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Remote geode beds allow rockhounds to search for buried treasure

21 Jan

A drink of Lake Bonneville, anyone?

My wife calls me a pack rat, and I can hardly argue with her after going through some of my old bins full of stuff that’s been boxed up and tucked away since before we were married 7 years ago. The bins are full of childhood relics that include my rare Chapstick collection, vintage Voltron toys, and my water collection.

Yes, a water collection. The shoe box full of baby food bottles was a brainchild from my early years, and includes water from the Provo River, a lake in China, Disneyland’s Splash Mountain ride, and the Baltic Sea. How can I possibly throw this away?

Much to my wife’s chagrin, my penchant for collecting things has been passed to my 6 year old son, Bridger, who recently walked in the house with a large tumbleweed, claiming that it looked like a bush from prehistoric Mongolia and that he intended to keep it in his collection of fossils and “real dinosaur things.” You can imagine how thrilled she was when we told her that we’d been invited to go geode collecting.

Even if you’re not familiar with the word “geode”, you probably know exactly what they look like after they’ve been cut and polished. They’re the rough rounded rocks with hollow, crystal-lined cavities that you see in abundance at museum gift shops and on bosses’ desks at work. These spherical wonders began as gas-filled lava bubbles
produced by ancient volcanoes and formed over millions of years. Large deposits of geodes are located along the old Pony Express route that winds through Tooele and Juab Counties.

My friend Dave had invited Tyler and I down to the Dugway geode beds, and we decided to bring our kids along for the adventure. I jump at any chance to drive the Pony Express route because it’s a history-paved road through some of the most desolately beautiful
terrain in the state. The 133 mile-long byway passes strange geological phenomena, station house ruins, and the only real pet cemetery I’ve ever heard of or seen. Whether you’re a trail-weary express rider in 1860 or a Mountain Dew sipping road-tripper in 2008, the landscape along most of the route looks exactly the same.

We turned onto the Pony Express Road off Highway 36 near Faust, and drove 50 miles to the geode beds. Dave met us in his pickup and led us for about 2 miles along a snaky dirt road to several massive clay mounds on the claim owned by Delta-based geode miner Loy Crapo. We parked and walked to a large crater where Dave had already been
digging.

“Just grab a shovel and start digging,” he told us. “They’re not tough to find.”

Dave is a geode buff who has collected the peculiar rocks for about 6 years. “Cracking open a geode is like opening a present, you never know exactly what to expect. It’s kind of like being a treasure hunter and finding a rare jewel.”

We walked along the edge of the pit and started digging into the side of one of the soft clay mounds. The area was strewn with rocks and geode fragments. Whole geodes were buried in deeper in the clay and easy to find, as most are round and light-weight due to their hollow centers.

Geodes are formed when mineral-rich ground water flows through rock formations containing vugs (small cavities). Minerals percolate into the cavities and form concentric bands and crystal formations. The size and color of the crystals make each geode unique. Most are 2 to 3 inches in diameter, but bigger geodes can be found with extra effort.

We saved one or two to take to a professional stonecutter, but we cracked a few on the spot. Some were completely filled with crystals, while others were hollow. We had also collected a few duds (rocks or clay calls masquerading as geodes). A 4 inch geode that Bridger found was full of water.

Dave told us he once tasted the water inside a geode. “The thought of water that may be over a million years old is just a little too tempting. I guess the water could have seeped in there at any time, but still with that possibility, how could anyone resist?”

While there’s no easy way to date the water inside a geode, it’s unlikely that it dates past the time of Lake Bonneville. The geodes at the Dugway beds were deposited there by Bonneville’s wave action. I had no urge to taste the water, but even the remotest possibility that the water inside these geodes may be from Lake Bonneville made me
rethink my decision to throw out my water collection.

Dave said it tasted like salt water. “It was not the fountain of youth,” he joked. “It didn’t stop the aging process or even slow it down.”

After several hours of digging and playing with the kids, we selected a few of our most promising specimens and loaded up the car. We listened to old-time radio shows on my XM radio (because news programming has no place on that road) as we made the long drive back toward civilization. “I can’t wait to show all these geodes to mom,” Bridger exclaimed as we turned back onto the highway. “Me either, pal.” I smiled. “She’ll just love them!”

TRIP TIPS

To get to the Dugway geode beds, drive south on Highway 36 from Tooele for about 25 miles to the Pony Express Road, which is the dirt road just south of Faust. Turn west and travel 50.1 miles to Dugway geode bed sign. Geodes are plentiful in the BLM-established rock hounding area, which is 1 to 2 miles north/northeast of the turnoff. Poorly marked private claims dot the area. Loy Crapo owns the largest of
these, but allows rock hounding with permission. He can be reached at the Bug House in Delta (435-864-2402). Check http://www.blm.gov for collection guidelines and bring at least one spare tire. Chances are you’ll need it.

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4 responses to “Remote geode beds allow rockhounds to search for buried treasure

  1. Marlene

    March 27, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Thanks for the interesting post – I love hunting for “thunder eggs” – I will try your suggestions. Wishing you the best.

     
  2. rosita

    June 28, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Do geodes usually rattle when you shake them?Because I have an unsplit one that does.

     
    • bonnevillemariner

      June 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm

      If crystals have broken off inside the cavity, then yes. Of course, the anatomy of the cavity and the amount of water inside may combine to produce a rattling sound when the geode is shaken. Never had one sound like that, but it’s a possibility. I’d break that sucker open and find out!

       
  3. American Geode (@AmericanGeode)

    November 23, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Sounds interesting. Hope we get the chance to visit here in spring. We go to southern Indiana, some property that backs up to the Nat’l Forest, so very remote, and inaccessible, so would love a change of geode scenery.

     

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