Geological Provinces of the Southwest

Explanation

This draft is from my now dead book project. The images were not intended to violate copyright but to guide my publisher in making new ones. My ex-publisher.

The term geological province isn’t favored anymore, instead, scientists like physiographic or something similarly stilted. I don’t.

Scientists disagree on the borders, names, and numbers of provinces within a state or region. I won’t settle their arguments here. 

Macrostrat.org’s interactive map tells you what province your area of interest is in. Their free smartphone  app gives you a province name for any ground you are standing on in the field. Provided you have cell phone coverage.

I Geological Provinces of The Southwest — The Lay of the Land

The American Geological Institute defines a geologic province as a large region characterized by similar geologic history and development. [Robert Bates and Julia Jackson. Dictionary of Geological Terms (New York: The American Geological Institute, 1984), 207] These characteristics include landforms, natural features of the earth’s surface, rock types, or a shared evolutionary history. Every part of the Southwest belongs to a distinct province with particular landforms and geology.

Geologic provinces show well on maps but are often hard to tell in person. No colors or lines on the ground mark one region from the other. Earth scientists may disagree where boundaries lie. Plants are sometimes better indicators than rocks. Saguaro cactus herald arrival in the Sonoran Desert. A lessening of creosote bush and an increase in sagebrush marks the beginning of the Great Basin Desert. Maps, guidebooks and a little study make these provinces stand out.

II Arizona

Arizona is the sixth largest state in America. It covers 113,909 square miles. New York, Indiana, and Maryland could easily fit inside Arizona’s borders. The state is landlocked, although the Colorado River flows through Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. The state has three distinct topographical areas.

-The Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau in Arizona runs diagonally northwest southeast through the upper half of the state. Sometimes referred to as the Colorado Plateau Province, this lifted topographical feature extends into Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The Plateau may be pictured as centered over the Four Corners of the United States. Its elevation is between 5,000 and 7,000 feet and it covers some 240,000 square miles. [“Colorado Plateau Province” https://www.nps.gov/articles/coloradoplateaus.htm Accessed 08/08/2018]

Any map depicting gold, silver, or copper deposits in the Western United States shows a lack of these minerals in the plateau. That’s because, as Jim Straight puts it, “Both the Columbia and Colorado Plateau are capped with non-metalliferous basaltic flows.” [Straight, Jim. Advanced Prospecting for Hardrock Gold 4th edition (Rialto, California: Jim Straight, 1998) plate No. 1] In other words, ancient lava flows not enriched with precious-metal bearing minerals. This can include non-metal bearing minerals as well, such as fluorite. This holds true for each portion of the four states in the Colorado Plateau.

(The Colorado Plateau across four states)

Arizona’s largest city in The Plateau is Flagstaff. The Hualapai, Navajo and Hopi are among tribes with reservations on this land. The Plateau features much of Monument Valley, the background for many famous John Ford films. The four thousand food wide Meteor Crater lies a short distance from Winslow. In addition, the Grand Canyon wends through the Plateau. Precipitation averages 10 inches annually. Native grasses and scrub cover much of the Plateau, leaving it suitable for grazing. Junipers and pinion trees occupy higher elevations.

-The Transition Zone

Arizona’s Transition Zone or Highlands also runs diagonally in a southeast to northwest fashion, occupying the middle of the state. It is a narrow, mountainous region with many peaks between 9,000 and 12,000 feet. Annual mountain precipitation averages between 20 and 25 inches. This belt separates the northern plateau from the southern deserts. The largest city here is Prescott at 5,368 feet. Numerous Wilderness Areas exist in the Transition Zone along with several National Forests, state park land and a National Monument.

The notable Mogollon Rim divides the Colorado Plateau and the Highlands as it strikes across the entire state of Arizona. This long cliff does not always present itself clearly, but at times it looms 2,000 feet above lower ground like the Tonto Basin. It also plays a part as a weather maker as explained in my weather chapter.

-Basin and Range

The Basin and Range geographic province reaches across vast areas of the Southwest, especially to Nevada. In Arizona, Basin and Range extends across the lower third of the state, dominated by the Sonoran Desert. Most motorists see Basin and Range as an unceasing crossing of low mountain Ranges and desert valleys. The National Park Service, however, is relentlessly positive. As they once put it, “The Basin and Range province has a characteristic topography that is familiar to anyone who is lucky enough to venture across it. Steep climbs up elongate mountain Ranges alternate with long treks across flat, dry deserts, over and over and over again!” [“Geoscience Concepts” NPS. Language now removed.
https://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/education/concepts/concepts_basinrange.cfm]

Besides the name Basin and Range, these alternating peaks and valleys are also called horst and graben. These two elements make up a particular rift landscape. Horst and graben occurs when the earth’s crust is stretched up to 100% of its original size. This stretching does not go smoothly. Instead of producing a flat plain when stretched, blocks of the earth’s crust are pulled up and down. Horst and graben creates blocks of the earth’s crust and upper mantle uplifted at angles. These uplifted angles represent fault lines which underlie the topography of Basin and Range.

Within Arizona’s Basin and Range Province lies the Sonoran Desert. It is a complex of low mountain ranges and desert valleys, with annual rainfall of three to four inches. This country is normally no higher than 500 to 2,000 feet in elevation. Basin and Range here is an extension of the Sonoran Desert of Mexico. Arizona’s other desert is the Chihuahuan. It, too, originates within Mexico, although Arizona’s portion wanders in from New Mexico, intruding only into the southeast corner of the copper state. It is in this arid and alternating geologic province of Basin and Range that Arizona’s major cities lie. Kingman, Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson are all denizens of the desert.


(Arizona’s geologic provinces)

III California

-Introduction

For this book, the Southwest reaches to the Pacific Ocean. California deserts feature great rockhounding areas and must be recognized. Extending the Southwest to the Pacific also allows San Diego County to be included, the center of tourmaline mining in the greater Southwest.

-The Mojave Desert

This is the land of the Joshua Tree, as much as the Sonoran Desert is the land of the Saguaro. The two rarely intergrade, each keeping itself to one side of the Colorado River. The Mojave is home to Death Valley, which at one point lies 276 feet below sea level. Death Valley and the Mojave Desert are the hottest and driest parts of California. Rainfall sometimes measures under two inches a year. Lower than the Great Basin, elevations average between 3,500 and 4,000 feet. Californians call this the High Desert.

-The Colorado Desert

The Colorado Desert is a smaller part of the much larger Sonoran Desert. The Colorado covers approximately 7 million acres. It is dominated by the off-limits Chocolate Mountains, over which the military has an aerial gunnery Range. The desert encompasses Imperial County and reaches into the counties of San Diego, Riverside, and part of San Bernardino. The Salton Sea lies on its west side, Bombay Beach its central hamlet. Most of the Colorado sits below 1,000 feet, with below sea level elevations at the Salton Sea.

-Basin and Range including The Great Basin Desert

High, dry, and often cold, the Great Basin Desert reaches from California’s eastern border to touch Oregon and Idaho, most of Nevada, and a significant part of Utah. Elevations range from 4,000 to over 14,000 feet in the White Mountains and the eastern Sierra Nevada. The long-lived Bristlecone pine hangs to life in its montane setting while common sagebrush populates the lowlands below. No water from the Great Basin Desert runs to the sea. At the limit of the Southwest, Bishop, California at 4,150 feet represents the largest California city within the Basin.

-The Peninsular Ranges

“The Peninsular Ranges geomorphic province consists of a series of mountain Ranges separated by long valleys, formed from faults branching from the San Andreas Fault.” So states the California State Park System. [Geological Gems of California State Parks – GeoGem Note 46 -Peninsular Ranges Geomorphic Province https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/734/files/GeoGem%20Note%2046%20Peninsular%20Ranges%20Geomorphic%20Province.pdf Accessed 08/04/2018] From a political boundary sense, the Peninsular Ranges originate at the Mexican border where both the United States and San Diego County begin. More accurately, though, the Peninsular Ranges extends south across the border to form the backbone of Baja California.

-The Transverse Ranges

The USGS states, “The Transverse Ranges Province of southern California is so-named because the mountains, valleys, and geologic structures within this province lie east-west or ‘transverse to’ the prevailingly northwest-trending grain characteristic of southern California.” [“Geologic Setting of the Transverse Ranges Province” https://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/archive/socal/geology/transverse_ranges/index.html Accessed 08/06/2018] They also say that two other provinces of southern and central California trend northwest. Basin and Range in Nevada and New Mexico also trends in the same direction.

IV Southern Colorado

-Introduction

This book treats the southernmost portion of Colorado, at the northern edge of the Southwest. Major cities are Creede at 8,838 feet and Durango, at 6,523 feet. These high elevations mean a true four-season climate, compared to the two-season climate most of the Southwest enjoys. Snow can fall in October in Creede, with 71 days of snow each year. Snow falls later in Durango.

-Colorado Plateau

Colorado’s western portion of the Plateau includes these National Monuments: Canyons of the Ancients, Yucca House, and Chimney Rock. Western Colorado is uranium country. Most occurrences, though, exist north of this book’s Southwest border. Southern Colorado rock collecting sites are many and for varied materials Richard Pearl describes Colorado as more mineralized than any other state except California.

-Great Plains

The High or Great Plains province covers eastern Colorado. Elevations reach 6,000 feet in this mesa-like area. The High Plains are a part of a larger plains system called the Great Plains. That ranges through southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and south of the Texas Panhandle. Essentially, the eastern side of the Rockies.

-Southern Rocky Mountains

The Southern Rocky Mountains Province in Colorado continues to New Mexico. Wedged in the lower middle of this province is the Rio Grande Rift Province. It also continues to New Mexico, the Rio Grande River accompanying it. Alamosa is the chief city here at 7,543 feet, the prominent geologic feature the broad San Luis Valley. This valley approaches the size of Connecticut. It is 125 miles long and 65 miles wide, its mean elevation 7,000 feet. Though the country is a semi-arid plain, surface and subsurface water from the Rockies allows a thriving farming community as well as sourcing the Rio Grande.

(Geologic map of Colorado showing Rio Grande Rift)

(Geologic map of Colorado, not showing the Rio Grande Rift)

V Southern Nevada

-Introduction

Nevada is Basin and Range country, north-south trending mountain ranges fixed in parallel fashion across the state. This Basin and Range landform runs from Oregon to Mexico, capturing all of Nevada with it. The Great Basin, as it is known when referring to its entirety, consists of 160 mountain Ranges and 90 Basins.

-Basin and Range

Mountain ranges march unceasingly across Nevada, accompanied by many Basins or low-lying areas. This is not a violent landscape and the motorist driving east-west will little notice. To the rockhound, however, each new mountain Range presents new road cuts and interest heightens each time a Basin’s floor is left behind.

Nevada’s mean elevation is 5,500 feet. This produces a high, dry, mostly cold desert, reflecting the same condition this landform brings to parts of southern California. For Las Vegas, the chief city of southern Nevada, rain is a scant four inches a year, with summer temperatures often exceeding 105 degrees. Nevada is the driest state in America. It averages only nine and a half inches of rainfall a year.

(Southern Nevada, not showing Arizona’s Transition Zone)

 

(Nevada’s many basin and ranges.: http://crack.seismo.unr.edu/graphics/Maps/nv-topo.jpg)

VI New Mexico

-Introduction

New Mexico is the fifth largest state by area in the United States. It totals 121,412 square miles. The federal government owns 35% of that territory. 14,062 square miles is in National Forest and approximately 20,312 square miles in BLM lands. New Mexico’s twenty-three Indian tribes own or control 5,739 square miles.

The state’s topography is varied and dramatic. Scenic gorges, mesas, high plateaus, canyons, valleys, and dry washes or arroyos are all part of New Mexico. Average elevation is about 4,700 feet. The lowest point is just above the Red Bluff Reservoir at 2,817 feet where the Pecos River flows into Texas. The highest point is Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet. 23 Indian tribes exist in New Mexico. That includes nineteen Pueblos, three Apache tribes (the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Mescalero Apache Tribe), and the Navajo Nation.

(New Mexico geological provinces)

-The Southern Rocky Mountain Province

The Southern Rocky Mountain province is by definition mountainous ground considered part of the Southern Rocky Mountains. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Tusas Mountains, and the Sierra Nacimiento are included in this grouping. They lie on either side of the Rio Grande Rift Province.

The southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains terminates near Santa Fe; this mountain Range marks the western edge of the Great Plains. The Range continues northward for some 200 miles until Salida, Colorado. Herbert Ungnade wrote that, “The Sangre de Cristo Mountains were hunting grounds for Apache and Comanche Indians and that the Spaniards ventured into them only in heavily armed groups.”

The Southern Rocky Mountain Province contains some of the highest peaks in New Mexico. Like the aforementioned 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak. Lower country exists as well. Like the Questa Caldera in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Taos. Calderas are ancient basin shaped volcanic depressions, collapsed volcanoes, and this one sits at approximately 7,400 feet. Of special note is the ancient Valles Caldera National Preserve near Bandiler. Looking deceivingly like a flat grassy field, the caldera is actually a thirteen-mile wide depression supporting meadows, wildlife and wandering streams. Bandelier National Monument and Pecos National Historical Park nearly align on the same geographic parallel. They two points effectively serve as the southernmost reach of the Southern Rocky Mountains Province.

(The Southern Rocky Mountain Province, not showing the Rio Grande Rift Province which is in the middle, following the Rio Grande River.)

-The Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau in New Mexico lies in the upper northwest corner of the state. New Mexico’s two major cities, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, lie on the edge of its borders. Their elevations are 7,199 feet and 5,312 feet, respectively. As noted in the description of Arizona and Colorado, the Colorado Plateau Province’s 130,000 square miles is lodged squarely over parts of the Four Corners States. The Navajo Nation also owns much territory in the Colorado Plateau of New Mexico. They in fact own 27,000 square miles in the Four Corners region, an area larger than West Virginia. The rich topography of the plateau partly explains the nine National Parks and eighteen National Monuments located there.

(New Mexico’s density of parks)

-The Rio Grande Rift Province

The Rio Grande Rift Province splits New Mexico in two, with the Rio Grande River running down the middle. The rift begins high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado. It terminates in the Mexican State of Chihuahua close to Ciudad Juárez. Its stateside length is over 600 miles. The rift is not a valley or canyon caused by erosion from the Rio Grande River. Instead, the zone is a tearing down and building up of the earth’s crust. The Colorado Plateau pulls to the west, the High Plains to the east. This action is from two parallel fault zones that run north-south through New Mexico.

(New Mexico’s Rio Grande Rift Province)

-Basin and Range Province

Basin and Range topography in New Mexico occupies the lower southwest portion of the State. This same geologic occurrence extends from Mexico to Canada. [Christiansen, Eric and Kenneth Hamblin. Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology (Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2015) 592 ] Southern Arizona, eastern California, southern Idaho, western Utah, and most of Nevada. Again, Basin and Range is marked by mountain Ranges striking in a northerly to northwest fashion, alternating with wide Basins.

(New Mexico’s Basin and Range Province)

-The Mogollon-Datil Province

Experts think the Mogollon were an ancient Indian tribe inhabiting what is now eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. The area is geologically complex. Within the province is the Mogollon-Datil Volcanic Field. Numerous calderas populate the area, especially in the Gila Wilderness. The Mogollon Mountains rise to 11,000 feet. The Continental Divide is represented, between the Gila and the Rio Grande Rivers.

(New Mexico’s Mogollon-Datil Province)

-The Southern High Plains or The Great Plains

The High Plains province covers New Mexico’s eastern quarter. Elevations reach 4,000 feet in this mesa-like area. The High Plains are a part of a larger plains system called the Great Plains, its reach described in the Colorado section. The High Plains includes part of the Permian Basin, which is fueling an oil and natural gas boom in this mostly flat grazing country. The Permian is located in the south-east corner of the state near the Texas border. The High Plains Province also hosts part of what is called the late Miocene-Pliocene Ogallala Formation. It is a major aquifer in the United States. Larger cities include Hobbs, Lovington, and Carlsbad.

(New Mexico’s Southern High Plains or Great Plains)

VII Southern Utah

-Introduction

Three major geologic provinces make up Utah. Basin and Range and the Colorado Plateau exist in Utah as they do in other states. The third is the Middle Rocky Mountains province which lies outside the Southwest. Some geologists also place a Transition Zone in Utah, which will be included for completeness.

-The Transition Zone

This Province is included as a Geologic Province of Utah by some and not by others. It is poorly defined, placed somewhere between Basin and Range to the West and the Colorado Plateau to the east. The largest city in the Zone and in Southern Utah is St. George, at an elevation of 2,860 and a population of 82,318. It is home to the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, a museum and locality that preserves a Jurassic era lake ecosystem. The next biggest town is Cedar City at 5,846 feet and a population of 31,223. This area is close to the Dixie National Forest. Within that forest, agate collecting goes on near Panguitch Lake.

Utah’s topography is mostly mountainous but varied. Almost 80 mountain ranges lie within or partially within it. The state’s highest point is 13,498-foot-high Kings Peak in the northern Uinta Mountains. Southern Utah mountain ranges climb to 8,600 feet or so.

-Basin and Range Province

Utah mountain ranges are typically 12 to 31 miles apart and 28 to 50 miles long. [“Physiographic Regions of Utah”
https://geology.utah.gov/popular/general-geology/utah-landforms/geologic-provinces/ Accessed 08/10/2018] Utah mean elevations reach 4,000 to 7,000 feet.

St. George and Cedar City both lie at the edge of Basin and Range, close to the poorly defined Transition Zone which separates Basin and Range from the Colorado Plateau. Viewed with Google Earth, Basin and Range levels off as it approaches the two cities. Proceeding east after that, the Colorado Plateau appears as a sparsely vegetated mesa.

-The Colorado Plateau

Southern Utah’s notable geologic features include plateaus, buttes, mesas, and deeply scored canyons. Utah’s lower southeast is the Four Corners area, distinguished by the Colorado Plateau. Monument Valley extends here into Utah from Arizona. Tribal land also exists on which no collecting is permitted without permission.

-The Colorado Plateau’s Great Basin Section

The Great Basin Section’s central feature is the Colorado River which eventually flows into Lake Mead near the Nevada border. The Green River makes up the Colorado’s principal tributary. Its drainage or watershed begins in northern Utah, northern Colorado, and southern Wyoming. Many cities in the arid Southwest, especially Las Vegas, Nevada, depends on water originating high in the Rocky Mountains.

(Utah, emphasizing Southern Utah)

(Southern Utah’s geologic provinces)

Recommended Reading and Resources – So far . . .

Recommended Reading and Resources – So far . . .

by Thomas Farley

thomasfarley@fastmail.com

Note

Beginning rockhounds should start with anything produced by Diamond Dan Publications. Mostly written by Darryl Powell, these titles are approachable and accurate:

Diamond Dan’s Mineralogical Dictionary for Mineral Collectors
Crystals and Crystal Forms: An Introduction to Crystallography for Mineral Collectors
Fluorite: The Rainbow Mineral
Minerals of the U.S.A.
The Best Bathroom Book for Mineral Collectors Ever Written
The Best Bathroom Book for Mineral Collectors Ever Written No. 2
The World of Minerals and Crystals: Their Properties, Forms and Uses

http://www.diamonddanpublications.net/publications.html

Everything below is more complicated. Every title is worthwhile, it’s just a matter of price. Support your local used bookseller and the used book outlets at many county, city, and university libraries. As for the net, these two online sellers are well established:

https://www.abebooks.com/

https://www.alibris.com/

Main List of Desirable Reading

American Automobile Association. Tour Book Guide: Colorado & Utah (Heathrow, Florida: AAA Publishing, 2016)

A weak entry to begin with. These old Tour Book Guides dated quickly but provided good snippets on area history and cities. AAA may no longer be printing them.

Anthony, John, Sidney Williams, and Richard A. Bideaux. Mineralogy of Arizona (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982)

Everything technically needed to know about Arizona minerals. Describes practically every mineral in AZ and their localities, along with many photos. Like a Mindat.org in print. Lots of nice line drawings showing crystal forms of many minerals. There is a new edition out, the old edition I have is fine for me.

Bates, Robert and Julia Jackson. Dictionary of Geological Terms 3rd ed. (New York: The American Geological Institute, 1984)

Definitive and easily handled paperback geology dictionary. Worth buying but see Howell’s work listed further on. The authors more current and comprehensive title is the Glossary of Geology, now in its fourth edition. It’s an expensive hardback. The third edition, used, of course, is a better value.

Burns, Japser. Trilobites (Wilmington, Delaware: Miller’s Fossils, 1999)

Beautifully illustrated book in black and white. Clear explanations of the many trilobites, the first fossils most people encounter.

Busbey, Arthur, Robert Coenraads, David Roots, and Paul Willis. Rocks & Fossils (New York: Time Life Books, 1996) Excellent introduction to everything rocks, gems, and minerals. Well-illustrated in full color. Great bargain used.

Castor, Stephen and Gregory Ferdock. Minerals of Nevada (Reno and Las Vegas: Nevada University Press, 2004)

The essential tome on Nevada minerals. Detailed descriptions of minerals and their locations by county. 30 dedicated pages of photographs.

Christiansen, Eric and Kenneth Hamblin. Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology (Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2015)

Current geology textbook, although several errors not yet acknowledged by the writers. Worth buying if an inexpensive used copy can be found and if an online errata sheet will be issued. $170 new.

Christiansen, Page. The Story of Mining in New Mexico. (Socorro, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources, 1974)

The definitive historical work on mining in New Mexico. Written for the layperson. Available as a free download from here: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/publications/guides/scenictrips/12/

Chronic, Halka and Lucy Chronic. Pages of Stone 2d. ed. (Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books, 2004) Subtitled, “Geology of the Grand Canyon & Plateau Country National Parks & Monuments.”

Invaluable road trip book for traveling the Southwest. Explains the geology behind 24 National Parks and Monuments. Well-illustrated, much more than their roadside geology books.

Chronic, Halka and Lucy Chronic. Pages of Stone (Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books, 1986) Subtitled, “Geology of Western National Parks and Monuments.”

This covers the Desert Southwest. Another essential. A look at basin and range territory from the tip of southern Idaho to Mexico.

Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of Arizona (Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press, 1983)

Classic description of Arizona’s geology. Don’t be bothered by the date, the landscape hasn’t changed much in thirty years, except to development. As with all road guides, these titles are best understood when read by a navigator or companion as a trip goes along.

Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of New Mexico (Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press, 1987)

Another good one from Halka who divides New Mexico into three geologic provinces. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, on the other hand, splits the state into five parts. This author’s guide to rockhounding follows the latter course.

DeLong, Brad. 4-Wheel Freedom – The Art of Off-Road Driving (Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 2000)

DeLong wrote the Bible on off pavement. His lessons are old and mostly still current. Choosing a rig, 4-wheel basics, packing the vehicle, airing down for mud and sand, crossing streams, and on and on. As the kids say, “It’s all good.” Actually, it’s all great.

Durham, Michael. The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America-The Desert States (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1990)

While not focused on geology, this book does cover the tone and temperament of the Southwest. Background material.

Eckert, Allan. Earth Treasures Volume 4A – The Southwestern Quadrant (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2000)

Eckert, Allan. Earth Treasures Volume 4B – The Southwestern Quadrant (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2000)

Reprinted in 2000, these books were originally written in 1987. Both “A” and “B” are needed to cover the entire Southwest. At first read, it seems Eckert explored more ground than Kit Carson or John C. Fremont. This inveterate rockhound collected in nearly every county in nearly every state. In New Mexico, he missed only five counties, in Arizona, none. In Nevada, none. He collected in all 58 counties of California.

Eckert shows all locations with snippets of road maps overlaid with partial township, range and section information. Atlases of each state with that information are therefore required, or individual maps by the dozen. In some cases, his directions are sufficient by themselves. Although his books were first copyrighted in 1987, their written date remains a mystery. He lists Ormsby County in Nevada, for example, although that county was renamed in 1969. Today, collecting is probably prohibited at many of his recommended sites, perhaps the majority. But Eckert’s works are a good guide to collecting areas in general, pointing to heavily mineralized ground or places with an established mining history.

Greer, Ira, ed. Glossary of Weather and Climate (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1996)

Authoritative and well done. A weather dictionary. Get it.

Harris, Richard. Hidden Southwest (Berkeley, California: Ulysses Press, 2004)

Background on traveling the Southwest. Non-essential and dated but a good read.

Howell, J.V., ed? Glossary of Geology and Related Sciences (Washington, D.C.: American Geological Association, 1957.)

Best geology dictionary I have ever read. Miserably small type. Proper dictionary writing by a strong, seasoned dictionary editor, identity unknown. Gives many word origins along with the use of a term in a sentence. Tough, technical words are explained in plain English, making geology’s difficult vocabulary at approachable.

Now dated and lacking the latest terms, it stands as the last, literate geology dictionary made. Geologists controlled every dictionary after this, technically astute but always struggling to put their profession into understandable English. Bates and Jackson substantially revised and updated this title in 1980 but took the life out of the writing so filling the 1957 work.

Johnson, Mark. The Ultimate Desert Handbook (New York: Ragged Mountain Press / McGraw Hill, 2003)

A valuable read with countless tips and techniques to managing time in the desert. Much spent on foot travel and navigating thereby. But, also good information on vehicle travel as well. First aid and things that bite in the desert.

Johnson, Maureen. Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona (Washington, D.C.: Geological Survey Bulletin 1355) https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/b1355

A hardcopy reprint from Del Oeste Press in Tarzana includes a fold-out map, much superior to the online map. Del Oeste reprinted many, many guides to placer deposits in the Western United States. Avoid any copy of Bulletin 1355 printed on-demand as these may not contain the fold-out map.

Johnson, Robert. Nevada-Utah Gem Atlas (Susanville, California: Cy Johnson & Sons, 1978)

Another gem trail guide worth having if inexpensive.

King, Vandall. A Collectors Guide to the Granite Pegmatite (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2010)

Focuses on granitic gem pegmatites but many principles applicable to all pegmatites. Great colored line drawing illustrating a gem pegmatite pocket. Every Schiffer Earth Science Monographs are worth having. Heavy on great photographs; I don’t see how they make money from these books. Inexpensive used.

Klien, James. Where to Find Gold in The Desert (Baldwin Park, California: Gem Guides Book Company, 1994)

This happily titled book focuses primarily on California, with a brief look at other Southwestern States. Fairly vague locale descriptions and this is a pre-GPS book. Pointing to general areas is all an author can do. Exact occurrences are either hidden or claimed, instead, a prospector must range widely, putting time in over a large area.

Knoerr, Alvin and George Lutjen. Prospecting for Atomic Minerals (New York: McGraw Hill, 1955)

Retro-prospecting. Written when the United States had a bounty on finding uranium ore in paying quantities. When two men would set out for a month with “fifty pounds of flour, forty pounds of bacon and pork, six pounds of butter and six pounds of beans.” Oh, and 30 pounds of sugar! The authors may not have been gourmets but they could sure write an entertaining and informative book.

Lauf, Robert. Introduction to Radioactive Minerals (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2008)

Wonderful photographs and authoritative text mark this the book the one to buy when putting together a radioactive ore collection. Which everyone should assemble. . .

Lincoln, Francis. Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada Reprinted ed. (Las Vegas, Nevada: Nevada Publications, 1982)

Typical reprint of mining district information. This one has an excellent, easy to use chapter on rock, gem, and mineral by county. Others have this information obscured in the entry for each district. Large paper maps of mining districts, by-the-way, are often available from a state’s geology bureau.

Lynch, Bob and Dan Lynch. Arizona Rocks and Minerals (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2010)

Excellent publication with real-life photographs and generalized locality maps. Highly recommended for use throughout the Southwest.

Lynch, Dan. Rock Collecting for Kids: An Introduction to Geology (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2018)

Terrific book for kids of all ages. An easy entry into a complex subject.

Magnuson, Jim. Gemstone Tumbling, Cutting, Drilling & Cabochon Making (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2015)

This book takes you from rough to refined. From a stone picked off the ground, Magnuson goes through every step needed to rock into rock art. Really good.

Massey, Peter, Angela Titus, Jeanne Wilson. Nevada Trails: Southern Region (Parker, Colorado: APC Publishing, 2015)

Describes many off-pavement roads and tracks that often go by old mines. Good advice on selecting an off-road vehicle. Gives every road or tour a difficulty rating. Recommended.

Mottana, Annibale; Rodolfo Crespi and Giuseppe Liborio. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Rocks and Minerals (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978)

Authoritative and frequently cited. Widely available and inexpensive used. Beware of broken spines. Tremendous variety of rocks and minerals covered. No fossils. Difficult for the beginner. Small size makes it impossible to lay flat and to easily browse. Good photographs but see Proctor (below) for better images, if fewer in number.

Page, Jake. The Smithsonian Guides to Natural America: The Southwest: New Mexico – Arizona (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1995)

Pearl, Richard. Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide 3rd ed. (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1972)

Excellent book with maps detailed enough to follow today, provided listed roads are still open. Detailed references. Heavy emphasis on mineral collecting.

Pearl, Richard. Handbook for Prospectors 5th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1973)

Dated and excellent prospecting book. Pearl did everything, went everywhere. Enough remains true to warrant buying. An entertaining and informative read.

Powell, Darryl. Rocks, Minerals & Crystals: A Collecting and Coloring Book (Gem Guides Book Company: Baldwin Park, California, 2017)

Great book for kids to color and learn from. Represents most material in idealized form, rather than the way it is pulled from the ground. Still a good book for present crystals in all their forms. Link to the publisher at the top of this text.

Proctor, Dean and P. Robert Peterson. Mineral-Rock Handbook (Sandy, Utah: Paulmar Publishers, 1989)

The best mineral and rock photographs in an everyday guide. Features large image sizes, especially helpful with identification. The spine is broken on my copy, be carefulto get an intact copy.

Rambo, Katherine. The World Came to Tucson (Tucson, Arizona: Stanegate Press, 2014)

History of the largest rock, gem, and mineral show in the world. Held each year, Rambo details its origin and continuation. Good background for anyone going.

Ransom, Jay. Arizona Gem Trails and the Colorado Desert of California (Portland: Mineralogist Publishing Company, 1955)

If the price is right.

Ransom, Jay. The Gold Hunter’s Field Book (New York: Harper & Row, 1975)

State by state and province by province descriptions of collecting areas. Good, general advice on gold and prospecting for same.

Sano, Jennifer. Gems & Minerals of The Southwest (Tucson, Arizona: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009) A very pretty book. Photographs by the famed rock, gem and mineral photographer Jeffrey Scovil. Photographs represent high-end collection and museum pieces. Detailed information on each subject, including metaphysical notes.

Schneider, Stuart. The World of Fluorescent Minerals (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2006)

Part of Schiffer’s Book for Collectors series. Really nice.

Simpson, Bessie. New Mexico Gem Trails Revised ed. (Granbury, Texas: Gem Trails Publishing Company, 1965)

Straight, Jim. Nuggestshooting Dryplacer Areas 4th ed. (Rialto, California: Jim Straight, 1994)

No better prospector and writer than Jim Straight has ever come along. Technically challenging at times, Straight’s information applies to all metal detectors and dry washers. They are not product manuals, instead they teach everything needed to locate gold with any equipment the prospector owns.

Straight, Jim. Advanced Prospecting & Detecting for Hardrock Gold 4th ed. (Rialto, California: Jim Straight, 1998)

One could become a gold geologist by understanding everything Straight writes about in this book. Emphasis on research before traveling and on seeking areas little prospected. Depending on price, everything written by Straight is worth buying.

Thrush, Paul, ed. A Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968)

Eight pounds of awesome, this 1,269-page boat anchor of a book belongs in the library of anyone seriously interested in all things rock related. Bates’ Dictionary of Geological Terms (above) should be the first choice of the beginning rockhound but this title, though dated, is a classic. Make sure the spine isn’t cracked and don’t overpay.

Ungnade, Herbert. Guide to the New Mexico Mountains (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1965)

The essential work on the mountains of New Mexico. Hampered somewhat by a few difficult to follow black and white illustrations. But in general, the graphics are good. Many worthwhile reflections on New Mexico mining, especially by first peoples. Worth getting.

Wilburn, James. Prospecting for Gold Mines (Mesa: Arizona Specialty Printing, 1984)

A favorite. Wilburn describes well the essentials of gold prospecting. He’s intense. He’s not looking to pick up a few flakes or nuggets, this work is fixed on finding enough to start a mine.

Wilson, James. A Collector’s Guide to Rock, Mineral & Fossil Localities of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Geological Survey, 1995)

Available free online but best in hardcopy, this is an extremely well-organized work. Takes the rockhound through geology and identification basics and then lists rocks, gems, minerals and fossils county by county. All books should be this well laid out.

Woodmencey, Jim. Weather in the Southwest (Tucson, Arizona: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 2001)

Short, well-illustrated book on Southwest weather basics. Not essential but don’t bypass it at a good price.

Wooley, Alan and Arthur Bishop. The Henry Holt Guide to Minerals, Rocks and Fossils (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1989)

Another field guide, another presentation on collecting and identification. Worth having. Avoid cracked spines.


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This Might be My Last Post for A While

Since I finished what I could of my travel book series, I am now turning to other things. My back has to heal up better and I probably should spend more time indoors to help that along.

I’m now spending quite a bit of time contributing by better photos to Wikimedia, the photo repository for Wikimedia. I am placing all of these photos in the public domain, with no restrictions on their use or any need to credit me. I could explain why but that would take several more paragraphs to describe. You can go over to my writing site if you want to know more.

One has to register with Wikimedia first, upload and describe a photo according to their requirements, and then place a link to it at an appropriate Wikipedia page. I thought the dashboards and the interface the two groups used were too intimidating but it’s not that difficult once you go through it. Just takes time.

I saw there were no photos at Wikipedia on the Nopah Range in Inyo County. None taken while in that range at least, just two photos from the valley floor. I added a photo gallery of some of my pictures to this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nopah_Range

Update! Wikipedia does not want to be an image gallery. An editor kindly told me this and we are going to rework that page. Only a few photos should show at a Wikipedia entry, the rest can sit quietly at Wikipedia Commons to be used in other articles and to be searchable as a whole.

Back to my original post:

It took most of this morning to get my Nopah photos up but they are now permanently posted at Wikimedia Commons where they await somebody 12 years from now to do a report. Many photos I am going to post have been seen here but not organized, not full sized, and not with a copyright release.

Seeing no photos of a wild Red Rock Canyon desert tortoise, I added my four tortoise photos to this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rock_Canyon_National_Conservation_Area

Here’s what I did for the Darwin, California entry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin,_California

Update (again) That entry above has been changed. The emphasis on Wikipedia is not to create image galleries. I am learning this as I go and I remain very positive about contributing to Wikipedia and Wikipedia Commons. Be prepared, however, to have an editor watching your work and correcting it. That’s only fair, every writer needs an editor.

Back to the original article:

I’d encourage you, too, to build up what’s called the inverted pyramid of knowledge. With Wikipedia and Wikimedia, everyone can.

I wish you good health until my next report.


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My New Mexico Chapter is Now Out

The Arizona and New Mexico chapters of my now halted book project is out. Places to go, things to do, stuff to pick off the ground. If anything is open these days, Still, plenty of open USFS and BLM managed ground to run around in.

The first two new chapters are at my SW Travel Page, which also has more abbreviated documents covering the entire Southwest.

I hope to get the Nevada Chapter out next.





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Site News and What’s Coming Next

I hope you and yours are well and safe. Nevadans are still free to move about the state, even here in Las Vegas in Clark County. As such, I am getting out as much as I can while I can.

With many of you staying at home, I will be posting much more often. In addition to reporting on whatever day trips I take now, I will be posting photographs from my travels across the Southwest that I have taken over the last three years. They won’t be well processed or described in too much detail (this is the greatest time killer with photography) but they will be something interesting to look at. Until my server space runs out, these will be full size images that you can download and use in any way you like without a need to credit me or worry about copyright restrictions.

As far as my health, I badly wrenched my back two weeks ago while working on my truck. I took aspirin for two days and then admitted defeat by turning myself into an Emergency Room at three in the morning. Since then I have visited three more medical facilities, each time getting good care but also exposing myself to whatever might be in the air. It’s a bit worrisome.

My injury somehow produces pain from my lower back to the sole of my left foot. I have no pain for ninety percent of the time unless I move the wrong way. Walking around and staying active helps if I am careful. Somehow, I can still do cautious, slow hiking up hills without much discomfort. I don’t understand this. On the other hand, I stiffen up so much at night that when I get out of bed in the morning I am screaming in pain. Literally. I have an appointment with a physical therapist soon.

What else?

My book project is taking up too much of my time and patience. I am a perfectionist and I wanted this hardcopy book to look a certain way and to be in a spiral bound format to lay flat. Bringing this about has caused me to waste too much time indoors. As such, I will be roughly formatting the document and then releasing it for free, chapter by chapter. The Arizona chapter is 70 pages by itself. I don’t know whether I will put it out as a .pdf or a Word doc. I will be locking down the content in some form, my one restriction for the time and effort it has taken to produce this writing.

I’m going to try to get back to Railroad Pass today to try to source some andesite for a friend who is looking for it. Unfortunately, it may not be there, despite the simple geological map that I was using previously from Macrostrat.org. I pulled the official USGS geological map for the area and the real outcroppings of andesite are miles distant and off pavement. See the image below, “Ta” stands for andesite. Scattered occurrences of andesite may occur at Railroad Pass since maps cannot locate every rock. But again, andesite is quite a bit away and I shouldn’t go off pavement too far since I can no longer change a tire on my own. I also have other reasons to return to Mountain Pass which I will detail later.

I hope all of you are well and safe.



This is Macrostrat’s simplified description of the hill I was on at Railroad Pass.

Harding Pegmatite Mine

Random photos of the Harding Pegmatite Mine in Taos County, New Mexico. Some of these might have been posted before, some of them may have been downsized at one time. Follow the link I just gave, many more details there. More pictures to come.

















Visitation rights are now subject to change because of the virus. Check the University’s websites. And check my current places to visit travel list for attractions around the area. Subject to when we can all travel again, of course, and with the hope our rock shops have not gone out of business.

Harding Pegmatite Mine

Between Taos and Santa Fe along NM 75. Bring all your maps.

The Harding Pegmatite Mine is a former rare minerals quarry located in Taos County. Now maintained by the University of New Mexico, the Pegmatite Mine is open to rockhounds for no fee. Five pounds of material may be taken provided guidelines are followed. Large groups must pay a fee and they need to call ahead.

Visitors must fill out a release form available at the mine’s website. Follow the University’s instructions exactly as it will be necessary to fetch the caretaker before entering the mine. The road to the first mine gate is short and passable by passenger vehicles. Parking is extremely limited at this first gate. No trailers or RVs. If the gate is open, a larger parking lot is farther along the road.

Pegmatites are unusual and interesting rocks igneous rocks, originating from volcanic activity. At the Harding Mine, white sparkling rock is all around, some with pink tints, often with gray or darker inclusions. The pegmatite is the white rock, the various colors and inclusions the minerals. These can be quite unusual, needing an expert to identify them. Bityite, eucryptite, and fluorapatite are some. More common is the pink tinged lepidolite.

A lepidolite tinged rock showing nice pink coloring is a challenging but satisfying project on a warm day in the beautiful hill country of Taos. If possible, bring a short wave and longwave lamp, along with a barbecue lid cover. Hunting fluorescent rocks enlarges searching beyond what appears in daylight.

Print the “Walking Tour for the Harding Pegmatite Mine” file before visiting. It references the numbered markers that are spotted about the quarry.

If possible, a tour of the old quarry should start at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in Northrop Hall, home to UNM’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. A museum in Room 124 displays specimens from the mine. A dimly lit case on the first floor also exhibits specimens, including a large chunk of beryl. In that case, notice how one rock seems to intergrade with others. The rose muscovite, the lepidolite, and the spodumene all seem variations on a theme. What’s not obvious is the sparkling nature of some of the rocks, which comes into play in bright light.

The mine’s entrance off Highway 75 is on a strong uphill grade and is difficult to find. There is no sign indicating the mine road, save for a small wood plaque on a juniper asking people to pack out their trash. On a fair day, you will be caught up in looking at the surrounding countryside. This is the land D.H. Lawrence fell in love with and you will, too.

36°11.890′ N 105°47.346′ W

This link is for the mine tour.pdf and the release form:

http://epswww.unm.edu/harding-mine/

The Taos hill country is populated with artist studios, wineries, and scattered Indian Pueblos. Cottonwoods in the fall blaze yellow along streams and other watercourses. It is a delight in fair weather. Iceland spar may still exist in the area, check Mindat.org for possible locations and MyLandMatters.org for land status.

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New Book Update

Work continues on my new book and I am making good progress on the writing and illustrations. The difficulties of bringing it to print, though, may  delay or completely shut down the project.

My intent was to go through Amazon’s self publishing service, however, they don’t offer a coil or spiral bound option. My book is a field and road trip guide, something to take along in a car or truck. Something that would lay flat and not close itself like a conventional book.

Lulu.com does offer that option and I have been considering them. But I’ve been reading a detailed blog post on one man’s experience that seems extremely distressing:

https://perishablepress.com/desktop-publishing-survival-tips-on-demand-book-printing-at-lulucom/

Essentially, he exactingly formatted a .pdf to Lulu’s specifications, only to find their presses could not reproduce his work with that specificity. His first proof copy came out bad, the second, worse. Everything in his first proof was shifted up and to the left, leaving his carefully plotted margins worthless. Again, the second proof was worse. I could not go through this.

His advice is that Lulu might be great for a simple book with wide margins on every page, but for anything beyond that, forget it.

“Lulu.com is great for simple print jobs with WIDE margins of error, but for high-precision, detail-oriented printing, they just don’t cut it.”

My book would use double columns as with my old magazine. I know the look I want and I am finicky. I have a question into Lulu that has so far gone unanswered. The blog poster, Jeff Starr, also mentions terrible customer support. To be fair to Lulu, he did go through the entire process with them so he knows what he is writing about.

I mentioned my magazine. I had a local printing company run off copies of it and they were very good. I later had a printing company in Point Arena, California, publish a few issues and they were also excellent. But both were extremely expensive; good printing isn’t cheap and they want their money up front.

Today, in 2020, we live in the world of print-on-demand. Somebody orders a copy of a self published book done through Amazon and Amazon fulfills the order by printing it and drop shipping it to the customer. No up front costs as Amazon takes their cut when a book sells. Great. As long as what you have produced comes out the way that you want it.  At a price someone can afford.  I will continue looking around for a coil bound publisher with a good reputation.

Another choice comes to mind which is totally contradictory to my previous publishing experience. This would involve buying an enterprise level copier and then running off the copies myself. People could buy the title using PayPal and I would mail it off myself. This shouldn’t work.

Traditional printing presses win because the cost per page decreases with volume. Ink is fairly cheap, just let the press run.

Ink cartridges, on the other hand, never decrease in price as page count goes up. There is no economy of scale possible with an ink cartridge, your cost per page is always set. But there may be another way to work around this.

Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and most other distributors take at least 40% of a book’s cover price. This is standard and has been for decades in the book trade. Magazines, too.

A twenty dollar book, therefore, would result in $12 net to me. What if I took that missing eight dollars and threw it into buying a copier and cartridges and a maintenance contract? I’d control the entire process and could produce the title exactly the way I wanted. Much to think about, as the mechanics and economics of publishing are now getting in the way.

All of this is avoided when you work under contract with a traditional publisher, not a vanity press.  My experience with traditional publishing though, was a disaster as I have written about before. I tried traditional, with the largest field guide publisher in the United States. 14 months under contract, only to have them change the book title, its orientation, and its release date without ever consulting me. That MS I submitted remains unpublished.

I now have no help with design or production or costs. This is better, though, that dealing  with people I can’t trust. If I self publish, well, at least I can trust myself.



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Version 9 of the Southwest Travel List is Out!

My latest list of Places to Visit and Collect in the Southwest is the best ever.  This post may say Version 9 but I have since done Revision 10.

https://southwestrockhounding.com/sw-travel-list/

Or get it here:

Version 10, November 6,  2019

This page always has the latest version of my Places to Visit and Collect in the Southwest. (And beyond!)

.pdf (Printing and desktop work)

Version 10 , November 6, 2019

SW_Places_To_Visit_Or_Collect_10A_

 

 

 

.mobi (Kindle format for mobile devices):

Version 10, November 6, 2019 

SW Places To Visit Or Collect 10 – Tom Farley


 

 

 

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Annotated Reading List of Rock Related Titles

List with comments of books I used in writing and researching my now dead book project. Nine page .pdf.

Recommended_Rock_Reading

 

 

 

I’ve learned .pdf files aren’t mobile friendly. If you want to try an experiment, see if you can open this epub file. An iphone should open it in iBooks, the native Apple e-book reader. If you don’t have that, there are a number of free epub readers from different app stores. On my phone this file becomes extremely useful, no more pan an scan, pinch and zoom.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/uq3xkxiouqhwdm1/reading_and_resources_08_16_2018.epub?dl=0

Tell me if you can open it: thomasfarley@fastmail.com

 

 


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Version 3 is Out!

Version 3 of my Places to Visit and Collect in the Southwest is out, emphasizing central New Mexico. I update information on the Trinity Site at the White Sands National Monument, Blanchard’s Rock shop in Bingham, and the mineral museum in Socorro. Clickable links in the document to photo galleries at my Patreon site.

You can download the file by clicking here:

Southwest_Places_To_Visit_Or_Collect_03
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