June 20, 2020

Rockhounding 2020

Rockhounding IS #Responsible Recreation

Day One – Heading South

This month we visited Tonopah, Nevada and several locations in the vicinity.  When we met up the first morning we were looking across the sandy fields at a lovely brown mountain.  Some see ugly road cuts, other see possible rock sites.  Whichever you see, the early morning light is lovely..

Rockhounding in Tonopah, Nevada
Tonopah, Nevada

That first morning we caravanned to a location about 50 miles south of Tonopah known as Stone Wall.  It’s the site of a potential gold mine with chalcedony just a mile off the main road.  When we were there a few years ago you could drive up to the mine, collect strange shaped specimens and drive out.  They’ve closed the mine for good and used a D8 Cat and raked up the roads.  One of our group drove up it a short distance, but the side-hill road has been collapsed and there is no access by auto.

The Stonewall Project is located in Nye County, Nevada, 15 miles south of the historic gold mining town of Goldfield where a number of large gold-silver deposits are currently under development and 37 miles southwest of the famous silver deposits of Tonopah which produced over 138 million ounces of silver and 1.5 million ounces of gold from 1900-1921. It lies in Tertiary age volcanic rocks on the north side of the Stonewall Caldera in the Walker Lane Mineral Belt.  It’s a great place to rockhound, including children.

We all acquired a sufficient amount of yard rock.

Day Two – Rockhounding at Broken Arrow Mine

The second day at the Mine was the main focus of the trip.  Our group, the Southern Utah Rock Club, Inc., had been given 10 of the 20 slots for a pay dig at the mine tailings. Although it is a turquoise mine, the greater amount of useable materials in the tailing pile were Variscite.

Vista Grande Variscite
Variscite – Esmeralda County, Nevada

The Broken Arrow Mine is in the Candelaria Mountains and has long been a prolific mining area for gold, silver, copper, iron, aluminum, tungsten, lead, borax, and Turquoise and Variscite.  Variscite is a cousin to turquoise and can often be found in the same mine.

Those that brought pick, bar and shovel did the best.  We found a fairly good deposit of nuggets that will make nice pendants.  Small, but lovely blue/green color.

Day Three – Obsidian/Perlite Mine Rockhounding

Perlite is an uncrystallized volcanic glass that is primarily a byproduct of the natural formation of obsidian. While perlite may lack its geological cousin’s vitreous luster and ornamental appeal, it has significant industrial potential.

Perlite is used to create plasters, masonry, insulation, and even as a soil amendment. While Nevada’s own diatomaceous earth leads the ways as filtration agent, perlite is seeing more and more application as a filtration agent. Since perlite is both nontoxic and stable, these industrial applications are increasingly attractive in the development of biotechnologies.

The perlite is a lovely gray color and has unique layers of material.  One section of the mining area had specimens of all sizes that had small obsidian nuggets embedded in the Perlite.  Some looked like little creatures with eyes.  It was a different material than we’ve found before, and the material was easy to gather – it lay in piles all along the mining area.

Perlite and Obsidian Mine Tailings
Perlite and Obsidian scattered all over the grounds at the mine

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Silver Peak looking for a variety of stones.  We never did find the petrified wood, but had fun trying.  Tracy and I went back to Tonopah via Goldfield to pay for the agate we all collected at Gemfield.  All the places were closed so we headed back to Tonopah for supper at the Pizza Parlour with our club members and our fearless leader, Chops, from the Southern Nevada Club.

All in all, a fun trip and great rockhounding.  We’re ready to go back.  It was nice to have time to catch-up with club members and get the truck good and dusty.

SURC Tonopah
SURC Members Getting briefed about the trip

It was also fun to come home and find the newest edition of Rock and Gem Magazine waiting for us to discover the article “Mineral County Wanderings” by Bruce McKay.  Although we were wandering in Esmeralda County, there are claims and mines all over the Nevada hillsides.

It’s always best to research where you’re headed, even from your hotel room, before you go.  The Bureau of Land Management website will give you the information on mines, claims, ownership, and whether their claim is current or not.  Just bring up a Google Search and input the name of the mine or the mineral you want to research and rockhound.  It’s an impressive database.  Try it now and see what you find out about the Vista Grande Mine.

Until next time – – –