but one was a awesome gemmy Fluorite.  In the tailings nearby was also this small Fluorite cluster!

Back of gemmy Fluorite

Back of gemmy Fluorite

The back side of this was interesting as it appeared to be somewhat etched away from an original growth/phantom.  The color and gemminess of the stone is wonderful!

Gemmy Fluorite - a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Gemmy Fluorite – a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Near this I also found a small Fluorite cluster; what was interesting is the shape of the central crystal in this cluster…I will need to talk to an expert as this doesn’t appear to be normal shape for Fluorite.

Small Fluorite cluster

Small Fluorite cluster

In late July I took the kids to visit Krystle and the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  Luckily it had a good rain in the days before the trip and we had significant luck just surface hunting.  As a matter of fact, only a couple small pieces came from our hard work digging all day!  My find of the day came as I was walking into the mine.  Along the entry road was a eroded area from the rains that had this awesome blue topaz stone just laying there on the surface, on a pedestal of dirt that was about to collapse due to erosion…just waiting for me to pluck it from the ground.  This picture doesn’t do it justice because it is very clear and you can mainly see the back side through the stone; but it is awesome to hold and stare into, and beautiful blue!

Alluvial Blue Topaz - 80 carat

Alluvial Blue Topaz – 80 carat

I wandered around with the kids but their eyes just weren’t finding the shapes and glass within the mud.  I pulled out several small chips and a few small stones; most were not cutters or specimens; but it was good that I was finding Topaz!  I dug for 5-6 hours in one of the piles left by the excavator and found only a super small chip and sherry stone which could cut into a 1-2 carat faceted stone…not sure if I want to do that or not…

Hunter and Daphne had a system figured out which was great.  Hunter was digging a hole in the top of the pile to create a volcano.  As he excavated dirt from that hole he slid it down a chute where Daphne was going through the dirt looking for Topaz.  Seemed like an efficient system; and they were making a volcano that later in the day was going to spit out Topaz all over for us to collect!  Unfortunately they didn’t find any Topaz with their system, but Hunter did find a really nice Smokey Quartz!

Hunter digging for Topaz while making a Volcano

 

Daphne sifting through the volcano core's dirt...

Daphne sifting through the volcano core’s dirt…

 

Hunter’s smokey with Topaz at the Sherry stone and blue to show the colorsOther than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

The smokey was very dirty and we didn’t know until we got home that it had some topaz on it; so Hunter and Daphne were both really bummed they didn’t score a Topaz today. I told them both to just do what was the most successful and wander around and look for them on the ground. Daphne was done but Hunter decided to take my advice. A little while later he came running towards us; I knew he must have found something! He did; an awesome Topaz! All in all, it was a great day at the topaz mine.

Here are some of the other stones that I found.

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

On the way to the mine I purchased a vintage Synthesizer from a family in Florissant.  When I told her where we were going for the day; she stated she lived right in the area of the mine for many years.  She told me a story that the original homesteader Matakat used to grow potatoes on the land and often found topaz in them when harvesting!  Great lore for the area!

Other than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

Another shot of Hunter's topaz

Another shot of Hunter’s topaz

 

I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and fall as I have many trips planned, including several locales that I have not been to before!  Stay tuned…

May 2013: Goethite and Onegite

May was a fun month for rock hounding adventures.  I visited the Lake George area several times in May, the first was to prospect and find the claim borders / corner posts, I went with my son and his friend.  We had a fun hike and I found a couple of spots that looked interesting.  I then came back and the first rock I turned over had a small spray of Goethite on it.  I have never found Goethite before and so I was pretty excited.  Ended up digging at this location for two days and pulled out a lot of Goethite and related Onegite sprays, some combo pieces, and many Smokey Quartz crystals and small microcline clusters.  No amazonite, however, but that is okay as I had a wonderful time with what I did find.

Looking at these sprays under a loupe I discovered that there are small citrine, smoky and amethyst quartz crystals all over these things.  I guess that is by definition the Onegite — Goethite with these small crystals.  I read online on how to clean these and have soaked them in soapy water for days and then used water spray to avoid breaking the delicate crystals.  On some of the onegite I was able to use a soft toothbrush.  They didn’t clean up 100% yet; I don’t know if some ever will.  Note you can’t put them in Iron Out since this is an iron based mineral.

I will post some of the microcline and smoky quartz in a different post when I have them ready; but here is a slideshow of some of the pieces that I found.  What a cool mineral!

tn_Goethite-1489

Amethyst, onegite and goethite

tn_Goethite-1462

Some amethyst in this onegite/goethite crystal

tn_Goethite-1419

This one is great!

tn_Goethite-1496 tn_Goethite-1493 tn_Goethite-1486 tn_Goethite-1474 tn_Goethite-1472 tn_Goethite-1470 tn_Goethite-1458 tn_Goethite-1456 tn_Goethite-1450 tn_Goethite-1449 tn_Goethite-1445 tn_Goethite-1430 tn_Goethite-1428 tn_Goethite-1425 tn_Goethite-1410 tn_Goethite-1406 tn_Goethite-1390 tn_Goethite-1386

Adventures at Topaz Mountain Gem Mine, May 2013

One of my topaz from today's digs...

It’s always a fun adventure to visit the Dorris Family’s Topaz Mine here in Colorado. They allow the public to come by and dig several times per year as well as most of the Rockhounding clubs as well. Due to the late snow this spring this was the first dig, May 25th, 2013. I rounded up a group of adults and kids and we made the bright and early trek to the mine.

Joe and Krystle were telling us that they are working their way uphill a bit on their claim and that the stones are not as frequent as they have been in the past. I have been visiting for several years and I concur, although it seems (just an unscientific observation) that the stones that are being found are getting a bit larger. Perhaps that is not the case…

Anyway, we started digging on some fresh piles that were pretty wet and within about an hour I found my first topaz. It was completely covered in mud; usually they pop out and look gemmy/glassy and are very easy to spot; but this morning due to the conditions was different–making it more difficult to go through as much dirt as in the past.

People digging at the mine

People digging at the mine

Meanwhile, they were also working a section of the mine with the heavy machinery.  Was cool to watch the big machines at work!

 

Big machines at work getting new piles to go through!
It is beautiful up here in the Rocky Mountains in spring time!  Here I am raking through my part of a pile…
Me raking for topaz
My friend Jim wanted to try out digging for Topaz and brought his daughter who is friends with my son.  My daughter Daphne also brought a friend that was in my Rockhounding enrichment class at the Larkspur Elementary school.  There were several other kids digging as well; unfortunately they didn’t find all that much topaz; again I think luck had some to do with it but also the amount of dirt one must go through as well.  They did have a blast though!
Jim and the kids attacking their pile of dirt

We ended up getting our days fill about 2:00 and drove home, made a pit-stop and had had some orange cream soda and a beer at Bierwerks in Woodland Park, and headed home to sift through the bags of dirt.  Here is where the kids got to find and keep some wonderful stones….and they wondered why they had to dig all day when it was this easy!!!

Sifting through our bags of dirt; the kids did quite well!

Sifting through our bags of dirt; the kids did quite well!

All in all, another wonderful day at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine!  I should have at least one more trip, probably more, back there this summer.  Looking very much forward to it!

 

Here are what my kids found at the mine (the larger one is one of the many found in the bags of dirt!).  Makes me think of some of the lamer parts of the Prospectors show on Weather Channel… guns and gems…

My kids findings...gems and brass

My kids findings...gems and brass

 

My findings from digging all day…

My findings from today!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

The best cutter stone I found at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine

The best cutter stone I found

Cute blue faceted gem!  Small but beautiful!

Cute blue faceted gem! Small but beautiful!

Finally, the best for last.  One of the first time diggers there pulled this beast from the ground.  It was absolutely spectacular.  Joe stated that this stone was one of the best (upper 1%) stones he has pulled out of the claim; and is likely one of the best ever found in Colorado.  Unfortunately the person that found it didn’t get to keep it (obviously!) as it was destined for the Dorris personal collection!  This stone was (I’m guessing) 600 carats and nearly flawless.  It didn’t hurt that it was Sherry and Blue bi-color!  Looking at this stone was mesmerizing, every angle had a different look and “feel” to it.  A special day to witness this being pulled from the ground next to us, and to view a stone of this caliber!

Absolutely gorgeous monster topaz found today!

Absolutely gorgeous bi-color monster topaz found today!

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color

Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color

Thanks to Harold Alexander for some of the mine pictures, and thanks to Krystle Velasco/Joe Dorris for letting us take pictures of the mine’s wonderful mega-stone!

Cinco de Mayo 2013: A New Hope

Today was a great day and my second outing for the year, this time to the New Hope Amethyst lode claim as guests of the Canyon City rock club.  I was with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club , there were 5 or 6 clubs on this field trip.  Lots of eager Rockhounds wanting to get out find some amethyst quartz crystals!!  The day was slightly overcast which was perfect for a day of digging–bright but not too hot or sunny. I started the day doing some prospecting and walking around the claim and surrounding public lands.  I found some epidote in quartz/granite which was cool; but nothing else per se.  Richard, the field trip leader for the club, had given me a clue on where to find some calcite crystals so I went on a hunt for them.  I was able to find the area he mentioned; but obviously someone had been digging there already and I didn’t see the calcite crystals he mentioned.  The seam that had been dug out had some dried red clay and I figured I should see what that was about so I started digging in that carefully.  I ended up finding a small plate of small quartz points which was exciting (thanks to Carl Carnein for his help with identification).  Unfortunately the host rock was extremely brittle and even exercising great care it was hard to extract the plates without everything busting into tiny pieces.

Cute calcite cluster found in the maroon clay

Cute quartz cluster found in the maroon clay.  These will scratch glass.

I continued to dig into the clay and uncovered more small plates of quartz crystals, again they were very brittle but I was able to extract a couple 1.5 – 2″ pieces intact which was exciting!  Continuing into the pocket I the clay turned iridescent maroon colored and that is where I found a couple of really pretty plates, one, the back/side of the pocket was able to be extracted intact that was rather large, 4-5″ long.  Sweet! The below cluster was one of the intact small clusters which came from this area of the small pocket.

Calcite cluster without the coating of calcite

Quartz cluster that was pretty clean…

Awesome large cluster of calcite crystals intact!!

Awesome large cluster of quartz crystals intact!!

Once I got to the end of this small pocket I broke into a small but pretty smokey and amethyst quartz vein.  It quickly pinched out and I decided to see what everyone else was finding and relax for a little bit. Overall the calcite pocket was about 3-5″ high, 1-3″ wide and about 4″ deep at the largest points.

"Zipper" Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the Calcite pocket

“Zipper” Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the quartz pocket

Everyone was having luck about two feet deep digging an amethyst vein.  There was a lot of folks digging in a tight space so I decided to try and intercept the vein a little ways away from the crowd; 10 yards or so uphill.  I dug and dug in all directions but did not find the vein…it either made a significant turn, went further down than I was wanting to dig (which was 3+ feet!); or pinched out.  After a couple of hours I reclaimed my prospecting and just hung out and listened to everyone talk and enjoyed the stories and watching everyone find great little clusters.

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

I went through some of the tailings and found some cool little points, and after everyone was done they offered me a chance to dig in the excavated hole and I enjoyed about an hour of finding great small milky quartz covered plates before it was time to head home.  It was a wonderful day with great people; I’ve really enjoyed visiting this claim and appreciate the opportunity to do so!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst quartz!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst and smokey quartz!

Calcite crystals in close proximity to quartz vein

Quartz crystals in close proximity to quartz vein

 

Quick Guide to this site…

Featured

Howdy.  I have many hobbies and post what I can, when I can, here and on social media.  Below are some quick links if you want to quickly tune into a certain hobby.

PHOTOGRAPHY:  Most of my posts have pictures, especially the Storm Chasing Blog

** Throughout the site you can click on images to enlarge them. **

STORM CHASING: Blog :: Lightning

ROCKHOUNDING: Blog :: How to Find Crystals Guide

MUSIC PRODUCTION / DJ: Blog :: My Music :: Gear

Here are some social media music sites I post tunes and info on:

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