Lake Mountains-Goethite Pseudomorph After Pyrite

20160313_144626In this post, the Lake Mountains once again prove how underrated they are for rockhounders. Maybe it is the proximity to the city or maybe it is the numerous people shooting their guns everywhere, but many pass right by without a second thought. This location is well known by many, but that hasn’t stopped it from producing amazing specimens for decades. The site used to be a private claim owned by John Holfert back in the 1970s. With the help of an excavator, he was able to dig deep enough to find some rather large pieces. You’ll find one such piece on display at the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah. From what I understand, the majority of the clay filled piles in this cut are actually the tailings from this operation. Nevertheless, many people are still able to find amazing quality cubes and clusters.

20160318_210019These cubes and clusters are made up of the mineral Goethite. Goethite, because of its chemical nature, often takes on the characteristics of other minerals. In this case that mineral is Pyrite. Many people claim that the deeper you dig at this location the more these specimens are made up of Pyrite with some only having a thin coating of Goethite and remaining completely Pyrite underneath. Dig down deep enough to the bedrock and you might just find some more world class sized clusters.

Since almost everything at this location is encrusted in a brownish or whitish clay, it is quite easy to lose track of these little specimens as you shovel and dig and explore about. Many people choose to bring along sifters to go through their own tailings often finding even better pieces than what they had dug out. I’ve found some of the best clusters even just walking the grounds. 20160318_210623Some will tell you to search in the orange colored dirt. Some will tell you to search the grayish dirt. I’ll tell you to find what works for you and keep doing that. I’ve had mixed luck each time. I’ve included a picture in this post of a Pyrite cube cluster next to a Goethite Pseudomorph cluster for your reference.

You might even get lucky enough to find “pyritohedrons,” pentagonal dodecahedron-shaped pieces, although many have claimed that no such thing exists at this site. I’ve seen really tiny ones up on top where the road first comes onto the pits so I can only imagine that larger ones exist. At any rate, I’m excited to hear what you all find. Feel free to share in the comments.

From the intersection of 800 North and I-15 in Orem, Utah

20160318_2110071. Drive North on I-15 toward Salt Lake City for 6.5 miles

2. Take exit 278 in American Fork and keep left (West) onto Pioneer Crossing (.4 miles)

3. Continue driving on Pioneer Crossing for another 5.3 miles

4. Turn left (South) onto Redwood Road and drive another 8.3 miles to the Dyno Nobel plant turnoff

5. Turn right (West) on the dirt road there (NOT the one into the Geneva gravel pit)

6. Drive 2.13 miles on this main dirt road

(Not quite a half mile in the road splits in three and you’ll take the middle one that wraps around and to the left)

(Note: at about 1.4 miles the road runs right through a large quarry)

7. Here you’ll find a road veering off to the left (South) through a ravine and up a small canyon. If your car is able to make it, go ahead and drive another .3 miles up and around to the top of the pits. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk up the road and pop on over to the site.

It appears you can also approach this location from the East side directly from Redwood Road through a series of roads up to the pits although I have not attempted this route yet.

Muddy Creek Septarian Nodule Dig

IMAG0691 I’ve had the opportunity to visit this site a few times in the last two years. Highway 89 is one of my favorite drives in Utah and I always enjoy being able to visit the three different rock shops all within a quarter mile of each other in the town of Orderville (as well as Joe’s rock shop just a mile or two North). That’s four rock shops in one small town!

You may be drawn to the fact that the price of Septarian nodules is still quite high nowadays or perhaps your interest in the latest HBO series Game of Thrones has you searching out these “Dragon Stone” eggs or maybe you just like cracking open rocks with pretty crystals inside. At any rate, this long trip South can be quite rewarding.

The Muddy Creek area West of Orderville is known for containing numerous septarian and ammonite nodules. Utah Septarian nodules are among the finest in the world with others being found in England, New Zealand, Morocco, and Madagascar. You may find many tourists nearby as this location puts you right in between several National Parks.

IMAG0690 “Septarian” comes from the latin septum (“partition”). The cracks that create the partitions are highly variable in shape and volume making each one unique. The outer clay shell of the Septarian is made up of bentonite. On the inside, between the outer clay shell and the crystal pocket inside, is a brown layer of aragonite. Within the crystal pocket you’ll find yellow calcite and/or clear barite crystals or you may even find some pyrite or various fossils.

You’ll find lots of different information out there on how Septarians were formed so I won’t go into that too much here. The most important thing I’ve found is that once you find one, you’ll should find several others nearby in the same layer. If you start digging above or below that layer you’ll probably end up doing a whole lot of work for nothing. Sometimes, the ground has shifted and the layers won’t exactly line up, but I found more success when I followed a particular layer.

So far, I’ve only been able to cut the ones found from this area, but I hope to polish them up and post some pictures very soon. I wanted to at least get this information up before Spring in case anyone reading had some trips planned out around this area.
Directions to Muddy Creek Septarian Nodule Dig:

From the intersection of 800 North and I-15 in Orem, Utah

1. Drive South on I-15 for 177 miles to the turnoff for US-20 (exit 95)

2. Turn left (East) onto US-20 toward US-89/Panguitch/Kanab

3. Drive 20.5 miles on US-20 until you run into US-89. Turn right (South) onto US-89 and drive 10.1 miles into the town of Panguitch

4. In the town of Panguitch, turn left (East) and continue on US-89. Drive about 48.4 miles past the towns of Hatch, Alton, Glendale, and Orderville

5. Look for a Mormon heritage historical pillar on your right marking the dirt road turnoff leading West into the Muddy Creek area and turn onto this road

6. Drive 3.5 miles in a Northwest direction until a turnoff veers off to the right

7. From here, the road can get a little nasty and I wouldn’t recommend doing it in a car. You’ll want to continue up some switchbacks and across a field for about .75 miles to the dig site

8. (You’ll pass another claim with an excavator on site right before hitting this location. You should have to pass through a gate down into a dig that wraps all the way around a hill. You’ll find pieces of nodules scattered about the valley, but might have to do some digging to locate the layer to find the whole nodules)

Lake Mountains-Banded Calcite Onyx

IMAG0615The past few weekends Big J and I have had to keep the trips close to home since we had other stuff going on, but this should never be an excuse to not come back with awesome stuff ūüôā Our destination this time was in the Lake Mountains just west of Utah Lake and South of the town of Saratoga Springs. I had to be more specific in the title of this post since there are actually several different types of minerals and fossils at or near this location and we hope to return many times in the future and share with you all whatever we might find.


IMAG0612Despite what we read about the location, you actually do not necessarily need a four wheel drive or high clearance vehicle. We ended up driving right up a super sketchy side road only to find that we had passed the dig entirely. If you look on the map on the locations page I placed the pin right on the dig we ended up going past and coming back to. The vein itself appeared to run vertically right up the mountain. Large parts of it had been exposed and, after a few sprays with the spray bottle, we immediately recognized the banding.

You can find pieces and chips of the material all over the ground, but I would HIGHLY recommend a shovel, a sledge, chisels, pry bars, a brush, a spray bottle, etc. for a little bit of heavy/dirty work to get the bigger pieces. We broke two chisels trying to get one of the larger pieces out. You would think this stuff would be pretty soft (and honestly some of the chucks did actually just break apart in our hands), but the stuff you really want to go after are those chunks that are super solid, heavy, and thick.

IMAG0608The colors ranged from a honey yellow all the way to the rootbeer dark brown. My favorite was the greenish semi-transparent stuff we found on the other side of the mountain. From what I understand, just about any cut or dig you come across in this area should have some type of calcite coming out of it and this proved to be true in our wanderings. At any rate, I hope that when you do go that you run into the same success we ended up having.



IMAG0616Directions to Lake Mountains-Banded Calcite Onyx:

From the intersection of 800 North and I-15 in Orem, Utah

1. Drive North on I-15 toward Salt Lake City for 6.5 miles

2. Take exit 278 in American Fork and keep left (West) onto Pioneer Crossing (.4 miles)

3. Continue driving on Pioneer Crossing for another 5.3 miles

4. Turn left (South) onto Redwood Road and drive another 8.3 miles to the Dyno Nobel plant turnoff

5. Turn right (West) on the dirt road there (NOT the one into the Geneva gravel pit)

IMAG06136. Drive 2.76 miles on this main dirt road

(Not quite a half mile in the road splits in three and you’ll take the middle one that wraps around and to the left)

(Note: at about 1.4 miles the road runs right through a large quarry)

7. Turn left (Southwest) after the 2.76 miles for about 640 feet to a meeting of the roads

I’d recommend walking the last bit for step 8…

8. Turn left (East) on the road that goes up the hill (back toward Mt. Timp) for about another 500 feet and you’ll see the cut right there from the road

I should mention that this whole mountain was full of material (especially up and over the other side). When we were coming back down the main road, we parked at a little pullout where there was a for sale sign and saw digs and cuts all over the place. This is one of those areas where it definitely pays to explore.

Red Horn Coral

IMAG0560I am a little reluctant to post this since I haven’t exactly become an expert on this particular area just yet. This is a chance for anyone reading this to help me out though ha ha ha! We visited this location the last two Saturdays and finally found the specific site spoken of in several of the resources I’ve come across (we think). Sometimes it is hard putting together all of the information out there or even just validating its accuracy in the first place. But here goes nothing…

I am aware of previous and/or existing claims in this area. We came across one of these claims on one of the ridges (there was a little red shack next to it). On Google Earth or Google satellite view you can see this from above as a large white area on the map where the dirt road drops down a bit. It is just Northwest of the marker I placed on the map. We searched the hillsides around this claim and found chips and small pieces of the red horn coral, agate, jasper, and various fossils.

IMAG05851On the way back we met a couple of hikers who informed us that we had taken a wrong turn and ended up the wrong canyon. We spent the rest of the day searching the area they suggested we try, but were, for the most part, unsuccessful (not to mention extremely tired).

The next week, after searching online and staring at Google satellite images for hours on end, we determined to take the Cedar Hollow road just past the town of Woodland that seems to wrap up and around the location (mainly so we didn’t have to hike as much–we are lazy farts like that). After getting the Subaru stuck in a massive snow bank for a several¬†hours, it became¬†apparent that hiking in was our only chance.

IMAG0586Many people we had asked about this location mentioned that it was about a mile and a half from the base of the canyon. After hiking that distance, we searched long and far all over both sides of the trail, but still were only able to find bits and pieces. It was only with about 30-45 minutes before we had to leave for the day that we finally found what we presume to be the location.

You can imagine at this point that we were frantically digging with berserk-like fury for anything and everything that resembled what we were looking for, knowing that it might be weeks or even months before we would be able to return. We did find several specimens, but our enthusiasm to return to this location is off the charts.

IMAG0600I should mention that even before finding the actual human digs that we did come across a large hole dug by an animal of some kind. Upon rooting through the pile of dirt around the hole, much to our surprise, we found a rather large specimen. Obviously, it seems silly to randomly dig holes all over the mountainside, but you might have similar luck checking holes where someone (or something) has already done the work for you.



IMAG0598Directions to Red Horn Coral:

From the intersection of 800 North and I-15 in Orem, Utah

1. Drive East on 800 North for 3.7 miles to the Provo Canyon turnof

2. Take ramp on left onto US-189 N/E Provo Canyon Road

3. Drive 21.5 miles and turn left (North) onto US-189 N/Us-40 W/South Main Street in Heber

4. Drive 4.7 miles and turn right (Northeast) onto N State Road 32

IMAG05845. Drive another 10.4 miles to the four way stop in the town of Francis and go straight onto UT-35 East/W Main Village Way

6. Continue another 6.0 miles to destination on left (there is a parking area at the base of the canyon)

7. You’ll now begin your hike into Riley’s canyon. Take the main trail from the road and hike just barely over 1 mile and you will see the¬†digs up on the mountain to your left about 180¬†feet from the trail

8. If you start seeing the huge white tailings residue on the left side of the trail you went just a little too far (but in reality you might see success searching all over this area)

Agate Hill near Bryce Canyon

The second location we decided to visit this weekend was on the other side of Highway 143 near the town of Panguitch (“the Gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park”). I’m sure there are multiple “agate hills” throughout the world, but the two I know of in Utah are one located in the Drum Mountains South of Topaz Mountain and another one located Southeast of Panguitch near the West wall of Bryce Canyon National Park.

This “Agate Hill” is truly a hill made up almost entirely of agate–just about every single rock you pick up will be some sort of agate. As such, this truly is an agate-lover’s paradise with multiple colors, multiple varieties, and an abundance of material. If you remember, we were coming from the Brian Head location and I noticed we passed several lava flows on Highway 143 while en route to this location. From my limited knowledge on how agates are formed, I assumed that the numerous amount of agate material was due to these large ancient lava beds.

If you get bored searching the hill itself, I would highly recommend meandering around the washes surrounding the hill, especially to the East when you start getting into the red sand. I’ve heard of some really cool fossils people have found in the area. Bryce Canyon is my favorite National Park in Utah and, although the views from this area are mesmerizing in and of themselves, I would highly recommend a quick trip into the park itself. It is one of the few National Parks you can explore and take in most of it in just one day.

We didn’t run into too many other people around the area (Probably because of the season), but I did notice that many of the trees on and around the hill had been cut down with all of the limbs cut off and left there. This made for an easy scoping of the area, but I didn’t know the reason for it.

Again, as with many of the other locations I have been to and mention on this site, the directions to this place were completely off-base in the other books and references I was using so I have corrected that below. As always, please let me know if you have any new information on ANY of these locations or if I have any incorrect information. I don’t want to lead any of you astray!

Directions to Brian Head Agate:

From the intersection of 800 North and I-15 in Orem, Utah

1. Drive South on I-15 for 178.4 miles until exit 95 toward US-89/Panguitch/Kanab

2. Turn left (East) onto UT-20 E and drive 20.5 miles to US-89

3. In the town of Panguitch, turn right (South) onto US-89 for 10.1 miles until you get to a dirt road on the left hand side called Casto Canyon Road

4. Turn onto Casto Canyon Road, cross the bridge and hang left, and drive 2.4 miles in total from the highway to the location on the left

According to Me