A few weeks out from my annually planned fall trip to southern Arkansas, I received an email from WC with the MAGS Club, letting me know that the club`s second planned trip to the Vulcan Quarry in Black Rock, in the northern part of Arkansas, was scheduled for the same weekend I planned to be in the southern part of the state. I emailed him back to let him know that I planned to be in Magnet Cove on that weekend, with Ray Roth joining me and we were going to be checking out a novaculite quarry in the Magnet Cove on Friday morning. This particular quarry has four different types of novaculite and comes in a variety of beautiful colors, looking more like agate or jasper than flint, and very popular with those who enjoy the hobby of knapping…creating arrowheads and other Native American artifacts….and checking out some locations on private property on Saturday, where over one hundred minerals could be found, including smokey quartz, brookite, and rutile. We would also be checking out a new quartz crystal mine in the Mount Ida area that recently opened to public fee digging and possibly checking out a phantom crystal mine nearby as well as following up on a lead on private owned property on the north shores of Lake Ouachita that had both wavellite in green and blue colors, and quartz crystals too. WC emailed back to say that he would rather go with us on our planned trip and would get back to me…he was having problems firming up the trip to Black Rock and might just switch the trip to Magnet Cove with us. I let Mr. Parker, the quarry owner, know that this might turn into a club trip and he was okay with that. I had begun talking to him by email the year before, but didn`t make it down to the Magnet Cove area that year, due to time restraints. About a week out from my planned departure, WC advised me that many of the club members had encountered some conflicts with the dates and would not be able to make it, himself included, but he would put any others interested in joining us, in touch with me by email. As it turned out, my good friend Virgil Richards, was the only other club member that decided to join us on the trip.
Ray and I had both planned to leave the morning of Nov 6th and travel to Hot Springs….my trip would depend much on whether my Dad made it through emergency surgery that he underwent on Nov 4th. I had driven my parents to Barnes Hospital in St Louis early that morning, as my Dad had to be there to prep for Abdominal Aortic Anneurism Repair Surgery. His abdominal aortic artery had a couple of bad spots just above the wye, where the artery branched off to supply blood to his legs, and the Chief of Vascular Surgery for Washington University and Barnes Hospital, Dr Sanchez, was going to perform the operation, and place a specially made graft around the artery at that point, snap it into place, and then suture it as well as place four to five stints in the artery all around the graft, which would further secure it in place. This special graft was designed by Dr. Sanchez and made in the country of Australia according to the specifications of Dr Sanchez, which required about six to eight weeks to make and get to the United States through customs. My Dad was on the operating table for approximately six hours while Dr Sanchez and his medical team performed the surgery. It was a long wait and our many prayers were answered for a successful operation, and Dad came through it just fine, very stable throughout the surgery. My sister joined us in the waiting room before the operation began and stayed with my Mom and I throughout the day, and some of Dad`s closest friends came by as well to check on him while we waited. His surgery had been scheduled for early morning, however a patient with a worse situation was moved in front of my Dad`s scheduled operation and so his operation was delayed about four hours.
Dad woke up from his operation about ninety minutes afterwards, and we were able to see him for about five minutes in the recovery room, before they moved him to a hospital room. As is usually the case with general anesthesia, from past experience myself with outpatient surgery, it is hard to wake up from it and about the only thing you want to do is rest and sleep it off, so I returned home at that time and Mom began calling a long list of friends and relatives to let them know that Dad had made it through the surgery just fine. I returned the next morning with a box of donuts and Dad was glad to get them, his breakfast was pretty light after a bowl of soup the night before after the surgery. He looked much better and after a few hours, gave me his blessings to go to Arkansas on my fall vacation.
The next morning, Missy and I headed west to Joplin and then turned south on 71 toward the Natural State of Arkansas…I stopped off in Fayetteville to check out some minerals for sale at a flea market, where I found some pretty pieces of amethyst, a couple of nice dogtooth crystals from a calcite quarry in Ohio…
and a chunk of matrix with three perfectly formed cubes of pyrite….
We then continued south after a short break for Missy, and stopped off at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to visit with Adam Lageveen. I had been talking to Adam for a few weeks after answering his ad on CL regarding Arkansas minerals for sale, discovering in those few weeks that he was originally from the same small farming town that my parents were from, that he graduated from the high school there with one of my second cousins, Cassie, and found that we both share a love of Arkansas quartz. Adam had started out rockhunting and mineral collecting and then ventured into the art of knapping and found that he enjoyed it much more, and needed to part with some of his minerals in order to create more room for his knapping material. I was only too happy to take some off his hands and he was gracious with good information as well. He allowed Missy to run free in his fenced in backyard while we visited for a couple of hours, and gave me a flat of beautiful green wavellite….
….as well as some neat fern fossils from Scott County, shaped like an Arkansas Razorback no less…..more apparent in the second image tho….my Aunt Billy Jean noticed it before me…..when I showed it to her and Uncle Joe at the farm….
…..all these years I had never seen anything come from that area, thinking it only contained ugly rocks, but he sure proved me wrong with that plate of fern fossils, and the more I gazed at that plate, I was simply floored by the beauty of it !! Adam creates some beautiful arrowheads and Native American knives from different types of stone, some of them in beautiful shades of color, should check out his work on his Facebook page under Adam Lageveen`s Lithic Art…he has been working with rainbow obsidian lately and that material really radiate some nice sheens of different color. Adam also gave me some quartz crystals from the Mt Ida area mines…this next one a glassback plate from the old Arrowhead Mine…
…and this set of smaller clusters from a few of the other mines, most of them reclaimed in the National Forest these days…
…and this larger cluster from a mine located down the road from the Collier Creek Mine….
From there, I drove back to Fort Smith and fueled up, then headed south on 71….intending to stop off at the farm in Waldron on the way down, but as luck would have it, it was going to be all I could do to get to Hot Springs by dark, and since I would be coming back to the farm on Sunday, I drove on down to the condo instead. In years past, I have normally stayed on Lake Ouachita at Mtn Harbor Resort, but my plans this year included several locations closer to Hot Springs in general, so I opted to stay on Lake Hamilton this trip, finding a pretty two bedroom condo close to Highway 7 not far from the Mall at Pretti Pointe. The owner of the condo had given me a great rate for five nights and it was so much roomier and comfortable than any of the hotels there, that I booked it a few weeks back. As I got closer to Hot Springs, I could see that the sunset was approaching and was shaping up to be a nice one…traffic was slowing in front of me and I wasn`t sure I would be able to get to the lake in time to shoot it, so I picked up my camera and at each stoplight, photographed it…starting with this one…
Finally, I reached the lake and drove past the entrance to Pretti Pointe, stopping on the first bridge, to photograph the fading clouds out over the water of Lake Hamilton….
…I turned to look out over the waters of the other side of the bridge, which is the first bridge crossing Lake Hamilton on the south side of Hot Springs, the location I photographed the fireworks from back in 2010, and saw the full moon rising up over the waters already….
…and then I drove on over to Pretti Pointe to find the condo before the sunlight completely faded away. As soon as I located it, and was able to get Missy situated, I grabbed my camera and walked down to the waters edge to shoot a few more images of the sunset, initially using a boatdock in my foreground that was located right behind the condos….
My buddy Ray checked into his hotel about thirty minutes later, about a mile north of my location…he had a late lunch on his eight hour drive up, so Missy and I decided to grab a sandwich at Subway at Walmart, since I needed to get some Bluebell Ice Cream while there too…found out the next day that there are about fifteen Subways in the Hot Springs area alone…three Walmart Supercenters, and multiple McDonalds as well…unfortunately for me, the nearest Phillips 66 station was all the way over on the other side of town. Oh well, cant have everything conveniently located nearby all the time.
The next morning, Missy and I woke up about 6 am, to a beautiful foggy sunrise….
After shooting the sunrise, Ray and I met up at the McDonalds next to his hotel, for a good breakfast, before driving down to Magnet Cove to meet up with Mr. Parker. We arrived at the Magnet Cove Store and found him and Jimmy Matlock waiting on us inside the store…Jimmy is a good friend of his and a rockhound as well. Jimmy showed us some of his cabochons from novaculite found at Mr. Parker`s quarry as well as some rutile crystals with eight, ten, and twenty four faceted sides…called eightlings, tenlings, sixteenlings, and twentyfourlings….many were micromount size crystals. Jimmy told us about locations that he used to rockhunt at where he found coontail quartz, in the Magnet Cove area, many locations still in the area but now privately owned and inaccessible to rockhounds…primarily because rockhounds in the past mistreated the property owners and disrespected their properties…the main reason why well behaved and respectible rock collectors today still cannot obtain access to properties where great minerals can be found, because many before us ruined it for others….all you have to do is listen to the people that live in that area and they will tell you how some rockhounds from several decades ago lied to them, snuck into their properties and stole from them, damaged their properties, and disrespected them in general, to the point that they now do not like rockhounds in general.
Luckily for us good rockhounds, Mr. Parker is working to obtain permission from property owners so that he can take us to places where minerals and crystals can be found. He advised us that while Magnet Cove contains over 125 known minerals, they are scattered all over the area and not found in a general enough area where they can be mined. At this time, he has access to a few locations and was able to take us to one of those locations Saturday morning. After our short meet at the store on Friday morning, tho, he led Ray and I down to his quarry at Magnet Cove Stone Company…..
While Ray and I walked around the various grades and colors of beautiful novaculite, I called Virgil to see where he was at and when he would arrive at the quarry. At the time I called he was approaching Mena from the Oklahoma side and would arrive at the quarry by noon. We decided to wait on him. Mr. Parker took us to the very back of his quarry where a small trench cut had revealed some novaculite stone with a pretty black and white shade, some with a fish eye effect as well…we picked up several pieces of it from this area first, and then drove back to the main collecting area of the quarry. Many pieces had dendrites on one side of them as well….
Novaculite is used for Arkansas Whetstones, which are used to sharpen knives and instruments, but it`s also catching on in popularity for knappers and as a decorative stone, both in the USA and abroad as well. Mr. Parker has novaculite fans who buy it by the pound as we did, as well as those that purchase it by the ton. Here is a pile of blue black novaculite that was going out by truck to one of the tonnage purchasers soon, some with dendrites on them….
Many of his knapper fans liked the material with the multiple shades of colors and patterns to them….these were the ones I looked for as well….
…so while we waited on Virgil to arrive at noon, Mr. Parker and Ray held a few discussions on various topics and Mr. Parker chowed down on some Louisiana grown Satsooma Oranges that Ray brought him as well….
True to his word, Virgil arrived a little after noon, and while he poked around and looked for some knapping material, Ray and I continued talking to Mr. Parker about the location he was going to take us to the next morning and after a couple of hours, Virgil decided he had selected enough stuff to hold him for awhile, getting into some rainbow colored stuff at the last. We settled up with Mr. Parker and told him we would meet him at his shop the next morning at 9 am. Ray decided to head back to the hotel and get a nap in, since I hadn`t been able to contact the private landowner yet…who has quartz and wavellite on his property. Virgil and I decided to check out a roadcut up near Hwy 51, that reportedly has smokey quartz and brookite in it…Mr. Parker told us that several geology students stop off at that location each time they are down, but other than that, he had no clue if anything worthwhile could be found there. Virgil and I climbed up to the rocks and shortly discovered that whoever had been there last, had taken a hammer and decimated much of the quartz outcrop and scratching around yielded nothing further found.
We then decided to drive down to the iron bridge over Cove Creek and see if we could locate any pyrite. We walked up the trail along the creek there as far as we could, it had become a bit more overgrown since I had been there the last time with Kyle a few years back, so we returned to the normal hole in the creek that most folks dig into to find the cubes and feldspar…Virgil spotted a few chunks with cubes deep in the waterhole, so I retrieved one of my extendable hoe/rakes and he was able to drag a few over to the bank, and a few of them were actually nice enough to keep. From there we drove up to Hot Springs and separated so Virgil could go find a motel to stay the night in…we made arrangements to meet at Colton`s Steakhouse about 7 pm for supper, and I texted Ray the arrangements as well.
We all slept in an extra hour the next morning, with yet another beautiful sunrise….
…and after another good breakfast at McD`s, we drove back down to Magnet Cove to meet Mr. Parker and follow him out to some fields that he was leasing from a property owner, to look for garnets and rutile. He showed us where to start looking, and we set off in search of treasure…..
Virgil and Ray drove on down into an adjoining field to check out an area that had great potential for large garnets and rutile crystals, while I dug into the edge of the field between a hay rake and trailer….
…I dug down into several places where it was obvious from several crystals and chips of novaculite that there was obviously some eroding material from the hillside. There was also alot of biotite mica laying all over the place, as well as within the soil…
….I dug down about a foot deep and found the mica all the way down to that depth as well, small flakes and big flakes alike…I found only a few crystals, many small ones, in the soil but found even more over in the roadway laying all over the place on top…..
…I was lucky to find one perfectly shaped rutile crystal laying right on top of the dirt, on closer examination it appears to be one of those sixteenlings, bout the size of a large pea, and silvery in color…prob one that someone else found and accidentally left behind.
We actually dug for about two hours there…we didn`t find much in the way of rutile, we were finding a lot of chards of novaculite, alot of them almost arrowhead shaped and many were in beautiful pastel colors…I found one that could be a thinking stone in a pastel pink. As we were packing up and preparing to leave, the property owner and his grandson showed up, and we stood around talking with them for an hour about the history of the area, they were very nice and provided alot of information on the area. From there we returned to Hot Springs, Ray for another nap, Virgil driving up to Mt Ida to scout out the crystal mines up there, and I decided to drive around and photograph the fall colors. I drove over to DeSoto Lake on the north side of Hot Springs, it features a spring fed small lake with a stone footbridge, manmade dam and waterfall, and an old powermill downstream from the dam that powered the estate of Col Fordyce that still sits on a hill above the lake….
I again woke up about 6 on Sunday morning, in time to photograph the sunrise and morning fog that started rolling across the lake once again….
…and soon after, we started hearing from Virgil and his scouting report of the mines open to the public in the Mount Ida area…the report wasn`t good…the Twin Creek Mine is where Ray and I had figured on driving to that morning, but it seems that Virgil had talked to a couple that had been there a few days and had found very little, mainly because the machinery wasn`t operating there. He had talked to rockhounds who had been to Miller Mtn Mine as well and they said the same thing about that location as well, no new digging material brought up from the mines to dig through…Virgil suggested that we go to Wegner`s Crystal Mine south of Mt Ida as he had been hearing some mixed reviews for them lately…I had never been to that location and was interested in checking it out in person….they have two hour slots available for their Forest Crystal Mine, which would work out perfectly for us since we planned to drive up to the family farm at Waldron for dinner. I called Ray and let him know that we needed to get on the road soon enroute to Mt Ida to meet up with Virgil. I decided to forego breakfast as I know dinner at the farm would be a big meal and grabbed a candybar to take with me just in case. After stopping off at the gas station on the west side of town, Ray and I started toward Mt Ida. We picked up Virgil at the Hwy 27 junction with 270 and he led the way on 27 south to Owley Road, where we turned east and drove about four miles to the rock arch entrance to Wegner`s Ranch. Soon after we arrived, we were signed up for the first two hour dig of the day and our ride arrived outside the office so we could load up our tools, bags, and in my case, Missy on her leash. I had made a phone call before heading up there and found out that they are a dog friendly business. There was only the three of us and a young family from Texas with two kids, and they had a blast digging for quartz, their son found an exceptionally nice crystal up there too, think that just made his day. Dave, our driver, helped show them what they were looking for and how to remove them with a pry bar….
…..then left us up there for two hours. I turned Missy loose as it was easier on me and I started down into the pit to see if I could find some pockets of crystals. I found a few, but didnt have my hammer and chisel with me. Ray was doing the same thing, trying to locate something in the pit while Virgil had walked down to the tailing piles in the forest area adjacent to the mine itself, to see if he could locate anything along the surface. Later we heard him in the small pit near the road to the ranch. I walked along the six foot dirt bank of the pit and started seeing crystals sticking out of the dirt in the tree roots….
…so I started raking the dirt down and pretty soon I had single points and small clusters popping out of the dirt I was raking down, all over the place. Ray and I stayed in that productive spot for the next hour or so, til we heard Dave coming back up the road in the truck, bringing another group up to dig there. By that time, I had a bag full of single points and small clusters…I cleaned alot of them up today and can safely say, I have some very nice small clusters out of that spot. The cost for that two hours of digging time was $ 16.50 per person, thinking the next time I will be paying for four hours instead. I saw some really nice larger crystals in pockets there, had I had the right tools with me, they would have gone home with me. As it was, we just didn`t have the time to stay today or we prob would have, but by noon we were on our way farther north to my grandfather`s old farm near Waldron, for dinner with several of my relatives, an annual family reunion and the day before, my Uncle Joe had given me permission to bring my friends with me. We arrived at the farm about an hour later….
…we parked up near the old barn and then walked down to where everyone was eating dinner by the garage…I told everyone there that I had no idea who the guy was in the purple sweatshirt with LSU in large letters on the front…Ray was asking for duct tape so he could cover up the letters…I had told him he would be taking his life into his own hands wearing that down there, cause he was deep within RAZORBACK territory there…they took pity on him and fed him anyway. Virgil liked the line of food entrees so much that he decided to put his diet on hold for half a day and he chowed down big time, before heading on home to Tulsa. Ray left soon after, headed back to Hot Springs and I stayed a bit longer visiting with my cousins before heading back to the lake as well, arriving just in time to capture yet another stunning sunset on the lake….
…and finished off the Bluebell ice cream I had picked up at Walmart a few days prior. I was looking forward to the next day, the temps were expected to be up in the mid seventies, but Tuesday would be a way different story. Missy and I woke up to another sensational sunrise Monday morning….
Ray knew I would be awake by then and called to let me know that he had a rough night trying to sleep, so I told him to get a couple more hours of rest and I would go take some photos of waterfalls that I hadnt had a chance to do yet. I also called and talked to the landowner that I had been trying to reach while there, and he gave us permission to come to his property later in the day to see if we could find some quartz and wavellite. Missy and I drove down to Cool Pool Falls, a local waterfall favorite of mine, and while we normally find great color there, it was pretty barren this year, even though it looks great in this photo….
We no sooner got done shooting, then Ray called and wanted to meet at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then head to Miller Mtn Mine…I told him that I had talked to the private landowner and that we were welcome to go there about mid afternoon, leaving us only two hours to dig there, but definitely doable. After a good breakfast at CB, we drove to Miller Mtn Mine west of Jessieville and as we drove down the white chat road through the private deer hunters area, we approached the concrete slab and discovered a small sports car sitting in the middle of the road with damage….
…luckily we were able to get around the car and on up the hill to the mine, never did see anyone walking along the road tho. We met the new caretaker of the mine and she told us that despite what we had been told about their machinery being down, the piles we saw along the tailings pile, were fresh and new that morning. We paid our dig fee and drove on up to the parking lot and grabbed our tools. Where once you could get out of your vehicle and see crystals laying all over the parking lot and roadway, today, I never noticed a one laying anywhere in there. We walked over to the piles and it was quite apparent to me that the six piles had been sitting there for at least a few days in the sunlight, as they clay was quite hard and crusty, difficult to break open the clods to see if there were any crystals inside. It appeared to me that the front end loader had turned some older piles over and then lifted them up, over, and placed them up on the side of the huge tailing pile behind and above the so called ” fresh piles “, because the dirt and clods up there on that wall above were much easier to break apart and wetter even. I actually found quite a few singles and points up there on that wall than I found of anything at all in the ” fresh piles “. Another first, was the phone signal that I had today up there at the mine…in years past, I have never had a strong signal up there on top of that mountain, but today I did have one…in fact, at 2 pm, I was able to call John, the private landowner, and make arrangements for us to meet him 40 minutes later at his place. After looking over the quartz crystal baskets, Ray decided he couldn`t find one that suited him and we packed up and headed to John`s place instead.
We arrived at his place 45 minutes later and after a short discussion on the locations available, we opted to drive out to his farm and see what we could find in quartz first. It was a short drive to his farm, and we then opted to walk down the logging road to the search area…John briefed us on the history of his farm as we walked to the area, and once there, we did locate a few nice single points and small clusters just laying on top of the ground…having to rake the leaves back a bit to find them, but they were def laying around on the ground, all one had to do was walk around and look for them, most were clear and glassy and just downright pretty….here are some I found, now all washed up….
…and a larger chunk of crystals that came from that area as well….haven`t had a chance to hit it with the hose yet since it turned bitter freezing cold here on my return home…..
…and here is one of the pretty little clusters that I found that day as well….
…we looked around for about 20 minutes without finding any additional crystals, figuring we were there at the wrong time of the year, the difficulty being the leaves covering the ground…so we walked back up the road to John`s cabin and he took us to another spot up behind his barn on the hillside, where a vein of quartz ran up and down the hillside and there were several spots where mining had obviously taken place many years ago. John turned us loose as soon as I started spotting loose crystals laying all over the ground in that area….Ray started digging in an area about ten feet up hill from where I was digging….the crsytals I had initially found, were smokey quartz points, but I also found a few small clusters as well, here is one of the first clusters that I dug out from the old mining tailing pile….
…and here are some of my initial smokey finds…the deeper I dug, the more I seemed to find….
..the small dark crystal point on the left in the bottom image, was the very first one I spotted in the dirt where I decided to start digging…John said there were smokeys found in that area and he was sure right, I found several as well as some blue tinted milkies too…def would love to return to this area and dig for some more sometime. had a great time there, even though for a few minutes afterward, I thought I had lost Missy…it was just about dark when we stopped digging and she had wandered down to the creek just inside the wooded area of his property below his cabin…she being black colored, made it extremely difficult to spot her, and lucky for me, John spotted her moving around at the edge of the woods and pointed her out to me so that I could walk down and get her attention soon after. It got dark fast after that and we followed John back to his house, where he showed us some other quartz he had located on his property as well as some pretty wavellite. We thanked him for allowing us to come out and dig on his land and find some beautiful quartz and then headed back to Hot Springs. Ray and I decided to try out the Bleu Monkey Grill for supper on our last night there and we both had the grilled chicken and shrimp dish special, it was quite spicy and I had to wash it down with several glasses of cold tea, even the black beans that came with it, tasted like they were on fire due to the sauce they were cooked in….whewwww….never had anything that spicy before and hope I never do again either. I think even Ray said they were quite hot tasting to him and he is from spice country !!
Ray said he was going to hang around a couple of extra days, at least until the bottom dropped out on the weather, while Missy and I were set to head home on Tuesday morning. I headed back to the condo to start packing and then hit the hay. We woke to cloudy skies the next morning, no sunrise today, and started packing the truck soon after. It began drizzling rain as we headed out of the parking lot…I drove over to Walmart and picked up three half gallon containers of that delicious Bluebell ice cream that I had polished off on Sunday night, MOO-ENNIA Crunch, to take home with me. I iced it down real good, but it turned out to be a moot point. I drove thru Little Rock on the way home and the farther north we traveled, the more cooler the temps became. We stopped off in Batesville to grab some lunch and I found out soon after that, Ray had decided the falling temps and rain hitting Hot Springs, were too much for him and he had headed home as well.
I shaved about two hours off my driving time, stopping off in Rolla to fill up the gas tank once again and boy was that wind cold and sharp, blowing out of the northwest, when I got out of the truck !! I wasted no time in grabbing my jacket out of the back seat, Missy had kept it nice and warm for me, and from there on to the house, the heater was on low and felt great. We rolled back into the driveway about 2:30 pm on Tuesday afternoon, glad to be home, but a great vacation get away too, all about quality this time, instead of quantity. 🙂
If you have any questions about locations we went to on our trip, email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org and I`ll be happy to help.