A September field trip to several of our favorite sites in St. Lawrence County has become a WCGMC tradition the past several years and 2017 was no exception. We collected at Benson Mines, Rose Road, Powers Farm and other sites along the way. But this year we also returned to a site we had not visited in several years. We sought tourmaline and tremolite at Bush Farm on Welch Road in Gouverneur.
In late June, Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club visited St. Lawrence County. One stop on the three day field trip was at the Valentine Mine in Harrisville where the quarry/mine operators, Gouverneur Talc Co., graciously permitted us our annual visit. Naturally all were drawn to the bright blue calcite and the brilliantly white wollastonite (the site’s economic resource), but there is another interesting rock to be collected there. Bright orange and green unakite can also be found.
Garnet mining in New York State dates back to the late 19th century when the Barton Mine first opened in 1879. Henry Barton experimented with garnet as a harder and more durable abrasive than simple sand and after a fisherman friend told him about the prolific garnets in the Adirondacks he staked his claims and went into production (Kelsey, 2015).
For one Saturday morning in May, The Dolomite Group opens its Penfield Quarry (746 Whalen Rd.) to collectors. This year that Saturday was May 6th. They asked that folks arrive before 7:00 AM to sign in, receive an official welcome, and attend a brief safety meeting. Immediately after, everyone descended to a level in the quarry that has been set aside for collecting (see photo on page 1). Hard hats (or bicycle helmets for kids) are required as is eye protection. No open toed shoes/sandals are allowed. The collecting period was from 7 AM until noon.
Another wonderful book on a classic New York State mineral location is available. Many of us have ventured to the Bower Powers Farm in Pierrepont to collect black tourmaline. We have driven Post Road to the washed out bridge over Leonard Brook, hiked along the brook to the tourmaline laden pits, and collected what we could carry. But did you ever want to know more about the rich history of the location, the multiple collecting sites, the varied geology, or the complete mineralogy of this classic site?
At the November meeting of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club there was general bemoaning that the field season seemed over. That was until two members suggested that we visit the Lake Ontario shoreline on Sunday for one last outing. And so we did. In fact ten of us spent several hours walking the rocky coastline at a couple of our favorite haunts. It was our 22nd club field trip of the year, and probably our last.
Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s September Adirondack field trip was another great success. Seven spots in 4 days with the Saturday AM visit to Benson Mines in Star Lake attracting the most collectors. 33 folks convened and enjoyed a morning collecting in the dumps of the open-pit iron mine just outside town. Five of the other sites visited were repeats for the club (Rose Road, Benson Mines, Talcville, Valentine Mine, Fine roadcut, and Moose River). However, we had never been to the Seavey Road marble quarry north of Gouverneur. Thanks to Ken St. John, who had visited earlier with a small group of fluorescent mineral collectors, and to quarry owner Kevin Dibble, we were able to spend three hours in the large, and very white, quarry. As a new site for us, the Seavey Road location deserves a review.
When I ventured to New Hampshire and Maine with three other intrepid collectors in search of aquamarine, topaz, smoky quartz, and other pegmatite riches, we did not pass by the planet Mercury (see posting of June 30, 2016). However, we did find an interesting spot to collect a little graphite. The site is in extreme eastern New York between the northern end of Lake George and the southern end of Lake Champlain. Along Pulpit Road, one half mile east of Route 22 in Putnam, NY, a large pile of boulders lay just 50 feet off the roadside. Bob, Linda, and Gary provide scale to the boulders in the cover photo.
When most of us think of quartz in New York State we think of Herkimers. Yes, that is quartz and they are very nice. But last summer WCGMC found another site in the state to collect quartz and get wet at the same time. In September, we searched the shores of the Moose River.
In mid-October, over 130 mineral collectors from several northeast states and Canada converged on Walworth Quarry in upstate New York for the annual fluorite hunt. Every May, the same crowd treks to Penfield, NY when The Dolomite Group opens that quarry to folks hoping to score a nice transparent-purple fluorite or maybe some dogtooth calcite. Closer to Buffalo the prized finds are dogtooth calcite, clear selenite, and, of course, small purple fluorites when clubs visit the Lockport Quarry.
Granted the fluorite and other less common vug filling minerals like sphalerite, celestine, and honey colored dogtooth calcite are nice finds and worthy of special attention. But, there is another fine crystalline mineral hiding in the vugs of the Lockport dolostone. Yes, I speak of the carbonate mineral, dolomite, or CaMg(CO3)2 Everyone shines their flashlight into the dark vugs of car-sized boulders hoping to see a flat transparent cubic cornered, multi-inch fluorite gleaming back at them. Absent that observation, collectors move on to the next vug, the next boulder, the next quarry face.
In the next few paragraphs, I am going to try to convince you to take a second look into the vug. Pause a few seconds to evaluate the white to pink dolomite crystals that you are categorically dismissing as unworthy of your collecting attention. Are not most of the vugs lined with clean shiny dolomite crystals? Is there a floater piece in the vug that can be easily removed that displays multiple tiers of brilliantly terminated rhombohedral dolomite? If yes, just why are these not worthy of extraction?
Prepared and published in the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club News, October 2015. WCGMC newsletter Oct 2015
Our 14th collecting trip of the year (but who is counting) was, surprisingly, the first official WCGMC venture to St. Lawrence
County in 2016. But what we suffered in tardiness, we made up for in quantity. The trip was four days long and included seven separate collecting sites (one, Rose Road, was visited by members on three separate occasions over the 4 days). Several of us stayed in a rented home on Star Lake, owned by Anita Persson, wife of George Persson, who helped us with the Benson Mines visit during the trip.
The trip was not scheduled to start until Thursday morning September 17th, but Bill Chapman and I had arrived in Star Lake early evening on Wednesday and we decided to take Bill’s black light to Rose Road in Pitcairn for an early start. As always the lower area, known to many as the purple diopside mound (or PDM), lit up bright yellow under long wave with the mineral scapolite and the albite at the “wollastonite skarn” (or green diopside mound) lit up red under short wave.
WCGMC News article for September, 2015 – By Ken St. John
My son, Isaac, and I joined the club on the field trip to the Jerusalem Road Gorge in Ilion earlier this year (see July 2015 WCGMC News). In sorting through the material we brought back (yes, we left the deer skeleton) I exposed the rocks and minerals to UV light. I thought that I’d share the pictures.
In the July issue of WCGMC News, one of the club’s long time members offers his memories of a favorite site and a favorite mineral. Ken Rowe, and his wife Rocky, have been club members for over 30 years.
This is a brief reminiscence about my collecting at the Gouverneur Talc Mine and the Zinc Corporation of America Mine in Balmat, New York in the late 1980’s. We began about 1980, when my wife and I were fairly new members of the WCGM Club. We were guided by Jim and Marion Wheaton, the founding members of WCGMC. At that time the Balmat site was an underground mine for zinc.
Just before our visit to the Gouverneur Talc Mine a cave-in had led to a partial collapse to highway 812 and repairs to the road required just about all the available tailings to fill in the damage to the road. Upon arrival at the mine we were very disappointed because we were expecting some good specimens of hexagonite. All we found were a few forgotten boulders around the perimeter of the site, so we (about 10-12 persons) made the best of it. Can you imagine all the hexagonite buried now beneath the road! Continue reading
Published in the July, 2015 WCGMC News
In late June, seven of us mineral enthusiasts set out for a day of collecting near Syracuse. We concluded the trip with a successful stop in Fayetteville where we recovered selenite. The site is behind the town municipal building on Route 257. The small outcrop is not a stand alone destination, but it does makes a nice ancillary stop on a trip into the area. For us, that meant a 90 minute stop after spending several hours in Ilion Gorge (our second visit there in a month). The Fayetteville ledge is not as pretty as the Ilion location, but it was a productive stop. Continue reading
One of my favorite upstate New York sites for a few hours of collecting is Ilion Gorge on Jerusalem Road in Herkimer County, NY. Each winter erosion in the gorge exposes new banded travertine that can be collected in the creek or chiseled from the boulders that have fallen off the gorge walls. The site is pretty with short waterfalls and lots of green. When the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club decided to visit the site on May 39th, I was there with 10 other club members. We were ready for a day of collecting and camaraderie.
Another very interesting guest article for the April 2015 WCGMC newsletter. Ken St. John has graciously permitted me to place his note onto my website. Clearly, the information contained here complements that I had previously posted about this most interesting location.
By Ken. St. John (WCGMC Club member)
To be honest, I can’t remember when I made my first trip to the Rose Rd. site in Pitcairn. It was a few years ago and Bill Chapman was involved in the introduction to the site. My first visit was a daytime affair with the Wayne County club in search of titanite. I do recall that titanite was something new to me at the time and that I was excited to be there with the club and my kids.
The site is a wooded outcrop beside a phone tower road. No problem at all in getting to the place. There are essentially two parts to the site up and downhill and during the first visit we pretty much worked the downhill location. My nicest pieces contained wollastonite, titanite, apatite, albite and diopside. The titanite is a dark brownish color while the diopside is a rather coarse light purple massive mineral. Mixed with green apatite and white wollastonite specimens were both interesting and attractive.
It was much later when doing a routine sweep of my collection with a short wave UV light that I discovered that the Rose Rd. rocks were more interesting under the UV light than they were in daylight. It’s not unusual to see a three color response with wollastonite fluorescing a light tan, albite a cherry red, and an invisible coating glowing a bright green. As a member of the Fluorescent Mineral Society and a Franklin collector, I was impressed. So were the other FMS members to whom I showed the pieces at the annual meeting. From then on, I collect at Rose Rd. with an eye toward the fluorescent.
Thanks to Mike Walter, a teacher and mineral dealer by trade, but a true collector by heart, we can learn more about the little (and sometimes not so little) doubly terminated clear quartz crystals than most thought probably could be known.
Article I wrote for Dec. 2014 WCGMC News
The Salt of the Earth
This month we will talk about a local mineral location, but not a collector site. It is in our backyard. Well perhaps more appropriately, it is in our cellar. The rocks and the minerals it contains do not crop out, but they are everywhere. And none of us could live without them.
OK, admit it, you have not heard of the Hampton Corners Mine? But maybe you know where the largest salt mine in the United States is located? Yes, it is the Hampton Corners Mine, and it is located just south of Rochester, NY. You drive by it just outside Mt. Morris if you are headed to, or from, Rochester on 390. For a moment when you drive past you may even wonder what they do in that strange looking building just east of the highway.
The Hampton Corners salt mine was opened by American Rock Salt in 1998 to replace the flooded Retsof Mine of Livingston County just 6 miles north. After over 100 years of continuous mining, the catastrophic 1994 flooding event in the Retsof Mine left the region with a demand for low cost road salt, but no local source. American Rock Salt stepped into that void as local businessmen purchased the property near Mt. Morris and established a new mine. In fact they established the only new salt mine in the United States in the last 40 years.
“Site of the Month” article for Dec. 2014 WCGMC News
You can call it the Gouverneur Talc Company No. 4 Quarry, you can call it the Valentine Mine, or you can just call it that quarry off route 3 south of Harrisville, NY. Regardless of the name, in the business of wollastonite, the small quarry/mine in extreme northern Lewis County is pretty important. Together with the Lewis Mine of Essex County (see Feb 2014 entry on this website), the two quarries provide all of the US production (and 10% of the world’s supply) of the industrial mineral wollastonite.
As an operating quarry, the site is not generally conducive for collecting, however one of the field trips associated with the New York State Geologic Symposium this past October included a two hour stop and a visit to the quarry floor (Robinson and Chamberlain, 2014). Steve Chamberlain and George Robinson led the trip and given their past work on the mineralogy of the locale (Chamberlain et. al., 1999), those of us who participated learned a lot in the brief time we were there. Continue reading