Varying distances

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 00:27:37 06/23/17

In Reply to: More Info The Better posted by Jilly


Believe it or not, I once proudly wore the title of "rockhound", but that was almost 40 years ago, and some of my info may be obsolete.

Probably the closest collecting area to the park would be the national forest just north of the park boundary, west of Gardiner and Yankee Jim Canyon, up in Tom Miner Basin. You have to get a free permit from the Forest Service, but there is a Forest Service office right in Gardiner. I have heard that there is a daily per person limit of some number of pounds of material.

A classic collecting locale is the Spencer, Idaho fire opal mine. I visited that operation back in 1978, and paid a few bucks for the privilege of "mining" my own fire opal. It was an open hillside back then, and the owners would periodically run some sort of heavy equipment across the hillside to open up new sources of material. This place is probably 2 hours WSW of West Yellowstone, close to where I-15 crosses the Idaho/Montana border.

These first two locales are detailed in a book, "Rockhounding Montana". It is a Falcon Guide. You can Google it. The Google link is way too long to mount on this post.

Montana is famous for its "cornflower blue" sapphires. There are several different collecting locations. One of the most famous is Eldorado Bar, up near Helena. That would be about a 3 hour drive most likely from Mammoth, going up through Livingston and Bozeman.

Wyoming is famous for its jade, as well as dinosaur bones. I'm just not real familiar with collecting locations. I did visit an area called "The Spanish Diggings", which is located down near Glendo Reservoir, to the east. Supposedly, it is the area where the Spanish conquistadors made their northernmost exploration, and there is supposed to be lots of archaeological artifacts from Native cultures buried around there.

Eastern Montana is known for producing full blown dinosaur skeletons. If I published some of the stories I have heard from people who grew up out there, some folks would call me a "damn liar", and others would start heading out there. It's a long way from Yellowstone, but is definitely one of the hotbeds of American paleontology. The Museum of the Rockies has some of the dinosaurs found by the noted paleontologist without all the formal academic credentials, Jack Horner. Google him if you are curious.

I'm fairly useless when it comes to gold panning locations. I have not invested any time in studying it or trying it, even though I have a gold pan.


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