Lake Mountains-Goethite Pseudomorph After Pyrite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Continue driving on Pioneer Crossing for another 5.3 miles

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

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

6. Drive 2.13 miles on this main dirt road

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

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

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

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

Muddy Creek Septarian Nodule Dig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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