On Friday, Sept 23rd, Josh Click joined me for a full weekend of mineral shows and rockhunting field trips at two different locations at opposite corners of the state of Missouri. The third weekend in September is utilized by both the Tri State Mineral Show in Joplin and the Geodefest Show and Digs at Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois, so we were going to take in both shows and sets of digs, splitting the weekend up and traveling from the southwest corner of the state to the northeast corner of the state in a matter of hours.
So about 10 am Friday morning, Josh and I headed west on I-44 to Joplin, to take in the Mineral Show there for the first half of the weekend at Schifferdecker Park, with plans to join some members of the Kansas City Mineral Club in a joint field trip with Friends of Mineralogy as well on Saturday morning at some tailing piles that were still hanging around the area. I say hanging around because in the past few years, the EPA has been active in remediating many of the left over tailing piles from many old lead mines, scattered all over kingdom come in the tri state area, which is where Joplin is located, smack dab in the middle of that lead mining district. Many of the mines folded back in the 1960`s and the rest were pretty much done ten years later, yet the tailing piles remained for many years, wasting away, some creating a blight of the area even after the EPA created the Superfund plans to clean up the blighted areas and remove the piles to restore the lands. Here recently, those plans have started to see movement finally in terms of action from the EPA and only a few of the tailing piles remain, many of them located on private land, sometimes those lands entail many owners and co-owners, permission to look thru the piles a daunting challenge to any rockhound or group of rockhounds that would like to comb thru them in search of buried treasure. We visited with some friends Friday afternoon on the way down there and then I took him and one of our friends to Grand Falls on the west side of town to show him one of the prettiest waterfalls in Missouri and the Midwest.
A friend of mine named Carrie, is a member of the Kansas City Mineral Club, she told me of a friend of hers named Bruce, who was heading up a group to go to some of the old tailing piles to look for galena, sphalerite, and calcite on Saturday morning, said they would be meeting at the Tri State Mineral Museum in the park, where the Mineral Show is also held at, and going out from there. She contacted Bruce and secured permission for me to join them on their hunt that morning. Bruce had contacted all of the owners of this tract of land where the piles were located and obtained permission to hunt there that day.
Josh and I arrived at the museum…..
….by 8:45 am Saturday morning and met up with Bruce and a few of the members who were already there. I gave Bruce a couple of flats of poker chip calcite crystals and let him know the members there that day could have as many of them as they wanted. One of the members who showed up, was Larry who owns the Rock Shop in Rolla…I have hunted with him on some of the MAGS sponsored trips as well. Larry is a geologist and works in the oil fields of central Illinois quite a bit.
By 9 am about twenty rockhounds had showed up and Bruce gave us a run down on what to find and what we could expect to find over there and then we headed out, following him to the northwest side of town. Bruce stopped briefly to let a deputy sheriff who lives nearby, know what we were doing and who we were. We then proceeded to the first tailing pile on the property, right across the driveway from the deputy`s home and we spread out trying to find some pretty stuff to take home. Bruce had been to this location before and said that galena cubes had been found there in some places…there was also some massive calcite chunks spread out all over the place as well. A few people did find some sphalerite and some galena there, but nothing real spectacular, so after about an hour, we drove on down the drive….
…..into a larger area where huge tailing piles and even a very large pile of rocks awaited us…Josh and I hiked over to the huge pile of rocks with Larry and a few others, including some new rockhounds to the group, while Bruce and some members of the KC Club drove on down into the valley to check the piles down there for goodies.
…our group checked out an old tailing pile in front of where we parked on the other side of the brush line from the parking area, first….
…and then on over to the huge pile of rocks, when no one found anything but crushed gravel on the pile…the huge pile of small boulders was under the canopy of forest and next to some old concrete foundations of what appeared to be an old mill with a water race possibly next to it. The new younger rockhounds, including a few gals and a guy, began climbing up on this huge pile, every bit of 60 to 70 feet high, small boulders stacked up on top of each other, similar to pyramid type structure…the base was several yards around it…and it appeared someone had cut some trees down in an attempt to create a road around the huge pile, possibly preparing for remediation very soon. Josh climbed up on this huge pile with the newby rockhounds and pretty soon I heard him call out that he had found some nice chunks of calcite up there…most of the rocks and small boulders appeared to me to be leaverites. I checked the time, because he and I had to leave by 12:30 to get back to the hotel in time to clean up, then go to the mineral show for a bit, and then head home…where I would repack the truck for the trip to Keokuk, Iowa and we would get a few hours of sleep and then hit the highway headed north by 3:30 am Sunday morning. We had a little time left, so I left him with the folks on the huge pile and I walked down to see what Bruce and the others were finding before we headed out. Bruce and his crew were up on a tailing pile in the valley and were finding some nice galena cubes and sphalerite down there as well…
…here is Bruce showing me some galena cubes they found on top of some boulders at the base of this pile in the valley…they were finding even more boulders with them as well….
…I let him know that Josh and I were headed out and that we enjoyed hunting with them, we wished them great success on the remainder of their hunt that day and hoped to visit with them again sometime. Josh and I headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up, change into fresher clothing, and then after checking out of the Candlewood Suites, which I might add, was a very nice hotel to stay at…we drove over to the take in about 90 min of the Tri State Show. I parked under the shade of a huge hedgeapple tree there…
Mike Shumate had asked me to say hi to a couple of dealers for him, so I looked them up while there and passed on his salutations to Marv and Jimmy…I remembered buying some Brazilian Quartz and Southern Illinois fluorite from Jimmy several years ago when I first visited the Joplin Show. I purchased a pyrite sphere from a dealer there that was a Marine veteran and visited with him for a few minutes, he had some very nice stuff for sale at his table…he pointed out Marv to me as well, who was just across the way from him. After visiting with Marv a bit, we walked over to see my buddy Virgil Richards who had a booth there as well, manned at the time by my Tulsa rockhounding buddy Doug Cunningham, and his wife, while Virgil was doing his normal routine at shows, working the room and gabbing with other dealers. Doug gave me some cracoite from Australia and a Fulgarite from California that Virgil had set out to give me when I arrived there…he also had some very old minerals from the Tri State District that he had picked up in an old collection. I visited with Doug and Virgil for a bit and then we headed for the front door…stopping briefly to look inside the neat Tri State Museum there….
We stopped off in Lebanon to fill the gas tank and had supper at Bandannas BBQ as well, before heading on home. We arrived home about 7 pm, I quickly repacked the truck for the Iowa trip, and we headed to bed soon after…3 am would arrive soon enough….and did, believe me…but luckily after six hours I was good to go, once again, and didnt even have to drag Josh out of his bed either. I checked with Chuck, as soon as we got to Hwy 109 and started north..he was two hours north of us on Hwy 61…said he wasnt able to sleep so he got an earlier start on the road, than we did…we made one pit stop for gas at Bowling Green, then as we approached the turn off to Keokuk, I stopped for this sunrise photo…told Josh to look for a water spot on the right side of the road…he spotted this small pond and it worked great for a good reflection of the gorgeous sunrise that morning…
..and then soon enough, we were turning on to Hwy 61 to continue northeast now to Keokuk, as the four lane continued as Hwy 27 up into Iowa. We stopped a few min later on this bridge over the Fox River when the sunrise deepened….I shot a few photos of it and had to wait a few minutes while a dump truck crossed the bridge from behind me, the weight of his truck caused the bridge to sway pretty good…
…we arrived in Keokuk just a few minutes later, and drove across the Mississippi River by the Lock and Dam, into Hamilton, Illinois and then north a little ways to the Chaney Creek Access Parking Lot, where Geodefest 2016 was being held. Arriving about 7:20 am, we quickly spotted Chuck`s truck and parked. Very few folks were stirring yet this early, we had arrived early so we could get registered and pay our fees for the last dig of the weekend, however we soon found out that registration would not open til 8 am on the last day, so we had some time to kill, so we went looking for my buddy John Oostenryk, who I had been talking to online for about six months, introduced to him by my KC friend Carrie…John is a museum curator at his local college in Rock Falls, Illinois and also a huge mineral collector too. John and I agreed to bring each other some goodies..to trade with later today and then he would take us collecting the next day as well. He told me that he would be operating a 600 lb geode cracker under a blue and red canopy, which we found easily enough, but discovered that John had not yet arrived and was due any moment. We decided to wander around the booths set up already and see what we could find…I quickly spotted Ken Vaisvil at his booth about two down from John`s booth and we walked down there to see what he had for sale…I always see Ken at the Park Hills show and he always has some nice geodes of all sizes for sale. Within minutes, I spotted one with some citrine colored quartz inside it and a medium sized gray colored poker chip calcite crystal inside as well…I purchased it from him and everyone was impressed with it…it was the first one I had ever seen with a poker chip crystal inside.
As we were wrapping that up, someone at Johns booth pointed to a silver van that had just arrived and said that was John arriving. After introducing him to Chuck and Josh, we were soon talking about prior emails, Carrie and her son Bentley, Bruce, the Joplin show, and past trips I have taken to collect minerals, as well as some upcoming trips too. John also told us we should forget the location for Rods, due to the fact that not very many good geodes were being found there this year as opposed to years past, and he recommended another location, so we went over to the registration booth and signed up for that location instead…which is located on Railroad Creek just outside of Hamilton. Rockhoundblogspot Bill and Debbie showed up soon after and we made plans to go rockhunting later in the day after the initial dig with the Geodefest folks. A little after 9 am, we followed our guide, which happened to be John`s friend Diane and headed south out of town to a nice farm. We parked next to the creek in a huge creek valley area….
….and started unloading buckets and tools, getting my boots on, grabbed gloves and gave Josh a mini mattox to use, then listened to the guide on directions regarding the creek and a ditch nearby that was full of geodes as well. Rockhound Bill had advised us to go upstream to the railroad bridge, so we started that direction after another guide showed us the path leading there….for some reason, he told us we had a mile walk up the creek to the bridge, but as it turned out, it was more like a quarter of a mile…not sure how they were so far off on distance like that much….
…we crossed the creek back and forth in a few spots and went up thru the brush in a few spots to avoid deeps spots and slippery rocks, making record time…finding another couple up there ahead of us searching on up the stream….
…and they may have been looking for certain types or certain sizes of geodes, yet they were laying literally everywhere in the creekbed…we were told there was a discard pile up by the bridge as well, but we never saw one…could have been already gone thru by the time we arrived on the third day, too. This location is known for snowball geodes and most of the geodes we were seeing were from baseball to grapefruit sizes. I was finding several that were already cracked open, halves if you will, that appeared to have some interesting centers inside them, some that were shaped like snowballs too. Within five minutes, I had my bucket half full….Josh and Chuck spread out in the creek bed and began hunting as soon as we got there….
Pretty soon, all three of us had some nice geodes in our buckets and we decided to turn back and search more diligently going downstream…there was another railroad bridge upstream, but we were not sure how far it was up there and we only had about 90 minutes before we had to be back to the parking lot, per the male guide. Chuck was the first to head back in that direction and by the time I got back to the bridge, he was already fifty feet down below the bridge and on the other side of the creek…he let me know that it was shallow if I hugged the left side of the creek and then crossed over a set of rocks that stretched all the way across the creek to where he was located…the first thing I noticed when I came out from under the bridge was this beautifully curved tree stretching out across the water and creating a beautiful reflection in the water….
We were back at the trucks within the hour and found we had at least another hour left to hunt if we wanted to…apparently the big male guide didn`t know nearly as much as he claimed he did…after a water break and loading up the geodes we had collected upstream, Chuck took an extended break while Josh and I wandered over to a branch that went up into the woods off the main stream. I had talked to a guy in the parking area who said that if we walked up that streambed, dry for the most part, there was a bend and high bank up there that was just geode city he said…I wandered over to the bank and found these two geode halves just sitting there….
and then I didn`t go far before finding these two halves…sitting there waving at me…
…and was stunned both times because all of them had pretty crystals inside…okay, I reasoned, they didn`t have snowballs inside but they were PRETTY !!! I was bewildered as to why someone would leave pretty geodes behind….so in my bucket they went….I called out to Josh to see how he was doing and he said the guy was right, there were geodes in the bank that could be dug out and laying all over the place upstream in the creek bend. Here is a shot of the streambed at my feet….
…and the forest floor where I found several more just laying around…
After loading up another half bucket, we loaded the truck bed one more time and then paid our bucket fees to Diane before heading back to the parking lot at Chaney Creek Access. Some dealers were starting to pack up to head home, so we did some more shopping…then discovered that John had suffered a traumatic injury while we were out that morning…he was cracking open a large geode for someone with his hydraulic geode cracker, when a large rock splinter came off the geode and penetrated the towel he had the geode wrapped in…likely speared thru that, and then penetrated the heavily padded welders gloves he was wearing and lodged inside his ring finger. He told me that they were able to remove the splinter, and he applied a copious amount of neosporin to the wound, and then wrapped it well. i told him he had done well in that respect and it appeared he had controlled the bleeding as well. Others were pushing him to go to the area hospital and get stitches, but he was hesitant to do so, asking my opinion of it, I guess due to my experience as a firefighter. I let him know that in my experience, I never had stitches for wounds like that, and I had had plenty of them…that I had merely done what he had done..applied neosporin heavily and then wrapped up the wound….neosporin is some great stuff and works wonders on healing up such types of injuries. I asked him if there were any medics on scene, and he said there were some in a trailer a little ways down in the parking lot, but they had both gone into town for some supplies, he said he would have them look at it on their return. They returned about an hour later and gave John the same prognosis I had….he was relieved because he really didn`t want to have to go get stitches.
In the meantime, Chuck decided to lend his muscles to one of John`s hometown friends, Jamie, and they continued to crack open geodes for folks that brought them to John. This continued most of the afternoon until everything wound down and then we were able to load up and head over to Macomb to check out some areas for rock and mineral collecting. We had about 90 min left before the sun set…Rockhound Bill and Debbie went with us as well as a female friend of Johns named Abigail. I didn`t shoot any photos til the sun started setting there, here you see a pile in the middle that Bill and Debbie were checking out….
From here we bid John and Abigail goodbyes as they were heading back to Rock Falls from there and we headed back to Keokuk to our hotels to get cleaned up and then go find some place to eat at…problem is that Keokuk rolls its sidewalks up on Sunday nights. After checking in to the Super 8, where Chuck, Josh, and I were staying, we discovered that the place next door, the former Golden Corral, was now a bar and grill called Vs…so we decided to check it out instead of going to a fast food place. We called Bill and Debbie, who met us there instead…lo and behold they had great food there. I had the chicken fingers and fries, and let me tell you, they believe in feeing you there, plus it was not high priced either. We decided to sleep in a bit the next morning…Bill and Debbie were going to take us to a private location nearby…I woke up around 8 am and went down to clean up the truck and re-arrange the bed load too. Josh woke up about an hour later and we met Chuck over at V`s for a hearty breakfast, leaving us enough time to gas up and get Josh an extra pair of jeans at Walmart, then head to the meeting spot, which we amended to a different location soon after. Bill and Debbie soon showed up at that location and we followed them down to the creek location that they were taking us to…we quickly parked and headed down to the creek with them to see what we could find…
…we walked upstream past this wall and to the railroad bridge over the creek, watching a passing BNSF Industrial Lead train pass by overhead…..
…..Josh and Chuck walked up above the bridge to see what they could find while Bill, Debbie, and I walked back down to the wall…I found a couple of softball sized geodes in the bank on the way to the high wall. Pretty soon Josh and Chuck returned and we all decided to work the wall and see what we could find…here you see Josh up above us checking out the higher part of the wall…
…and Bill checks the lower wall for geodes, while Chuck watches from the creek…
…here are some of the geodes we were looking for…in a line down low on the wall and another line of them up higher, out of our reach….
..some were whole and nearly out of the wall, so we had to get our hammers and chisels out to chip these out of the wall…as we did, the sun really began to warm up and this wall was going to be in the sun all day long…needless to say, we got a good workout in getting a few nice ones out of the wall..mm
..and here is Chuck patiently working a nice geode half out of the wall….
…we decided to wrap it up shortly after this…here are a couple of Chucks really nice one that he chipped out after a lot of patience and hard work….looks like a small snowball of quartz inside it….
..and a couple of my finds as well….
we decided to go north to another creek location or two, but after driving over there, we discovered that the 14 inches of rain received by central Iowa locations the day before, was making the Des Moines River rapidly rise to bank full in many places, which in turn was going to make it nearly impossible for us to collect in those areas…we finally found one creek where we were invited to search by local residents in the Bonaparte area…while we did find a few, none of us have cracked any open to figure out what is inside them…I will keep you posted on that tho. From here, Chuck and I decided to head home about 3 pm, so we loaded up and took off for our respective homes…stopping off in Hannibal at the Caseys Store, across from one of Hannibals Fire Stations….
…..to gas up and grab some eats…Chuck texted me about 7:15 pm to let me know he had made it home safe and sound, five minutes before Josh and I rolled into my driveway. We were soooo tired that we left the truck loaded til the next morning. After a good long soak in the hot tub, my bed never felt better and I was sound asleep soon after. We did manage to sleep in the next morning tho. 🙂