Through one of the gem and mineral clubs to which we belong, we were invited to rockhound for lace agate, banded agate, moss agate, and druzy quartz from a private mining site near Summerville, Georgia.
I arrived and was lucky to have the entire mining area to myself except, over the course of the morning and afternoon, 2 different couples stopped by to collect agate, and a family was out on a rockhounding trip.
American Geode takes that attitude that if you can, take a lifetime supply. We filled up every bucket and bin we brought, and also picked up many large and heavy agates. The stone was plentiful. The only time we used our tools was to break apart a behemoth stone into more manageable sections. We found moss agate, lace agate, banded agate, and our favorites had druzy quartz pockets.
The beauty of these stones were not easy to see without being splashed with a little water, but we ran out of water, so started collecting more than enough to overcompensate as we expected to have some stones better suited for the garden. On a recent gem and mineral meeting over Zoom, when I was showing off these fine agate specimens, I learned that the agate, and the stone formation containing covers a lot of Northwest Georgia, even into Tennessee, but it is on private land, or federal park land, so not available or accessible to the general public.
This agate tumbles well, but it loses a lot of surface area during the tumbling. It is beautiful however, and we are sure that a cabochon or lapidary person would have even more fun with this agate.
We have been tumbling North Georgia river stones, and most recently the Summerville Agate, in a 20lb barrel from MJR Tumblers. Each stage of tumbling takes about a week, and at the conclusion of each tumbling stage, I have been dumping the grit and the agate and river stone grit into the flower garden. The flowers LOVE IT! The rose bushes are more plentiful than ever before, and deeper colors than they were last year. One small rose bush that was red last year, was almost tie-dyed looking with streaks of white. The red impatiens are now a shade of orange. The mint and parsley plants are overgrowing! While this is not fertilizer, I can only guess the plants appreciate this concentrated mineral content in the otherwise mostly red clay soil. After I do dump the tumbling grit sludge into the garden I dilute it, and that happens naturally because I need to clean the tumbling barrel before the next stage, and also need to rinse thoroughly the stones before starting the next tumbling phase, or polishing phase, so I am hosing down the barrel and stones over the garden too, and that helps dilute the sludge and make it run over more of the garden to be soaked up. I am sure that the sludge mix from a cabochon workstation would have the similar effect on your outdoors flowering plants. Never dispense of tumbling or cabochon grit down a drain, and no never, dispense of that valuable mineral sludge, but add it to your garden. For any questions about gardening, or rock tumbling, feel free to contact Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 8 2021 Field Trip to Union Chapel Mine/Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site Fossil Location
By Charles Snider
I had been looking forward to this fossil trip sponsored by
the Georgia Mineral Society for the chance to find tetrapod tracks. I was
familiar with ferns, branches, and other vegetation because I had gone to
Carbondale and Centralia, Pennsylvania sites of old strip mines, and collecting
through the shale and slate, had found many fine ferns and fronds. This was the
first chance to find real critters! Of course, I knew that if I made a
breakthrough discovery that it would need to be shared with the Alabama club,
and respective university and state agencies, but I would be happy with that
for a breakthrough discovery.
I arrived the night before and stayed in Birmingham. All I
needed was a place to sleep and shower, so I found a cheap hotel near downtown.
How cheap was it? Let me put it this way, the night attendant was behind
bullet-proof glass. I made it in great time however, somehow avoided the
regular and horrific traffic around Atlanta, so I had time to step out in
Birmingham that evening. I had my first post-covid margarita at a fine place
that followed COVID protocol and then a night-cap at an establishment called
Collins Bar. I recommend Collins Bar because their main decora is a huge mural
of the entire wall behind the bar of the Periodic Table of Elements. So, while
you are sipping a drink, you are quizzing yourself, or others on the Periodic
The next morning, I met the field trip leaders at the nearby
Walmart for sign-in. I have said this before, I wonder if Walmart appreciates
that they are the universal meeting site of most gem, mineral, and fossil
society field trips? If they did, they should offer early Saturday morning
sales on gloves, chisels, hammers, and prybars.
We carpooled to the fossil site, formerly known as the Union
Chapel Mine, and now also called the Steven C.
Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site. The area is large and full of slate and shale,
to turn over, crack, split in half, and examine closely. The site sat on an
ancient marsh, so is full of Pennsylvanian Age plant fossils, ferns, fauna, and
tetrapod tracks and other vertebrates. The abundance of fossils, and the abundance
of variety make this former coal mining site one of the most significant fossil
sites in the world. In the 1990s, the grandson of the owners of the coal mine
brought some examples from the mine to their high school science teacher, who
recognized that these were something special. The teacher was able to visit the
student’s family’s mine, and recognized the significance of the tetrapod
tracks, and abundance of flora, fauna, invertebrate, and other fossils, and
shared the information with the local paleontology club, word spread to
professional paleontologists, the university, and the state. Now through a
collective partnership of private and public, state and academic, the site is
preserved and protected for fossil digs by academics, researchers, and fossil
The labor is not intensive
unless you want to crack and pry apart larger shale and slate pieces. There is
a lot of material on the surface for collecting and examining. There are cliff
walls to one side, but that area is off limits. Past visits had yielded tracks,
and we were told of someone’s discovery of the tracks of a giant scorpion.
During the dig, I had the good fortune of seeing others’ finds that included
burrows of insects, many broken branches, twigs, and other tree parts, and potential
tracks. My personal finds included an almost 12 inch branch in a large plate,
some plates with broken bark, twigs, and branches, and some interesting plates
that had gas bubbles that I learned later were marsh bubbles – not the most
exciting find, but fascinating to think that marsh bubbles were preserved in
situ like that. At the follow-up Zoom show-and-tell, some fellow members had
found tracks, where you could see the claws, and the back and forth motion of
the crawling creature.
For future visits, be sure
to take plenty of snacks and water. While the area is adjacent to where you
park, the nearby gas station, or Walmart are far enough from the remote
location that your limited time and access to this special place would be
compromised if you were leaving for snacks or drinks. There is no shade, so be
prepared with sunscreen.
I did engage in a conversation with members who noted that if some of the surface stone were moved with a bulldozer, and just 5 feet lower were exposed, that there would likely be new, and potentially breakthrough discoveries to be made. This was an excellent trip however, well organized and coordinated, and I am hopeful to return. For other fossil stories, and especially geode hunting and geode cracking articles, please find other articles at http://www.americangeode.com .