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.

10 thoughts on “Lake Mountains-Goethite Pseudomorph After Pyrite”

  1. Thank you so much for these directions! We got adventurous Saturday and went out. Within five minutes we found Pyrite – an awesome chunk too! After 20 we found several smaller “Clusters” of them. For those who are worried, I did it in a minivan. 😉 I do a LOT in a minivan….

    My son, who is 13 with Asperger’s, LOVES rocks. Any kind of ‘cool’ looking rock. Pyrite made his entire week. I know there’s also the other Lake Mountains location. Do you know of any other locations close to Orem where we could go look? I’ve heard there’s a place up American Fork Canyon where you can find rose quarts, but I can’t locate it. (Something about boulder alley?) I can only travel about an hour away, but rocks are SO important to my son I want to find him lots!

    (Bonus, know of any cool caves besides Timp?)

    1. Hi Eve! Glad to hear of the success had by you and your son! The Lake Mountains are a fun area to explore. There are lots of other spots to find the different kinds of pseudomorphs up there. In fact, I was just taken to a few spots where you will find the dodecahedron type. I’ve seen other people pulling out softball-sized clusters in another spot. I’m not aware of any rose quartz localities in Utah unfortunately. I’ve been to a few rumored spots and the quartz was VERY light pinkish and I thought it a bit generous to call it rose quartz. The best stuff I’ve heard comes from the Dakotas. As far as caves go, there used to be a wiki site for the Mojave underground group I used to peruse from time to time. My brother and I have been to a few of the caves they had in their database and they were really cool, but none that I know of that are as close as timp.

  2. We went last weekend. Thanks for the info. Lots of little stuff. Wife found two 3 – 4″ clusters. They were people shooting right next to it when we got there. That was annoying. It was a fun trip.

    1. Hi Dave! Good to hear you all had some success and I’m glad to hear this area is still producing. For anyone still hunting this area, I have also seen these pseudomorphs coming from many of the other canyons around the lake mountains and even in some of the new subdivisions going up near this area as they dig ground for new houses. Let’s get some exploring going and see what other productive locations can be found!

  3. We went today and found a few handfuls of the rock but only small pieces. Thanks for the directions they were spot on. One suggestion is to take a print out of the map because if you are using your phone, there is no coverage in that area.

    1. Hi Julio! That is a great suggestion and I’d recommend it for any of the locations. This one seems so close to home though so it’s easy to forget. It is definitely a popular location. Each time we’ve been we’ve seen other people there.

      1. Went again today. We found a lot of pieces. Largest piece was about 1 1/2 inches long. Went around 4 pm and it was hot but windy. Saw some antelope down the road from us.

  4. Thanks for the post; your directions were great. I spent some time up there digging, but didn’t come away with anything. I’m new to geology and was curious if you had any tips on where to dig. I worked in some of the established holes, digging into the lower layers, but also started by on hole on a taller mount. Is one area more promising than another?

    1. Hi Drew! I wish I could give you a better answer, but it really seemed to be luck of the draw each time we went. Many people have come to this location in the last several decades and there is no telling which piles have already been sifted through and which haven’t. The area isn’t all that big, but I still believe there is much to be found!

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