Quartz Collecting at Ron Coleman's Mine in Arkansas
by Michael Walter
In 1995 I was able to go to Arkansas to collect at their infamous quartz
localities for a period of one week. The adventure was grand: good memories,
great weather in the 70s and 80s every day and lots of quality quartz specimens
recovered. This year the winter seemed so long that the urge to head south again
rose to a fever.
On February 16th the bags were packed and in the truck. The work week concluded at 3:00 PM and then the long drive began. 1,450 miles and 23 hours later I was pulling into the parking lot at Ron Colemanıs commercial quartz mine. This site is a great destination. The operation provides fee digging, camping, laundry and good showers as well as a shop with a great selection of retail and wholesale products.
Looking down into the collecting area I could see a familiar face poking around in the mine tailings. My retired Father was here at the crack of dawn so had the jump on me given my arrival time of 2:00 PM. That was okay, however. After having driven non-stop from New York State that evening I had no desire to be collecting at that moment. My body felt like it was actually still moving. Dad was on the return trip from his 6 weeks spent in the warmth of the Arizona sun. Being the dedicated rock hound that he is he had made the rounds at most of the west coast shows such as Tucson and Quartzite. Now we found ourselves ready to collect quartz at this and other locations in the Mt. Ida region of Arkansas.
I spoke to Dad about how the collecting was going so far. It was actually easy to tell how things had gone. A quick glance into the two five gallon buckets he used to haul tools reviled tools only. No half full buckets with delicately wrapped specimen, just hammers, chisels and digging trowels. After the torrential rains this region had received over the past several days I was hopeful of many easily collected specimens. The thick red clay that usually conceals good quartz specimens can be washed off by heavy rains and thus leaving easy pickings for lucky collectors first to explore for these exposed pieces. No such luck today.
As we walked to the trucks we made a decision to work on a large boulder that lay very close to the parking area. In the last hour of collecting time we started to attempt breaking away chucks of this monolith. It was big: 20 feet in length, 6 feet wide and head height made this a formidable project that was likely to be short lived. In that final hour we did uncover potential. The boulder was almost 100% quartz with minor sandstone. In the areas of quartz could be seen several previously exposed pockets that ranged from 4 to 10 inches in diameter. Not much but potential just the same.
That trip back in 1995 provided us with the opportunity to collect at such locations as Fiddlerıs Ridge, Wegnerıs Mine, Jim Colemanıs Mine as well as Ron Colemanıs site. We were to find that this year would be different. Our intentions were to move on to other locations in the area but I have learned certain things for my many previous minerals collecting ventures. The most valuable of these lessons has been that patients and persistence can pay off with fine specimens. This boulder we were considering destroying would be one of those projects requiring both. Working off this premise we decided to stay the following day and attack this chunk of earth with serious intent.
The project was well placed. It was only 50 feet from where we parked the trucks. This made our lives easy in one way. Everything we usually had to haul long distances was conveniently placed near by. Also, materials recovered would not have to be carried backbreaking distances back to the truck. On the other hand for how many tens of years had this piece laid in this location? And how many intelligent collectors had ignored it knowing in their minds that there was nothing there but massive quartz and sore arms? With all these issues in mind it all came down to one thing... it was 9:00 AM and time to get to work.
The first day showed little serious progress. The boulder seemed indestructible. We used various approaches with only a limited degree of success. Near the end of the collecting day we started being more patient and put a greater effort into working the very tiny cracks with spring steel. The cracks were never more than a millimeter in size which often requires lots of time and damaged tools to finally set a thin piece of steel into the unyielding crack. However, once inserted there is no boulder that can hold up to the relentless pounding of the sledge. The crack is slowly expanded with additional steel and then the tell tail sounds of rock pops begin. Large chunks as big as 5 feet in diameter are released in this way. And so it was on this afternoon.
We only exposed a few average pockets through the course of the day. Nothing special by the standards of most. This left us with the next decision. Should we continue or move on to happier hunting grounds? The choice was made to stay. It was hard to justify driving to a new location when we were finding quartz right where we were.
These first two nights of southern camping were quite a shock temperature wise. The evening temperatures must have dropped into the range of approximately 10 degrees . Our largest water bottles froze completely through both nights. Not we were used to for Arkansas.
The next day we once again attacked the still huge boulder. And so goes the story for days three, four and finally a half day on day five. The final result was a huge area filled by basketball sized chunks of massive quartz. We really messed up not having enough camera film for a before and after shot of this project. It looked very much like a bomb was our method of collecting that week. Collected were an array of specimens of clear and milky quartz. The largest points did not exceed six inches but many of these smaller clusters were quite nice. The benefit of removing the specimens ourselves for matrix was that we could pad crystals and avoid excessive damage which is normally encountered when looking for specimens in the tailings. The largest pocket was about one and a half feet long a foot wide a eight inches deep. Not huge but when lined with clear quartz points still attractive. If nothing else, well worth the trip.
Here are some pics of a few good specimens from the trip.
A fantastic cluster with double terminated crystals.
A good cluster and a large generator point.
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