Field Collecting at the Oxbow Road cut, Oxbow, New York
by Michael Walter
Dr. Steve Chamberlain and me will be co-authoring an article for Rocks and
Minerals on this location. We will post you on the issue when we are made
aware of which one it will be. It will be the third article in a series
about road cut mineral occurrences in St. Lawrence County, New York.
In the 1980s and 90s a local occurrence was a popular site to mineral collect. This site could be found directly along side the road as one traveled from he town of Oxbow to Rossie, NY. The occurrence is found within a large road cut where a light tan colored marble is the country rock. Within this rock can be found large pockets in which calcite crystals are often present.
During the excavation of this road cut pockets were likely encountered. On this I can not comment. A pocket of cave like proportions did remain along side the road after this excavation and has been a popular spot to gather well formed crystals of cream colored calcite and other minor accessories. The site appears to be exhausted at this time. All the walls of the pocket seem to be stripped clean and there is no indication of the opening extending out in any new directions.
The pocket was originally about three feet wide and three feet high. It extends back into the hillside for around 12 to 15 feet. Most of the original opening remains at the time of this writing. A great deal of material was gathered from within and this cave and crystals can still be found in current collections and occasionally on the mineral market. The calcite crystals show a variety of forms. Most forms are rhombohedral in nature though some schalenohedral crystals are encountered. Hoppered crystals, parallel growths of enormous size and interesting twins are all common. The butterfly twins from the location are among the worlds best for this unique twinning variety. Most specimens from the cave are on massive calcite matrix. The crystals translucence could vary from near opaque to almost clear. One problem which pledges the crystals at this site (and at other calcite sites in this marble belt.... found throughout St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties) is a secondary calcite overgrowth which is a grungy brown color. The coating seems impossible to remove using any chemical or mechanical means know to myself.
Because the local townships feared someone would be injured at this digging location, it wasn't long before they took drastic action. In order to deter more collecting they poured hot tar into the opening thus destroying the attractiveness of the site to collectors. The tar obviously ruined the exposed crystals and those along any fracture which the tar flowed. Even this material has been collected and attempts to clean it have been made. Most of these attempts have been in vane.
Other seams and minor pockets have been discovered within this road cut but none rival the cave that was for so long a popular dig site. Crawling on ones belly into this opening to collect was quite a thrill. The further into the opening one ventured the more it narrowed. Collecting within the deepest parts of the void was a challenge, in deed.
This huge plate would be a fine museum piece if it were not for the secondary calcite overgrowths which lightly coat all of its calcite crystals.
This overgrowth has ruined far more crystals from this location than the tar ever could have.
In the mid 1990s I found a large rock slide had occurred at this road cut east of where the cave was located. Upon inspection some very nice specimens were found in the rubble at the base of the ledge. Though most were damaged, some nice plates of crystals were found. These plates were interesting because they had crystals directly on marble matrix. These thin plates of matrix marble also had druses of well developed, but very small, clear quartz crystals and graphite. Some plates also had tiny white barite crystals, as well. Because the calcites from this find were cleared than usual and stood so high of the matrix they made outstanding collectors specimens. Some of these specimens are available for purchase...Oxbow Calcites
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