|The Owens Valley, located in central California,
spans roughly from Olancha to Bridgeport. The largest towns are Independence,
Big Pine, Lone Pine, Bishop, Mammoth and Bridgeport. This is a beautiful,
semi-arid region surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the west and
the White and Inyo Mountains on the east. The Owens River runs through the
center of the Owens Valley and is the primary source of water for Los Angeles.
There is only one good rock shop in the entire Owens Valley and it iss
Lone Pine Rock and Gift Shop in Lone Pine. It was closed for awhile but looks like it is open once again.
The localities described were all personally visited
throughout the years and not just summarized from books. Some localities
are not even found in any current literature. There are a great many localities
within the Owens Valley including:
Smoky quartz, amethyst quartz, clusters, smoky quartz crystals with hematite blades, and smoky quartz with chlorite inclusions. This locality is one of the favorites of most serious mineral collectors in southern California. The finest specimens that I have collected is a
smoky quartz crystal with a large hematite blade protruding from the crystal. It is pictured below. The site is located a few miles east of the Black Rock Fish Hatchery.
Opalite, gold, silver, garnet, galena and many other minerals can be found
at the numerous mines found in the area. The general area is a few miles
east of the town on Indepedence. I have collected nothing outstanding from
this area but galena does occur in seams in the hills.
Coyote Front Range
Glossy faced orange/brown grossular garnet,
dull green epidote crystals in calcite, and rectangular brown diopside crystals
can be found in the hills to the south and northwest of Bishop. The entire
area around Bishop is loaded with tactite zones which are known deposits
for tungsten minerals. The best single crystals that I have collected from
here is shown in the picture below. It is about 3 inches across each way
with shiny, lustrous faces. I have also collected fine clusters in matrix.
For all practical purposes this locality is closed but was once famous for its significant deposits of galena, gold, silver pyrite, tunsgten, smithsonite, selenite and many more minerals. It is about 40 miles east of Olancha. This is not being mined at this time and the likelihood of personal collecting here is nearly zero now. Incidentally there is a nice site about Darwin. Click here.
Cerro Gordo is a famous for the mining of its silver and gold deposits at the turn of the century. The name itself means fat hill for the high grade silver ore found in the area. It is at about 8,000 feet elevation and gets very cold during the winter months. There
are caretakers there whom are trying to make it into a National Historic
Site but they also offer camping and rock collecting. Many copper and associated
minerals may be found there. It is private property so be sure to check
in the town itself. It is located about 15 miles east of the town of Keeler
on the east bank of Owens Dry Lake. Check in Keeler. Trips are conducted
up to this location by the caretaker/owner.
There are numerous hills containing granite boulders in this area. Pegmatite minerals may be found in the area due to concentration of granite boulders. Minerals to be found include smoky quartz and amethyst crystals and scepters. The amethyst is a pale purple color and forms miniature versions of what can be found at Peterson Mountain or Hallelujah Junction.
The best crystals that I have collected are up to 1 inch in size and a light to medium amethyst.
Salty Peterson Mine
This is the high country due south of Bishop. It is steep and rugged. A
high clearance or 4WD is a must for this area. The elevation is about 9,000
feet and provides a terrific view of the Owens Valley as a whole. It contains
the same types of minerals as the Coyote Front Range. The best crystals
that I have collected are epidote and garnet crystals in tactite matrix.
This is another high country collecting locality north of Bishop. A high clearance or 4WD is a must for this area. The elevation is about 8,000 feet and provides a terrific
view of the Owens Valley as a whole. The mine is famous for its andalusite,
lazulite, and rutile as well as some minor type locality minerals. It was
mined by the Champion Spark Plug Company in the early part of this century.
The best crystals that I have collected are about 1/2 inch to 1 inch rutile but some collected have been up to 2 inches.
Although not in California this locality is very close to Bridgeport, CA. It has fabulous clear and smoky quartz crystals with epidote needle inclusions. Occasionally the crystals
have epidote growing on the exterior of the quartz crystals. The site is
not specifically a mine but rather a quartz intrusive in otherwise less
than spectacular geology. The saving grace is the beautiful pinyon pine
trees located throughout the area. It is located about one hour north of
Bridgeport, CA. The best crystal that I have collected is a tapered smoky
quartz crystal with epidote inclusions. The growth charges are evident by
the alternating etched and glossy faces. This is a private claim. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Although not in California this locality is very close to Bordertown, NV and Hallelujah Junction, CA. It has fabulous smoky
and amethyst quartz crystals as singles and scepters. Scepters up to 10
inches long have been found. The best I have done there is collecting about
10 feet of continuous quartz resulting in hundreds of crystals including
scepters. The best sites are two separate organized group digging sites whereby the collecting group leases the site for a specified amount of time. These are operated by Crystal Tips Mines, Foster Hallman 702-323-2862 or 702-825-9660 at Hallelujah Mining and Exploration Company, Jon Johnson at 702-786-3271 or Ed Christiansen 702-677-1722. These claims are both on the Nevada side of the mountain since Nevada is much more mining friendly.
June Lake and the Sierra Nevada
The June Lake area is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They
are loaded with quartz seams in localized areas. Fine smoky quartz,clear
quartz and citrine quartz can be found in the area. The collecting area
is around the lake itself. I have not collected herebut there is evidence
that there are some fine smoky quartz crystals in this area.
General White Mtns and Sierra Nevada Area
The White Mtns and Sierra Nevada
are loaded with quartz seams in localized highly mineralized areas. Throughout the region one can find the typical type of gold deposit that occurs herein. Gold in quartzsite host rock. The deposits are in some cases very rich, in fact the specimen pictured in the link below has 20 ounces of gold per ton. When considering that most open pit mines are only dealing with hundredths of an ounce per ton this is truly remarkable. To see information on this type of deposit, i.e. low grade - large volume click here.
However the Owens Valley and Sierra Nevada area have lots and lots of potential areas for tracking down the high grade - low volume deposits usually in quartz seams or altered quartzsite host rock. I cant give you any specific locations but I can tell you that they do exist. Good luck !