Richardson’s Rock Ranch in Madras, Oregon and the Lucky Strike near Prineville
My good friend Pat Dolan supplies these wonderful photos of rocks he once collected at Richardson’s Rock Ranch, now closed to digging.
Richardson Rock Ranch in central Oregon was long noted for their thunderegg fee-dig on the Priday agate beds. That activity has now ceased, the fee-digs permanently closed by the ranch as of last month. This is perhaps the sunset to fee digging for thundereggs in America, since the Baker Egg Mine in New Mexico has been filled in for some time.
Update: Pat supplies this: Hi, Tom. There is one other pay to dig site up there in Oregon. The Lucky Strike Mine. It’s way smaller than Richardson Ranch. And much more difficult to get thundereggs. This is from their Facebook page:
“The Lucky Strike mine will be open to the end of September. We will be open Thursday – Sunday. Thursday’s 9am-4pm Friday and Saturday 8am-4pm Sunday 8am-2pm. This is the last year we will be open to the public.”
They are located “outside of Prineville, Oregon.” That would be in Crook County. Here’s the map Google that Google provides. I would triple check my directions and call first before going. The good news is that the mine is located within the Ochoco National Forest so you should be able to order that map and get fine driving details.
Original Post: Back to Richardson’s
Richardson’s continues to operate their rock store, however, with material they dig from their beds.
I don’t know why they shut down their fee digs, however, it may be due to liability insurance being too expensive or perhaps a lack of personnel to supervise the operation. Both understandable reasons.
Some closed fee-digs may continue operating through rock club field trips. A club usually carries its own liability insurance so operators are more likely to open for them on a case by case basis. Last year the Ottesons of Tonopah, Nevada conducted fee digs for turquoise and variscite for both the Southern Utah Rock Club and the Las Vegas Gem and Mineral Society. Even though they were not operating public fee digs.
Richardson Agate Co. LLC
6683 NE Hay Creek Rd
Madras, OR 97741
After hours emergency or text:
N 44 43.956
W 120 58.564
“WARNING: Do NOT search the internet for driving directions as they are currently incorrect. Use the directions on this page. We are located 11 miles north of Madras, Oregon. Simply take U.S. Highway 97 north from Madras – or south from Willowdale – until you see Mile Post 81 and the Richardson’s sign. Follow the signs in for about three miles and you’ll be at the shop!”
Richard Ranch Blue Bed
Richard Ranch Blue Bed
Richard Ranch Blue Bed — more plume
Richard Ranch Moss bed
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Goldfield is getting a new gold mine! In my May, 2016 Rock&Gem article on Gemfield, I wrote that a new mine might be coming to Goldfield. It’s going to happen. This will be an open pit operation, not a hard rock mine. This will bring some high paid jobs to the Goldfield/Tonopah area for at least several years. The pit may go down only three to five hundred feet according to one geologist I talked to.
People will notice fresh pavement and a realignment of I-95 just north of the city proper. That’s because the original mine owner paid tens of millions of dollars to Nevada to move the road! This better accommodates the mine’s plan of operations, the main pit to be extremely close to where old alignment was. There’s turbulence in the mining industry as always, I understand that ownership of the Gemfield Project has been sold three times since 2016. Gemfield Resources appears to be the current owner.
Perhaps to capture this new wave of construction, Valero in several months is opening a 24 hour travel plaza in Goldfield. That means Goldfield residents will finally have a gas station in town and a convenience store. Right now, the only source of food in Goldfield is the Dinky Diner restaurant, normal hours, and a General Store that is only open “sometimes” and has been for sale for at least two years. This travel plaza is significant because it will take big rigs, the next truck stop going south being at Armagosa Valley, 93 miles away.
I expect Goldfield to perhaps increase in residency between these two happenings but any new resident will still face a 5,500 foot altitude with temps in the low 20s in the winter, along with snow and the highway shutting down from time to time. Also, no medical services, with the only med clinic a half hour away in Tonopah. No area hospital, no emergency room. People are transported by vehicle to either Las Vegas or Reno for non-emergency problems, a true emergency requires a helicopter ride to whatever city will take them. That could be pricey. On the positive side, an improved water line is coming in as the result of the mine. This will make water more dependable in Goldfield.
Bryan Smalley at Hidden Treasures said that he recently had a very good month. William Vanderford at Vanderford’s Gold Strike, on the other hand, is rather desperate for money and has been having a terrible time getting by in this crisis. He only accepts cash because of credit card company minimum monthly fees and says no one traveling has cash or wants to spend it. There are no big banks in Goldfield and neither in Tonopah, although there is one small but true bank in Tonopah. I talked to a roadside vendor in Beatty and he says he loses 60% of his sales because he doesn’t take cash. Both are now thinking of using Square, that handheld card reader you see vendors at Rock Shows using. For now, for all of the Southwest, bring cash.
Sharon Artlip continues work on the Gemfield Gems Chalcedony Claims but is also helping renovate the International Car Forest of the Lost Church. This is an interesting and recent video on the Forest:
The creators mention a lack of trash at the site, this is something Sharon and company have been working on. They’ve also been repainting offensive graffiti when it appears as well as sprucing up the place in general.
Oh, the creators of the video, Cory and Honey, mentioned hitting a bathroom before visiting the Forest. The Forest does have a porta-potty, however, the city of Goldfield maintains public bathrooms at First Street and I-95 on the west side of town. I-95 serves as the main street running through town. The bathrooms are in the Goldfield Visitor Center parking lot, the Center itself open only when volunteers man it. The bathrooms always seem open during the day. I’m not sure about if they are open at night or if they were open during the pandemic. The bathrooms have running water and the parking lot easily takes RVs. See details at the end of this post.
Look for the “Gemfield Headquarters” sign at the top of this building. You can register to go out to the claims from here and you can also pay for whatever rocks you collected. A dollar a pound. Sharon Artlip has returned to this location and rocks from the claims are here along with old maps and documents and miscellany. As with everything in Goldfield, call to make sure they are open. Contact Goldfield’s Chamber of Commerce if necessary.
The Gemfield Gems Chalcedony Claims website is at the link below:
Bryan Smalley runs one of the Southwest’s most eclectic rock and gift shops. He is expert on local rockhounding and accomplished at cutting and lapidary. He does knapping and can talk authoritatively on making flintlock strikers from locally collected chalcedony. It is sometimes difficult to find him at his shops, three buildings in total.
Ask locals where Bryan is if you can’t find him. Try the Dinky Diner. The friendly Goldfield citizens won’t mind your asking. Bryan has a minimal web presence since he focuses on finding rocks and cutting same. And making doors and entire buildings. Make sure to stop when investigating the Gemfield Gem claims. Tell him Tom said “Hi” and if you have a rock that needs cutting, ask him if he has the time. Oh, and buy something!
— Florence and Rustler #2 Mine Tours
Call or text for information and reservations:
James Aurich: 702-622-0500
Jon Aurich: 702-622-1344
Guided surface and underground tours by appointment. The surface tour views head frames, hoist houses, the black shop and more. Great views of the surrounding country which are pockmarked with the craters of old mines. One mile from Goldfield on an easy dirt road. Private residence on site. Those with mobility issues should bring up their condition with the owners before visiting.
This page linked below contains photos and mine history. Information on the Florence exists in different places on the web, including Mindat.org.
Vanderford’s Gold Strike
William D. Vanderford, Consulting Geologist
P.O. Box 27
Highway 95 on the west side of town.
Eclectic materials, well worth a stop. Rocks, mineral samples, more. Please bring cash, William is not accepting credit cards at this time. Some of his jewelry is rare and understandably expensive, he says many people walk away from a piece because they didn’t have enough cash. He stopped accepting plastic when the credit card companies started charging him extra for failing to meet a certain dollar level each month. These fees are murderous to small businesses and you will find that cash is still king all over the rural Southwest.
Your place to eat in Goldfield. Skip a meal in Beatty or Tonopah and eat instead in Goldfield. It will be worth it. Only place in town to eat but this business does not take advantage of that, they try very hard. Small-town life; strike up a conversation with the next table. They will fix anything to go if you don’t have time to dine.
The Dinky is right on I-95 in Goldfield, essentially Main Street. You may miss it coming in from the south. Turn around where convenient but watch your speed and where you turn as an Esmeralda County Sheriff is often waiting to catch speeders. Slow down!
A few years ago, I stopped into Goldfield to research that Rock&Gem article I wrote about earlier. The waitress asked me what I was doing in town. I said I was meeting Sharon Artlip to discuss her chalcedony claims. “Oh, yes,” the waitress said, “Sharon said you were coming in.”
I recommend the BLT for lunch and the cheeseburger for dinner.
“My mom and I own this business and we are just trying to serve awesome food. With a good environment and great people. Hours are 8 am to 4 pm, every day except Sundays when we close at 2 pm. Hope to see you soon!” Karie L.
Public Bathrooms and Goldfield Visitor Center
Bathrooms are in the Visitor Center parking lot which can easily take large RVs and has trash barrels. Running water in the bathrooms. The Visitor Center itself is often closed, volunteer staffed.
I have heard of this shop but I think I got it scrambled with Dials Rock shop, which I’ve covered, and a man named Dahl, who came up with the Pet Rock. In any case, I am looking forward to visiting this rock shop which also sells crystals and beads.
Dah Rock Shop
3401 N Dodge Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85716
My good friend Linda Dodge has gone ’round the rock garden to take pictures of rocks and description signs I missed. She has also taken better pictures in many cases of rocks I had already photographed. 78 photos in total, of which I suspect at least twenty will be posted here. Time to start processing. Captions will take a long time to do.
Parking is expensive at U.C. Davis during the weekdays ($10!?) but you can use that parking pass all over campus. Have a picnic in the Shields Oak Grove where I volunteered for many years. All of the arboretum is first class.
They have a fine equestrian center and if you are quiet and not too suspicious looking, you can walk through the stables and consider whether you really want to own a Percheron.
Most campus buildings are probably closed to the public, but when they reopen there are a variety of places to eat. You don’t need to be staff or a student to eat at most of them.
There’s a science library, a law library, and a main library.
If you have a bicycle you will fit right in.
My friend the practicing geologist confirms that I indeed found leucogranite with altered garnet in the Utah Hill area and that it is suitable for study use. I go back to the area this week to look for a pegmatite pocket. Follow me on Instagram, that’s where I report on my field trips.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Rockhound State Park
9880 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030
32°12.458′ N 107°37.531′ W
“This is the only place in New Mexico and one of only two places in the U.S. where you can take something from a state park,” says Manager Robert Apodaca to the Albuquerque Journal. “The most prevalent thing that’s readily available for surface collecting is jasper.” Visitors to the park also find geodes and thunder eggs, perlite and quartz, Apodaca says.
Ask on arrival whether anything beyond surface collecting is permitted. The park has steep, cactus-studded hills. Watch where kids play. A great place to camp for a few days of hiking and rockhounding. Bring boots and a hemostat or needle nose pliers to pull out thorns. The visitor center has a good rock collection showing what might be found for those putting in the time.
Stop at the rock shop described below for possible park collecting advice. Please buy something from the owner if he helps you with directions.
The Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum
6235 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030
32°11.678′ N 107°38.768′ W
Just before the entrance to Rockhound State Park is this gem of a rock shop. Christopher is the proprietor here and an expert all things thundereggs and geodes. Although he doesn’t sell geodes from Rockhound State Park, he did contribute samples for the Visitor Center’s rock display. And he may have hints as to where to look in the Park. Take in a park map to make any directions easier to follow.
Hidden Valley Ranch RV Resort
12100 Hidden Valley Rd NW
Deming, NM 88030
32°25.850′ N 107°45.658’W
Seemingly recommended by every rockhound in New Mexico and beyond. Bring your RV, tent, or rent a cabin. 25 miles from Rockhound State Park. Lots of rocks in the area of this working cattle ranch. Rockhounding a recommended activity by the Ranch, in fact, there is an annual rock show hosted here each March.
Deming Luna Mimbres Museum / Deming Museum
301 S Silver Ave.
Deming, NM 88030
32°16.003′ N 107°45.396′ W
History museum with large sections devoted to local geology. Recommended to me by an avid geode fan. An archived article from their website certainly confirms this. The text follows.
“The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum proudly displays a world-class exhibit of Thundereggs, Geodes, and Nodules donated by Robert (Paul) Colburn of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum. Rockhounds from all over enjoy this collection. Mr. Colburn has dedicated his life to the study of these geologic formations and is responsible for scientific redefinition of previously held ‘truths’.
Thunderegg is a Native American name for what Geologists call lithophysae or spherulites. Geode simply means an earth shaped hollow rock, or more specifically, a hollow Nodule with a crystal lined cavity.
Nodules when opened may be simple or complex. While there is usually a “family resemblance” in Nodules and Geodes from a specific area, the best way to reveal the inner mystery is by opening the rock. You may become a Rockhound “wannabe” after seeing this incredible collection. You may have the sudden urge to become a detective unearthing (pun intended) the secrets of rock formation over centuries.
The specimens on display are the best from over 100 locations and were selected from tens of thousands of cuts made over 46 years of collecting. Each flawless specimen was chosen to typify the area where it was mined.
This collection provides a rare opportunity to view one-of-a-kind gifts of nature created over thousands of years. If your family or group includes a rock collector (rockhound), a future geology professor, or anyone who is marvels at the wonders that have been created in the millions of years of earth’s formation, this is a sure hit for your visit.
Source of Information and photography: The Formation of Thunder Eggs (Lithophysae) by Paul Colburn.”
I am hoping to get my travel and collecting book available on Amazon.com by the first week of June. There are three fee digs I want to visit that are not open until Memorial Day, forcing my publication back date until at least then.
In one month I make a seven to ten day trip back to Northern California to check on some of my old prospecting haunts and to look at some new spots to visit or collect.
In the meantime, I am collecting new information, double checking what I already have, and reviewing photographs I have taken over the last two years in traveling throughout the Southwest.
The challenge with any book is to make it affordable and to work within the limits a publisher’s press presents. Color photos aren’t an option, only a few people could afford the title. That leaves black and white. Still not an easy choice.
I’m preparing for standard paper, Amazon doesn’t offer a clay coated choice which would present monochrome photographs well. Instead, I am transforming color photos into a black and white sketch style.
This will, I hope, get the spirt of places and people across in a way unique to my book. The photograph below comes courtesy of my good friend Rolf Luetcke of Sunshine Gallery and Gifts in St. David, Arizona. Rolf was a fifteen year resident of Bisbee and is a terrific mineral dealer.
He doesn’t have a website but you can find him here when you get to southern Arizona:
Sunshine Gallery and Gifts
1313 North Highway 80
St. David, Arizona, 85630
31°55.770′ N 110°16.865′ W
I have written about him at this website many times. The page linked below has good information on him and an interactive Google Map to find his store:
I then corrected the distorted perspective as best I could and ran a Photoshop action to transform the image to sketch. I adjusted the sketch image and then added the caption. Not perfect but that is not the goal. (Don’t worry, there won’t be watermarks in the book.)
The glitches, oddities, and the lack of uniformity to my book’s layout may make it seem more authentic than what a professional design team could come up with. I am a miner and a rockhound first, not a graphic or design artist. The book will reflect that, even as I try to make it as presentable as possible.
Converted to black and white
Fixed up distortion as best I could, then cropped the image
Rotated the image a little more, then applied the sketch action and added the caption. Notice how the lettering above the door pops?
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