Minerals and Geology - Rockhounding, Rockhounding


Rockhounding Photos

by: John C. Nichols, Forest Geologist

So, You want to be a Rockhounder:

It helps to have a hand lens…

[photo} Rockhounders Examining Rocks with a Hand Lens

Intrepid Mineral Specimen Collectors looking for … what else, MINERALS, of course…

These folks are interested in a specialized kind of mineral collecting called MICRO-MOUNTS. What looks like a smear of color on a rock to most of us, may actually be beautiful and unusual mineral specimens when seen under the microscope. A good web page to find out more about this fun and interesting type of "rockhounding" is:

Visit Rockhounding Arkansas (look for "Ask Mikey").

HEY, a couple of the GREAT things about micro-mounts:

  1. Your collection doesn’t fill ¾ of your house (you can probably get it all into one of your desk drawers),
  2. At the end of a day of collecting, you’ll be the one standing upright with a pound of specimens in your vest pocket while everyone else will be bent over laboring under 100’s of pounds of rock and mineral specimens they worked so hard to get (and it’s still 5 miles up the mountain to where you all parked your cars…).

And it helps to have…

a hammer, chisel, bags, good boots, rain gear, knee pads, gloves, your kids, spouse, friends, oh yes, food and water (those 10 hour days in the elements can take its toll…), and, of course, protective glasses, this is a MUST – accidentally miss the rock and hit your finger with the hammer when you’re not wearing gloves if you must, but DO NOT hit the rock UNTIL YOU HAVE YOUR PROTECTIVE GLASSES ON!!!… Rock chips and eyeballs simply do NOT mix. Oh yes, it also helps to HAVE FUN!

[photo] Rockhounders

What hand lens! None of that wimpy stuff for me. Just give me a good 10 pound hammer, a chisel and watch the rock chips fly (with your safety glasses on of course…). Actually, rockhounding is a very gentle pursuit. The collector is looking for quality, not quantity, so every strike of the hammer or move of the prybar is done with precision and caution. By the way, these photos were taken at active mines and abandoned mine sites both on and off National Forest lands. The permission of the landowner and/or miner was first obtained BEFORE entry. This is always considered good rockhounder ethics, and besides, it's safer that way (some folks get a bit concerned if the look out their window and see a bunch of uninvited rockhounders digging up their back yard...). The minerals they are looking for? Quartz (of course), and…a bunch of other stuff…(if you really want to know, hit the above web page address and "Ask Mikey").

Honest, it’s not ALL about banging on rocks!

Friends, fellowship, and challenge are all part of it too (by the way, that’s "Mikey" holding the sign in the right end photo…with the red vest...). The fine folks in the group photo are professional geologists, "amateur professional" rockhounders (pardon the oxymoron, but many non-geologist-type mineral collectors know more about mineral occurrences than most professionals…) and just plain good friends who every year come from across the country to meet in Arkansas and visit new sites to collect mineral specimens. They often visit the Ouachita National Forest for a wide variety of different minerals with long and complex chemical formulas (and, of course, quartz -- good old simple SiO2, the grand-daddy of minerals in the Ouachitas). Several of these folks have discovered new minerals, which were named after them. Some have contributed to the scientific and technical knowledge base in Minerals and Geology. All have shared their love of mineral collecting with others, be they schools groups, scouts, clubs and organizations, or just plain ‘ol other folks. This particular site is near the Ouachita National Forest ("Mikey" can explain why that boulder is of such interest -- by the way, the boulder is still there...).

Curious about "Mikey"? He is a Senior Geologist with the State of Arkansas Geological Survey and actually goes by Mike (except when being asked e-mail questions...). He and the other fine Geologists there can answer just about any minerals and geology related questions concerning the State of Arkansas. The State Geological Agencies located in all States are great places to start finding information on mineral collecting locations in lots of places throughout a State, including National Forest lands within the State you are interested in. The staff Geologists at the Arkansas Geological Survey have over the years, provided valuable assistance and information to the Ouachita National Forest for planning and other purposes in the Forest Minerals and Geology program. The Arkansas Geological Survey has all kinds of information on the Geology of Arkansas, and it has links to many good geological resources, including links to all the other State Geological Agencies across the country.

The Ouachita National Forest is in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. A great contact for Oklahoma minerals and geology information is the from the staff Geologists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey.



Hey, while on the Ouachita National Forest, here’s a fun place to visit: Located on the Womble Ranger District in Mount Ida, Arkansas, Crystal Vista is the Ouachita National Forest's first developed crystal collecting area. It's a bearutiful location at the top of Gardner Mountain overlooking Lake Ouachita and Mount Ida to the north and scenic mountain ranges to the south. Located in the Crystal Mountain Sandstone Formation, this is the heart of the quartz crystal producing area. There is a parking area at the base of the mountain and a good trail to the site. It'll take about 20 minutes of moderate hiking uphill to get to it. It's a fun place for the kids because there's lots of room for them to roam and look for crystal points. And, don't forget your camera! See the photos below.

This is Crystal Vista on the day the Hot Springs Geology Club came out to help the Forest Service by putting up a fence. The fence is to help people visiting the site to stay out of a steep rehabilitation area at the southern end of the area that the Womble Ranger District is trying to get good plant growth to help stabilize steep slopes. It was a fun and rewarding day for all involved. Please note the vehicles in the background. These were used to get the fence material to the site. The access road is steep and narrow, not made for regular vehicle traffic. Consequently, the road is normally closed. Regular access to Crystal Vista is by foot.

[photo] Hot Springs Geology Club building a fence

Here's the main Crystal Vista collecting area (the fence is behind us in these photos). Crystal Vista is about 5 acres in size. It was developed out of the reclamation tailings of a quartz crystal mine that finished operating at this site in 1994.

[photo] Rockhounds at Crystal Vista

Rockhounding can provide some "high-flying" opportunities as well... Bring your kite, because when the wind blows (which it almost always does up there) it's also a great place to fly a kite.