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.
“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)