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A general guide for using the Forum with some rules and tips
Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner
  
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dimrub




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 14:58    Post subject: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Greetings, dear forum users!

While I'm not a collector myself, my son, soon to be 12 y.o., is, and so far he's been expanding his collection (quite extensive, if you ask me) through acquisitions only. Next year though we plan a trip to the US, mainly for his sake, and his first and foremost choice in terms of points of interest is to go rockhounding. So far we had under consideration two options: the Diamond Hill mine in South Carolina (suggested by him, all but ruled out by me due to being off course for our trip - a 11.5 hours drive from Philadelphia) and the Gold Mines in the vicinity of Sacramento, CA (suggested by me, frowned upon by him, who is not much into prospecting, it appears).

So what I'm looking for, and need your advice regarding, is:

- A choice of a mine or a quarry or a location, that is preferably accessible by car (let us say, no more than a 5-6 hours of drive each way) from either Philadelphia, SF or Seattle, is exciting enough with crystals and minerals rare and good looking enough to spark his curiosity, yet suitable for a beginner.
- A pointer towards instructions for a novice rockhound - how to hunt? Do's and Don'ts etc.
- A list of equipment to bring along. Practical to buy and discard afterwards (not sure I'd be happy dragging mining equipment throughout the rest of our trip, and then on a trans-atlantic flight)? If so, where to buy? Better to rent?

Your responses much appreciated by me and, especially, a young and enthusiastic collector.
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Bob Harman




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 15:23    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Sorry I hate to be negative, but your 12 y.o. son probably will be disappointed.

Now-a-days, getting in to quarries and mines here in the US is very rare. Only thru a field trip with a club is there any hope at all. If you could join up with some club during your trip here, will you have any chance at all, and that will be only if they happen to have planned a field trip.
Collecting at some road cuts is possible if you happen to be near a productive one where collecting is tolerated, but a road cut is no place for any 12 y.o. kid. With all the distracted drivers and drivers on drugs, road cuts and kids is a recipe for a tragedy. And that is if the police leave you alone.

Your best bets (probably your only bets) are to find fee for digging sites near where you will be. These are safe and can be rewarding for youngsters. Google "fee for digging rock sites" in the states where you will be. Trying to join a local club where you will be during your trip is your only other option. If you join, they will have pointers and field trips for you.
One additional option, if your son wants it, is to collect pebbles on the beaches and shores of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Some of the stones do contain specific and colorful minerals.
There are a few rockhounding state parks in the US, but they might not be anywhere near where you are traveling.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but that is the reality of current collecting for youngsters in the US right now. BOB
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dimrub




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 15:33    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Bob, thanks for a reply. A fee collecting site is what I had in mind: the fee is negligible compared to the trip's cost, and the expected reward in terms of kid's satisfaction is significant :). There's a whole bunch of them at https://www.findingrocks.com (link normalized by FMF) to chose from, many within driving instance from where we'll be visiting, but the issue is that I'd rather have a first hand advise as to which are good for our purposes, and which aren't.
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rocks2dust




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 16:14    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

From Philadelphia, you might consider Sterling Hill, New Jersey. The museum there allows you to go through the mine tailings piles:
https://sterlinghillminingmuseum.org/visitor/mineralcollect.php

From Seattle, I'd suggest Richardson's Rock Ranch. Even non-rockhounds enjoy digging thundereggs, plus there are other minerals all around that usually get overlooked:
https://richardsonrockranch.com/

Digging black opals (and petrified wood) or sifting for star garnets would also be fun for kids, though these may be too far off your itinerary:
https://www.royalpeacock.com/
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ipnf/recreation/rocks-minerals/recarea/?recid=6927&actid=73

There are rockhounding guidebooks published for Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New Jersey that will give you directions to some fee and non-fee digging areas. You might also consider doing online searches for any rockhound clubs in the areas you will be visiting. Some may be holding excursions to dig sites near the dates of your visit (they will likely allow you to tag along, and if not, the membership dues are usually minimal).

(all links normalized by FMF)
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Jeff




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 16:57    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

It is good that your son has demonstrated an interest in collecting minerals and rocks. I think the advice given to you already concerning sites is very good. Even as a former (now retired) exploration/economic geologist, I could not get my son into an active mine or quarry until he was 18. Yes, there are a number of fee collecting sites -- for example for sapphires in western Montana, and some very good mine tours that you might want to consider such as that in Wallace, Idaho and Leadville, Colorado. And there are several individuals who will take families on guided trips to mining sites such as Geology Adventures.
I fully concur with prior comment that to take your son to abandoned mining sites can be very dangerous. One major consideration is that even if you do locate some areas where rocks and minerals of the type he would like to collect are found, there is always the issue of land ownership. Few private landowners allow (even if permission is requested) allow people on their land to collect, and there are many rules and regulations governing what activities (even mineral collecting) can occur on state and federal land. The idea of purchasing state-specific rock and mineral collecting guidebooks is a good idea -- but often the sites mentioned are remote and require a vehicle capable of traversing difficult terrain. May I suggest another possible alternative -- take your son to a number of very fine mineral and geology museums on your trip such as at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals (in Hillsboro, Oregon) or to the Colorado and South Dakota Schools of Mines to see excellent exhibits of minerals -- or even to the East Coast Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show in Springfield, Massachusetts in August.where he could buy specimens to add to his collection. I should also add if he has any interest in fossils, there is a great place to collect them in north-central Washington at the Stonerose Interpretive Center in Republic.
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Laura Overstreet




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 19:34    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

I am not near your travel sites but if you could make it to the mid-west we have many great places to hunt. I am in Missouri and we like to go to the geode mines at the top of the state. There are more places in IL and Iowa but we like Shefflers; they are very nice people.

Your son also might like going to https://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/ I believe it is the only open to the public diamond mine in the world. And the chances of finding a diamond are very slim but you will find other minerals or rocks there for sure. My daughter does not share my enthusiasm for minerals and rocks but is still very excited to be going to the diamond mine.

Arkansas has many other places to hunt crystals too. https://wegnercrystalmines.com/DigYourOwn.html I included this link because the picture shows the mining site. Which is a large mainly dirt area. As is the mine at both Shefflers and the diamond mine.

When I invite new mineral/rock hunters on our trips they think 'mine' equals cave. No caves for me! But as others have mentioned you do want to consider safety first. I would strongly recommend getting a Spot or other brand GPS device to call for help should you need it. Mostly the places you will find for mines are remote and cell phone coverage is sketchy. I don't know how much service cost but I did find a Spot Gen3 for 75.00 at Cabela's sporting goods store.

If you did make it to the geode mine or the crystal mines you'll want to have a plan for how much can be brought back as it is easy to end up with many buckets!

One other thing that I hope hasn't been covered already is salted mines. Some mines will add whatever they offer to the mix of what they give customers to search for. It can be great for younger kids who would be disappointed in not finding something. But my daughter is 13 and would not want a salted bucket. For the places I listed age would not be a problem.

You asked about tools; all mines are little different and most will rent tool/gear for a low day rate. If you did want to buy I would suggest a crow bar, pick ax, small shovel or garden hoe, goggles flexible plastic not hard plastic with head strap, heavy duty gloves ( must have for the crystal mines), bottles with screw tops ( we buy these from the Dollar store they have straps to hang off your shoulder) so you can drop smaller pieces into them. It is very easy to lose a small rock/mineral or damage it tossing it into a container. Buckets or tubs for moving/cleaning.

And always bring a change of clothes including shoes; hunting can get dirt, shale and rock dust all over you! If we have a rental car everyone changes before they get into the car.

The most important thing for your son to know is to document each piece he finds; where, when and I like to include how (dug out, found on top of the soil, etc. ). It is very important to figuring out what has been found because each place has specific minerals/rocks. You can buy small gift boxes to store his finds in with the info. I also like to take photos they are especially helpful should you find anything really good. A lot of for sale pieces have been altered to increase the price so when something is found naturally any documentation helps in establishing it's authenticity.

I hope some of this helps! Laura

Sheffler Rock Shop and Geode Mine:
RR1 Box 171
Alexandria, MO 63430
At junction of Highway 61 and 27, 6mi S of Alexandria

https://wheretofindrocks.com/field-trip-midwestern-geode-localities/
(all links normalized by FMF)
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Bill Weismuller




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 23:09    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

This is fairly close to San Francisco and a very nice drive.

https://www.calstategemmine.com/
(link normalized by FMF)

Their claim to fame is Benitoite.
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jun 03, 2017 23:36    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Sterling Hill was my first real mineral collecting trip [aged about twelve] - and it was great [this is 52 years ago! and then there was no collecting fee]. I see on their website for the museum there that they have a few times a year a night trip [famous area for great UV fluorescent minerals!!]. You might consider that - as unless one is fairly knowledgeable, many of the rocks there look fairly plain....but, at least 50 years ago, one could find really fantastic things that were not plain! As with all such areas, the surface rocks have been gone over and over, dig down on a slope or make a pit and try to get to minerals others have not gotten to - hopefully, not since the waste rock was put there. UV [at night] is definitely the way to collect there!

I personally collect at several places in CO, NM, and S. CA - at old mines/dumps that don't need permission, but these are remote and not for new or young collectors - with one exception if you are ever near Taos or Santa Fe, NM do try to get to the Harding Mine...a great pegmatite location. Last I was there there was no fee, one only had to sign a waiver in case one was hurt, but it is fairly safe - though remote and NOT a place to go on a very hot day! A lot of beginning mineral books have suggestions on what to wear and have with you for such a collecting trip. I believe the book by Sinkankas "Mineralogy" [likely available in any good library] has this, as do some others. The list can get long, but on a first trip one doesn't need much. A rock hammer and chisels, collecting bag, newspaper or paper towels to wrap the minerals found in, eye goggles to protect from flying rock chips, a small shovel - like the folding type sold at Army surplus, and the list can go on from there. When I go collecting, I have half of the back of a station wagon full of things...but you'll not need all that at this point. Joining a mineral club, as others have mentioned is a good place to start, as is learning about minerals generally, so you might know what to look for and what is worth collecting - although always subjective.
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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 02:15    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Bill Weismuller wrote:
For some reason I can't post the link to their website, but they have one


Hi. Please read no.2 at A general guide for using the Forum with some rules and tips to learn about writing links.

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Don Lum




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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 12:49    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

If flying into Philadelphia, I would highly recommend visiting the mineral exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. If you have time to travel farther down the East Coast, there are a number of fee based mines in the Franklin North Carolina area. These are for finding rubies and sapphires if your son is interested in gems. You can visit https://franklin-chamber.com/gem-mines (link normalized by FMF) for a list of fee based mines. These are for tourists with limited time. You pay an entrance fee, buy a sack or bucket of material and they provide a sluice and screening trays. Please note that this is not hard rock mining and it has been suggested that the material is salted.

At the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas, you can look for diamonds and keep whatever you find. You pay an entrance fee, watch a presentation and go look for diamonds. If you are fortunate enough to find a diamond or what you think is a diamond, you can take it to a park ranger/interpreter and if it is a diamond, he/ she will weigh it and give you a card with the date and carat and your name. If it is an exceptional diamond a sign will be placed where it was found. Diamonds are found every week at the park. This is not hard rock mining either. It is digging up shovel fulls of field dirt/mud to take to the cleaning stations. From Wikipedia: In addition to diamonds, visitors may find semi-precious gems such as amethyst, agate, and jasper or approximately 40 other minerals such as garnet, phlogopite, quartz, baryte, and calcite. Arkansas is a long way from Philadelphia and is considered just "fly-over" country to many people. Magnet Cove Arkansas is a short distance from the Crater of Diamonds State Park but most of the collecting sites are on privately owned land.

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Bill Weismuller




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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 12:55    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Thank you!
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Don Lum




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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 12:59    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

At the Crater of Diamonds State Park, the fields are plowed at periodic intervals​ to refresh the search areas.
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Don Lum




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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 13:09    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Don Lum wrote:
At the Crater of Diamonds State Park, the fields are plowed at periodic intervals​ to refresh the search areas.


On average two diamonds are found every day at the park.

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Don Lum




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PostPosted: Jun 04, 2017 13:20    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Don Lum wrote:
If flying into Philadelphia, I would highly recommend visiting the mineral exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. If you have time to travel farther down the East Coast, there are a number of fee based mines in the Franklin North Carolina area. These are for finding rubies and sapphires if your son is interested in gems. You can visit franklin-chamber dot com/gem-mines for a list of fee based mines. These are for tourists with limited time. You pay an entrance fee, buy a sack or bucket of material and they provide a sluice and screening trays. Please note that this is not hard rock mining and it has been suggested that the material is salted. At the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas, you can look for diamonds and keep whatever you find. You pay an entrance fee, watch a presentation and go look for diamonds. If you are fortunate enough to find a diamond or what you think is a diamond, you can take it to a park ranger/interpreter and if is a diamond, he/ she will weigh it and give you a card with the date and carat and your name. If it is an exceptional diamond a sign will be placed where it was found. Diamonds are found every week at the park. This is not hard rock mining either. It is digging up shovel fulls of field dirt/mud to take to the cleaning stations. From Wikipedia: In addition to diamonds, visitors may find semi-precious gems such as amethyst, agate, and jasper or approximately 40 other minerals such as garnet, phlogopite, quartz, baryte, and calcite. Arkansas is a long way from Philadelphia and is considered just "fly-over" country to many people. Magnet Cove Arkansas is a short distance from the Crater of Diamonds State Park but most of the collecting sites are on privately owned land.


In North Carolina, the running water is in flumes, not sluice boxes.

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dimrub




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PostPosted: Jun 05, 2017 05:57    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Thanks everyone, wealth of information to process!
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Riccardo Modanesi




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PostPosted: Jun 05, 2017 10:45    Post subject: Re: Advice needed: a rockhounding trip for a beginner  

Hi to everybody!
As I have said more than once, I started collecting minerals during a trip to Val Formazza, in the Italian Alps. Tell your son if he has good eyes he can find minerals in any well-known place, either in the USA or abroad. If you are happy with something small also, it's more or less like looking for mushrooms. I always do it when I am looking for minerals. And another advice: don't forget to get friends abroad as well! It's an opportunity to exchange specimens you found with foreign pieces!
I hope this was useful for you. Greetings from Italy by Riccardo.

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Hi! I'm a collector of minerals since 1973 and a gemmologist. On Summer I always visit mines and quarries all over Europe looking for minerals! Ok, there is time to tell you much much more! Greetings from Italy by Riccardo.
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