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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rockhounding at Crystal Hill in Quartzsite, Arizona

On Tuesday, January 17, we decided to give our new Jeep (not named yet, but David is inclined toward, "Nellybelle") its maiden trek down a jeep road and go rockhounding at Crystal Hill.  The site, located south of Quartzsite, Arizona in the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, is about 9 miles in from US 95 along a dirt road.  Kathy learned about it in a rockhounding book and found more information online.

Crystal Hill, located in the in the Livingston Hills, is the only area within the refuge where recreational rock or mineral collecting is permitted. Quartz crystals are hidden in the washes and on
the rocky slopes of Crystal Hill, making this an ideal location for rockhounding or collecting. While searching for quartz crystals at the top of the hill, visitors can also enjoy the 360 degree view of the
surrounding area.

Here's the Rockhound-in-Chief, armed with her geologist's rock hammer, gazing up lustfully at Crystal Hill (well, she's actually gazing away from it, but the back of her head isn't as pretty as the front):

It turns out that, as proclaimed on a sign at the foot of the hill, the use of tools to hunt for clear crystal quartz is prohibited.  Bare hands (and maybe other rocks) only.  Okay, so the rock hammer goes back in the pack and we plan to do a lot of surface scanning for gems among the loose rubble.

Quartz, belonging to the class of silicates, comprises approximately 12 percent of the Earth’s crust. It is produced when the two most abundant elements in the surface of the Earth, oxygen and silicon, bond. Quartz crystallizes when volcanic magma cools and becomes solid.  Quartz appears in a variety of forms and shapes and varies from being clear to almost opaque. It may be found in the form of large grains, crystals or veins.  Crystals can appear either as a single point or in a cluster. Pure quartz is white or colorless, while other types of quartz may be rose, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, or black depending on the trace elements they contain.  The Livingston Hills are known to have
both quartz veins and crystals. Some veins in the hills contain tourmaline and pyrite, two other minerals. Most of the quartz crystals found at Crystal Hill are either clear or milky white.

It didn't take much climbing to get above the valley floor.  Here, Kathy surveys a likely site with a big wash below which we had had to cross to get to the base of the hill:

As we climbed further up the hill, we would search for quartz seams where rocks had broken off and tumbled down the hill.  These rockfall areas are the most productive, and one or two of them seemed to produce some clear quartz.

We got so high, we could barely see old Nellybelle on the desert floor below:

One big quartz seam was so rich, others had actually mined into it, creative caves, perhaps looking for gold.  Here, David's shadow peers into one of the man-made caves:

Kathy kept finding fields to examine for quartz, so her progress up the peak was slow.  David, on the other hand, had the summit in mind, so he made steadier progress up the hill, but was less successful finding the clear quartz.  From the summit, he had some great views -- first to the northwest --

-- and then to the southwest:

If you're interested in the entire scene from the top, here is a  360 degree view from the summit of Crystal Hill.

We spent a few hours combing the hillside, and it paid off.  Kathy found some pretty little gems and proudly displayed them by the gloves she used to protect her hands from the sharp edges of quartz rocks:

This was a very successful trip!  We got our rocks off, and Nellybelle did her job admirably.  Now, on to the next remote rockhounding site!

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