A. Everyone interested in collecting in Arkansas, particularly any mineral other than quartz, should purchase a copy of Collecting Arkansas Minerals. Although Mr. Smith is now deceased, I believe his book is still available. Search on Google.com to find who now sells it.
Many sites are covered and the book is conveniently arranged by mineral groups, such as quartz, phosphates, mercury and antimony, lead and zinc. Perhaps more emphasis is given pertaining to collecting in the Ouachita Mountain region, but there has been more recent mining activity and more diverse minerals mined and prospected for in the Ouachita region than in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The book has good general sketch maps that will allow you to get to the locations. Of course, you may also want to look for some locations on your own. If so, you need high quality detailed maps (USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps).
Complete non-overlapping coverage of Arkansas is available from the Maps and Publications Sales section of the Arkansas Geological Survey. Call them at (501) 296-1877 and request a free topographic map index to see what maps are available. Each map is named and you order by name. The cost is around $8 each plus tax and postage.
To investigate mineral occurrences in Arkansas, you should purchase Mineral Species of Arkansas, a digest from the AGS (Bulletin 24) and look in the lengthy literature reference list. The cost is $30 plus tax and postage. Or you may download this publication from the AGS website for free! No pictures on the PC version, but some significant updates since the 1987 book were done with color plates for the revised version, completed in 2007. Click on Sources of information at the bottom of this page.
Locating collecting sites is a problem for every rock collector, but a little library time before hitting the road will turn up sites that few collectors visit. Good luck and good collecting.
Q. Do you happen to know the status of the Jeffrey Quarry where solution quartz was found? I did not get a chance to visit there but heard that it was flooded and that a few years ago some collecting was done by scuba divers?
A. The Jeffrey Quarry, located in North Little Rock, AR, was the site of the discovery of the so-called solution quartz in the 1960s. When first discovered, some collectors were certain the quartz was still growing in the original clay host, rectorite. But the temperature is too cool and the original formational water has been flushed from the system, so crystal growth is impossible.
During the active life of the quarry, many people got to collect at this location during the weekends by paying the security guard. When construction on US Interstate 40 ended, the quarry became inactive. During the time that the quarry was slowly filling with water, collectors had access pretty much anytime.
In about 1975, two geology students, who were commercial mineral collectors, leased the quarry and drained the small western pit, drilling, blasting, and hand-digging solution quartz from as many veins as they could find. Meredith York and Gene Newsom sold much of what they collected to several dealers, but they retained the best material for their personal collections.
After the small pit again filled with water, Gene continued to have a working relationship with the quarry owners, Nabholtz Construction Company of Conway, AR, until the late 1980s when the situation changed. The company, for a few summers during the late 1980s, leased the quarry to some local people, who charged a fee to go swimming there, but after 2 drownings in 2 years the company ended that arrangement. It was leased for a summer by one of the local scuba diving businesses as a training site.
Since that time, the quarry has been considered an attractive nuisance for nearby businesses as the site is somewhat isolated and has several access roads. It became a very popular place for drug dealers and complaints from neighbors of frequent gunshots resulted in a frequent patrol by local police and county sheriffs. Nabholtz put the property up for sale and it was on the market for several years for $250,000.
It was during the early 1990s that a very few individuals went in and recovered some quartz by diving. Finally, about 1994 or 95, it sold for an undisclosed amount. Presently, there are monitors at all the entrances and very few collectors, drug dealers, or even local kids can gain access. It is rumored that the undisclosed new owner will prosecute to the maximum letter of the law, so we must, for the time being, consider the site as closed and inaccessible.
It is the loss of such prolific specimen-producing sites as this one in Arkansas that makes many a collector believe the statement that the glory days of collecting are long gone. I am certain that there are individuals having tremendous amounts of quartz from this site hoarded away. Unfortunately for new collectors, the hoarders usually have to die and their relatives, who have no interest, give the stuff away to a neighbor or, worse yet, toss it out.
Two articles have been written for the collector about this site. The earliest was in 1964 while the quarry was still active. It is Arkansas Geological Commission Bulletin 21 - Quartz, rectorite, and cookeite from the Jeffrey quarry, near North Little Rock, Arkansas by Miser and Milton. It is still available from the AGC for a nominal charge. The second was an article with excellent photographs in the Mineralogical Record, The Jeffrey Quarry by Gene Newsom, 1978, v. 9, no. 2, p. 75-79.
Today I often see for sale by locals Jeffrey quartz specimens which would have been thrown away during the heyday years of collecting. Even single needle quartz may sell for from $15 to $300 per pound depending on how select and large the needle crystals are. Many jewelry folks want this stuff now.
I even heard from one collector that an individual came and paid to "mine" the needle crystal from his back yard where he had washed Jeffrey specimens for years. Later that year, I saw the result of the "miner's" efforts when I saw a lot of perky boxes of little Jeffrey quartz clusters in several local rockshops and tourist shops in the Hot Springs area. But they weren't clusters. On close inspection, the fellow had used colorless clear Jewelers cement to glue the little singles into clusters for tourists!! I guess necessity is the mother of invention!
It is rare, but occasionally at Tucson ,or some local shows here in Arkansas, you may find really nice specimens for sale. The prices are high, but just a small percentage of everything collectors hauled away was really top quality. In my opinion, the best crystal ever to come from this site has several common characteristics: water clear; open interlocked clusters and haystacks (haystacks have no attachment point, they formed as free-floaters in the veins); brilliant luster; and combined with any of several other minerals (cookeite, ankerite, fluorapatite). Some spectacular platey haystack masses of quartz reached 1 foot by 9 inches by two inches in thickness!
Q. Do you know the status of the Ben Hogan quarry near Black Rock in Lawrence County?
A. Some dolomite is available from this area at this time, but the availability to collect as an individual is restricted presently. Look up Rock Clubs on this website and get the contact information for the Mountain Home Club. I understand they go as a group several times a year to collect there. For the price of a membership, you could tag along and be covered by insurance! One individual, E. C. Shelton of Batesville, AR sells pink dolomite from that area. If you simply need to purchase some specimens for yourself or resale, he sells by the piece or flat and his prices are reasonable. His telephone # is (870) 793-4629.
Q. Can you tell me anything about mercury mining in Arkansas? Also any info on vanadium mines would be useful. Tab Farthing, Harrodsburg, Ky. email@example.com
A. Deposits of mercury ore, principally cinnabar, were first discovered in Arkansas in 1931. The last significant production was in 1946. The mineralized district is located in the southern Ouachita Mountains and extends from Howard County eastward across Pike County into Clark County. Some 100 occurrences were found in the 1.25 mile wide zone, but most of the production came from less than 10 mines located in Pike County. For detailed maps of these locations, descriptions of the mineralization, and sites, you should order the Mercury District of Southwest Arkansas by Clardy and Bush from the Maps and Sales division of the Arkansas Geological Commission. The website link is http://www.geology.ar.gov/catalog/maps.htm. There are several mines along the shore of Lake Greeson in Pike County and south of the community of Amity that are available for rock collecting. While in the area, you might also want to spend a day or so hunting diamonds and collecting agate and jasper at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, 2.5 miles south of Murfreesboro. Detailed topographic maps of the area are available from the Arkansas Geological Commission at 1:24,000 scale.
Q. Are there any easily reachable spots where one can do a bit of rock hunting without a lot of advance work in getting permission etc. for someone who just happens to be passing through the area enroute to somewhere else and would just like to poke around for a couple of hours and perhaps find something interesting in terms of lapidary materials.
A. I can't take the space to tell you about all the available collecting sites since your question is so broad. You have not stated what areas of the state you will be passing through so its just impossible in a relatively limited space. I would suggest, however, that you contact the Arkansas Geological Survey, 3815 W. Roosevelt Road, Little Rock, AR 72204 and tell them specifically what areas you might be going through in Arkansas. They might be able to recommend a couple of spots.
Q. Can you tell me specifically where the "Titanium mine" is located in the Magnet Cove area? I have two specimens of rutile "paramorph" that are apparently from the same deposit (crystal faces with sawtooth-like surfaces), labelled in the first case as "Titanium Mine" and in the second cse as "MCTC" (presumably meaning Magnet Cove Titanium Corp) which I would like to place a little more accurately relative to the town of Magnet Cove. I understand that there are probably several mines which have been worked for titanium in the area, but these specimens are currently on the market and of distinctive appearance, leading me to believe there is a main active site producing this material. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Can you recommend any references discussing the rutile? Tom Yancy
A. The Titanium Corporation of America's site is in the NW1/4 of the Magnet Cove intrusion, specifically near the middle of section 18 and eastward to just into section 17, T3S, R17W. Two professional references on the site include Erickson and Blade, 1963, USGS Prof. Paper 425 - Geochemistry and Petrology of the Alkalic Igneous Complex at Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Be certain to look at the large scale foldout map in the back pocket (plate 1). This area is noted as Magnet Cove Titanium Corporation deposit. Also, you might wish to check a more general reference like USBM 645: Mineral and Mineral Industries of Arkansas, by Stroud, et.al., 1969. Finally, check with the Arkansas Geological Commission for AGC Bulletin 24 - Mineral, Fossil-fuel, and Water Resources of Arkansas (1997).
I wrote an article for Rocks & Minerals magazine 4 years ago which is ready for publication, but we are still waiting for it to happen! The title of this article is something like Brookite, Rutile, and Anatase of Magnet Cove, Arkansas. It gives my personal experiences and observations of collecting over some 30 years at Magnet Cove. I hope they will see fit to publish it soon.
A. We didn't get your email address, could you please contact Mikey again. How much do you need, because I have several pounds... perhaps as much as 20 pounds. There is no where you can now pick up lodestone, as everyone runs collectors off the road nowadays.
Q. Why don't you give out specific collecting sites?
A: Many mineral locations in Arkansas and elsewhere cannot support extensive collecting. We know from experience that some collectors come in and do not collect responsibly, but instead remove everything, which results in a ruined site.
Too many times we have visited a site and hauled out trash bags full of beer cans and plastic and cardboard containers left behind by thoughtless collectors who trashed the area.
Many locations are on private land. What is "just collecting" to some people is "trespassing, theft, and destruction of property" to landowners. We will not give out locations that would cause the landowners to be inundated with requests to collect.
Some locations have mining claims filed on them. We don't encourage visiting these sites without permission from the claim or lease holder. But we DO TELL you about the commercial locations and give you links to the National Forest land where collecting is permitted.
Status of mines and sites, both fee-pay and for free, constantly changes. No one can be 100 % certain how good or productive a collecting site may be on any given day. There are some quartz mines that I have visited that I found little, but several people at different times have told me how great the collecting was during their visits.
Too much depends on luck and circumstance as to whether a site will yield anything of importance on a given trip. A first time collector may get his/her hopes built up by a glowing report, yet arrive at the site not knowing about what there is to collect and how to collect it.
There is a commercial quartz mine that has lots of loose small single crystals that can be scratched out or surface hunted with little effort. The price per day is low. Little work is ever done by the owner at the site.
A collector who I do not know asks my recommendation concerning the mine mentioned above. I will not answer this type of question and here's why: What is the person looking for as a collecting experience? Museum specimens or a top-notch piece to put in his/her personal collection? Or, are they looking for a place to take a cub scout group or a bunch of kids who have never been to a quartz mine? For kids, finding abundant small crystal points is exciting and a great outdoors experience. It also does not break the bank account of the person funding this trip! Yet the advanced or experienced collector would find major fault with my recommendation of this location.
You should recognize from the daily fee what to expect. As for the quality of the specimens found, the commercial mines are pretty much "you get what you pay for." Nobody has ever found the mother lode and told everybody about it before filing their claim! The best collecting places for many minerals have already been taken by claims. But it is interesting to note that there are no public collecting areas that yield as good a quality or the quantity of quartz crystal as any of the fee-pay locations.
I am often asked questions about the relative merits of one site over another (Which one is the BEST?). I will not answer this question!
Every site, fee or free, has its merits and drawbacks. Some may seem too expensive and, for a one-day visit, may turn out to have too high an entry fee. Generally though, the higher the daily adult fee, the better the collecting for specimen material. Some mines bring material out of the actual mine for collectors to dig through. How good it is depends on how good the material is that the miners leave behind. Other mines allow you to dig on veins and may even work them daily or every few days to get the veins better exposed for collectors. Some allow you to dig on the veins, but only expose new material for larger groups. The question raises so many problems you can see my problem with trying to answer it.
Every site has its day in the sun! A location may consistently yield average specimens or may have sporatic specimen production. Some days lots of hard work and nothing to show but memories and blisters. Other days, walk up on the site and start picking up specimens by the buckets full. Certainly I somewhat exaggerate, but you know what I mean! The unpredictability of many collecting sites is what brings us back to them again and again. It gives us the excitement of the chase! We cannot always expect to find the goodies everytime we collect, but once in awhile, at a location we've visited many times -- Wow, we hit the motherlode!
EVERY SITE is scientifically important and for some collectors, particularly those of us who want specimens from every available Arkansas site, interesting to visit.
We appreciate your indulgence by reading this message. Just remember, if you ask me about the quality of a given site, you will not receive an answer. If you ask me about the status or availability to visit a site, I will answer!
Mikey's Soapbox: From the pedestal of truth, we proclaim the self-evident: the actions and greed of a few spoil the collecting enjoyment for the many.
RANT!!! Think of it this way: The situation is like a big Easter Egg hunt. Everyone wants to find the golden egg, including us. I know where some of the eggs are, but not all! And I am still in the hunt, too! There are only so many eggs (sites) so only so many can be discovered. We will tell you about the types of minerals and you can do your homework to locate them yourself.
RAVE!!! Concerning the discovery of new locations, everyone wants someone else to put forth the effort so everyone can go collect. But I say: Do it yourself!
Get a copy of AGS Bulletin 23, then examine the references in the back of the book about a mineral you are interested in collecting. Then, go to the AGS library and READ the reference material. Buy some topographic maps and plot some sites you locate from the literature. Learn how to read a topo map. Then go to the field and look for the sites. Discover the clues given to you on this web site!
You would be surprised how few rockhounds have visited some of the Arkansas locations! Collect your site and evaluate the situation yourself. Visit landowners and talk to them. There probably are sites which have not had any collecting in years because folks don't bother to talk to the property owners. In other words, do some work yourself.
We aren't in the business of giving location information away as we have had to go through the described process to find new sites. You can pay your dues like the rest of us! The fun of knowing you have found a site that few others know about makes all the work well worth it.
OK. That's out of my system.