Here is a great video on how some agates form, perhaps most: —
— At this point, let me lapse into text from my now dead book project. This is me talking:
In the case of agates, some literature calls them a, “distinctly banded fibrous chalcedony.” While that may be true for science, a technical discussion on that beyond the scope of this book, agates are simply pretty, translucent at least in part, and common throughout America and the Southwest. I’ve described Burro Creek before. That’s an area in Arizona for collecting. The Cady Mountains in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, California has many kinds of agates, including what’s called the beautiful Top Notch. Clubs may have claims focused on agates, like the one near Las Vegas owned by the Southern Nevada Gem and Mineral Society.
In an interview with Valley Verde TV, Pat McMahan, the world’s leading agate expert, summed up their origin story in just a few unscripted sentences.
“An agate is actually a type of quartz. It’s a non-crystalline quartz and it often forms as a result of volcanic ash like what you have at Mount St. Helens. So, you have a lava flow like you have in Hawaii that has gas pockets and cracks in it — these become the future home of agates. You then have a subsequent eruption with volcanic ash. Rain falls on top of the ash, picking up the silica of the ash, ashes are a form of quartz, depositing that in the lava rock. The rain then soaks through the lava rock, fills the gas pockets, and if it picks up minerals in the process, you have agates that are colored and have inclusions of different kinds. More rain ensues, and ashes are washed away after millions of years, the lava rock turning into soil, with agates just laying there for us.”
Video with Pat explaining geode formation here: —
— In explaining petrified wood formation, Halka and Chronic use similar terms. “Because volcanic ash is made of tiny fragments of unstable silica glass, groundwater seeping through the sediments soon becomes charged with dissolved silica. The silica tends to come out of solution when it contacts organic material such as old wood or animal bones. Little by little it has accumulated in pore spaces within the trunks, bringing with it traces of iron, manganese, and other mineral substances that now add brilliant color to the wood.” If we can think of gas pockets and cracks filling with silica instead of replacing pore space within wood, we might better understand the process of agate building.
The first video graphically demonstrates what Halka and Chronic and I could only paint a picture of with words.
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 Phone: 541-475-2680 800-433-2680 Fax: 541-475-4299 After hours emergency or text: 541-633-3889 firstname.lastname@example.org — GPS N 44 43.956 W 120 58.564 Elevation 1,845 — “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 — https://www.instagram.com/tgfarley/ Follow me on Instagram: tgfarley
Just got back from Goldfield, the claims are open, the Dinky Diner is open, Hidden Treasures is open. The other businesses are open or trying. Bring cash, small bills. Rocks still a dollar pound, you pick-em, pay for them in town. Honor system.
The owners of Wild Inspirations mentioned below have moved on and Sharon is back in that building.
Bryan Smalley is still manning the store, ask around town if he isn’t there. Customers continue coming in. He might cut a rock for you if he isn’t too busy. Say please and tell him Thomas Farley sent you.
Further Update: June 22, 2020 Latest Doings in Goldfield, Nevada
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 Goldfield, NV
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 775-485-3252
Mailing address: P.O. Box 27 Goldfield, NV
Shop location: 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.
Agates occur in nearly every state, along with countries around the world. Their patterns are endless and often striking, sometimes unbelievable. Right now there is a great agate thread going on on the open Facebook group Rockhound Connection:
Make sure to check out the posts. They are all variations of quartz.
As beautiful as some of these cut and polished specimens are, many beginners are confused as to what to look for. Although not always present, a certain translucence and a wavy character to the rock are good signs. Some agates are so outrageously striped that there is no doubt as to what they are.
Here is a video of an agate that I liked so much that I have never had the heart to cut it open. The second photograph shows another agate from the same location, one I cut into a slab with a rock saw.
Both of these rocks are for examples only, they did not come from the Southwest. But if you are ever in Northern California, you may want to check the riverbed of Cache Creek in Yolo County. Good luck.