Central Montana Prospectors
Central Montana Prospectors

Adventures in Prospecting Around Montana 2019

Getting out to explore the gifts we have in our great state means that there is quite and expanse of territory to cover, so we will let you know what we are doing in this line of recreational prospecting here. 



Some of the Most Recent

Middle Fork of the Judith River

Friday-Sunday, September 20-22,  2019

maybe sapphires or gold could be found

       When one treks out for a three-day camping trip to explore the back roads of central Montana, one never knows what you will find. There was a parade of ATV's bent on scaling a 65-degree angle with danger expected. There were 30 or more. Elk hunters compete for the space with their horses and packs of trucks and carts. Campers are scarce, but the cows aplenty. Backpackers stroll from the ridge above gazing at the prospecting process going on in the Yogo Creek below. They too found rocks unique enough to share and talk about.

       Blue stripes down the rock walls in the distance beckoned  to check out the possibilities that gold might have been formed nearby and the idea that sapphires might be in the creekbed had the draw. 

      The campfire, the rain, the opportunity to enjoy Montana's outdoor recreational opportunities brought more visitors than at your own front door back home. Always a joy to explore more in Montana.

     Rock City Has No People, Only Rocks, But So Magnificent

Saturday, September  14 , 2019

     "You can see rocks, but you can't bring any home," Mark Amundson said when he pointed out Rock City might be a good place to visit, and he was right!! Leads rock lovers give you can often be perfect for the rock lover's soul. 

      Just north of Valier, out in a farmer's field one can find the gifts of nature filleted out there for man and beast alike. There is no place like it, the pillars of stone with pies on top. You can walk among, between, around, and above these beauties for a chance of meeting ancient history. There isn't much chance to pick up some dandies on the ground, but if you look up, that is where the beauty is found. Awesome.

      You might not get gold in the hand, but you will find it there with the beauty that jumps into your heart. This is a definite on your Montana adventure list. 

Maiden, Montana looking for gold

Saturday, September 7, 2019

     "Tracking Down Historical Mining Sites"

     When you team up a prospecting pursuit with some local festivities such as the Chokecherry Festival with a tour of old ghost towns that once bustled with gold business, you can have an enjoyable day's trip. 

      Even though Maiden was one of the first sites for prospecting gold along with Giltedge, it now is private property with gracious landowners. 

       Mike Hanley, Jerry's nephew, gave the lowdown of just what and where one can pan for gold in the area. It is not in this town, but up the road with a right hand turn over the divide on BLM land. 

      But just in case you might want to search for smoky quartz, just take a left on the road and you will be at the old radar station with smoky quartz all around the area. You just don't want to go to the area after a huge rainstorm as the muddy roads can become impassible and sticky. The view at the top of the Judith Mountains might be scary if there wasn't fog blocking your view as one is so high you are in the clouds with visibility poor on those roads. 

      Long ago gold was found in the hills, and since gold is always being unearthed everywhere, your chance is good if you venture down Maiden Canyon and stop to pan. It's open, free, and beautiful. 

After Libby Gold Digging

Friday, August 30-September 1, 2019

A Critique on the Gold Gathering Systems in Montana

     Here is a quick analysis of comparisons among the different styles of prospecting after participating in the Libby outing:

  • the set-up of the gold search sets the pace for success. In Helena area there is no water use and it is in a ravine and 3 men obtained 110 nuggets retrieval in 1 day compared to this photo for where 50 men and women of two days hard labor netted this. ie: something's wrong with the system.
  • the use of large numbers of man-power hours does not net more gold
  • if you consider how gold is formed and where it comes from your strategy of retrieval might be different. Ravines give it up if it is from outer space, not hillsides or looking for veins.
  • solar is a much better system to run machines such as trommels, just the smell alone would be greatly increase. the exhaust from those engines would be reduced.
  • the forest service allows exploratory holes in one area but not in others. some equality in the system needs to be provided.
  • a front-end loader and a mine lab 7000 might be more productive for gold retrieval than the use of trommels.
  • tearing up the countryside with large scale equipment doesn't necessarily produce lots of gold. Helena group in one day surpassed 5 years of prospecting accumulation with the proper system of retrieval.

Libby, Montana for Gold on Labor Day Weekend               August 30-September 1, 2019

Sauerbier Ranch Garnet Dig

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

      At the Blue Jewel Mine out of York, the staff there said when they had a break from their digging, they were headed to the Sauerbier Ranch backside of Ruby Reservoir. Hmm...think I will try it.

     The webpage for the ranch is on the internet with the owner being willing to allow diggers on their land like they do with the Bozeman, Butte and Helena gem and mineral clubs.

     The trick is the land overlays with the Ruby Dell Ranch as well and one has to find a way down to the area where everyone frequents and it isn't easy without help. The coulee just behind the parking flats is dry in August and the evidence of the water rushing down fills the need to dig as most garnets are visible on the top of the land. 

Ruby Reservoir, garnets and gold

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

      When one goes to the ranching bush outside of Alder, you pass the Ruby Reservoir. This is a good time of the year as the water is down, the banks are open and you can drive right down to the water's edge, scoop up buckets galore of gravel, put in your rig to bring home to process for gold and garnets. 

     This year the red color to the shoreline was not so prevalent, but the gold was everywhere. Worth the trip for sure. Load up.

Red Rock Mine, garnets and gold too

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

      Some tourist traps along the highway can be annoying, but not this one. They claim to be a mine, but they really are an attraction for panning garnets like one does sapphires. Their prices are good, Steve gives great demonstrations and his rocks for sale are reasonable and varied.

      When asked where he got his gravel, he said, "Under the creek bed across the road." You can bring home gravel with guaranteed gold in it, buckets of gravel with garnets, bags of garnet gravel, amethysts from Brazil, geodes for $2 and more. It is a fun stop with rock success if you don't have any in the hills outside of town. 


Every Kind of Rock and Fossil You Could Ever Want Found all in One Place

Saturday, August 2, 2019

     From rock dust to huge slabs and all things in between can be found in the old schoolhouse right on the highway on the way to Glacier National Park. For decades the Trex Agate Shop has provided the latest specimens of fossils, gemstones, books, and rock marvels for the public passing through. The array of choices, the information the staff has is perfectly clear the profound influence rocks and their vibrations have in our lives. 

      A stop at the rock shop and the dinosaur museum next door will fill your pockets and rock hounding desires with questions better than any place else in Montana. The family has a long history of knowing the rock business; this place is better than digging your own. They package it up for you with a great receipt that explains it all. One is never too old to get the rock news from a trip to the Trex Agate Shop. And watch out for their 30% off in mid-October with everything in the store on sale. 

     The overstimulation of the rock possibilities is easily hit with the application of just what you might want to add to your collection or find out more about with this rock hounding opportunity. This stop is always a place on your list each year at least once, if not more. THE BEST!!

Cave Explorations for Montana Dogtooth Calcite

Saturday, July 27, 2019

      Down in the dirt, hidden between the limestone boulders lays dogtooth calcite, yellow in color, for the thrill seeking of the rock hounding type. As one searches the veins and chasms of earthen formation, the treasures one pulls from its safety zone, means transition from secrecy to the homes of many in Montana.

     "What color is this calcite?" I asked. But the big question should have been, "What do I need when I get to the cave?" Chippers, hammers, a backpack, chisel, metal rods, eye protectorates, special drill hammers, pokers, buckets, lunch, water, a duster, some wood for bracing, a cell phone for photos for posterity and more. No one could possibly believe such joy can come from rocks and dirt overlooking the canyon with cars whizzing by below on the highway and the sound of the train off in the distance. 

      Scaling the cliff is not necessary when locals show you the easy way of traversing instead of straight up at a 65-degree angle with no footing, grabbers or trees in sight.

      The cave on the hillside hasn't been picked over; it has plenty to find, multiple families found excitement for the day in the treasures they brought home. What the earth creates is a marvel and opportunity for recreation together with adults and kids at Red Cliff Campground, in the Gallatin Forest. Andrew Luna showed the way along with John Mild who have been there before, thank heaven.

Researching Gold History 

Friday, July 19, 2019 

     At the 2018 Mining Symposium in Butte, Montana a presenter proposed that gold was first discovered in Gold Creek, Montana, not in the Bannack area. He elaborated on the story of how it all came down with the natives too. 

     In his presentation he said the area now is all private land and you can't pan there. Seeing for yourself makes a point and the possibilities are open until they get closed in your mind. 

     With a quick stop at the local Mennonite restaurant and store, the Dinnerbell, one finds out that Gold Creek is up the road about 2-3 miles even though the nice rest stop just off the interstate looks like it is the one, it is only the Clark Fork.

     Local people say, "Yes, you can go see the monument to the event if you go to the top of the hill and go down the road a piece and ask the ranchers there if you can go see the monument." If it is not for public access, why bother.

      But the real Gold Creek is blocked by metal fences as it sits right on land owned by ranchers in the area so industrious with all the Mennonite projects abounding. So the desire to recreate finding gold in the creek bed of Gold Creek was dashed, but the scenery and hospitality was great. There are plenty of other places to put your pan in the water. This place just isn't one of them. 

Gold Mining and Sapphire Lessons

The Effects of Proprietary 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

      When you want to see how a summer mining operation for gold works, one must swear secrecy because so much of the information found on the hillside is called "proprietary." That means the spread of the word is off limits and the photos too. 

     But the ideas shared in this visit to the hillside claims outside of Avon meant that there was a whole lot of speculation, toil, and machinery that moves the earth and trees for what might fill a teacup in gold.

      The price of gold makes it worth the searching for this element and it takes a team of skills to make it all happen with people who trust each other and work together. 

     It is so worth going to a mining site and keeping your mouth shut because one learns so much and the eyes widen as to the success one can have searching for gold in Montana. 

Sharing His Collection,

sapphires, emeralds, and gold too

Saturday, July 13, 2019

     Will Heierman, from Texas, prospects in the summer in Montana as he has had claims for 40 years here. When he comes to Montana he brings with him, his collection of beautiful sapphires he has collected over the years. Some of them are one of a kind you would never find any place else in the world.

     To see his beauties one must enjoy as he pulls them out of his box and explains the uniqueness of each one. There is an array of qualities that go beyond what one would imagine possible. The yogo is all over his collection and some stones are priceless. He even has sapphires from the other side of the world in Kashmir where he has visited.

     When you are a collector, the draw is amazing as one can collect quite a few beauties that dazzle the eyes for decades to come. Such a treat to be exposed to the rare earth dazzlers with their brilliance and exquisite qualities. Stone opportunities abound in Montana. 

Blue Jewel Sapphire Mine, York, Montana     

Sunday, July 7, 2019

      Things have changed at this mine. When Bruce was asked, "What's new?" he said he is making plans to have his son-in-law take over the establishment and he is going to develop a gold mine in Arizona. Guess he has plans, but more has changed with his operations.

       The big thing here is: the price is not per bucket. It is a flat rate of 6 buckets for $100. After mishap, ditching and downright sabotage, arrival found new people as well and with the willingness of newbies, sharing the buckets and the take was accomplished. The digging is easy, the staff runs the jig, and there are places to sift through your gravel with help. Truly a productive session. Much easier than next door with Blaze N' Gems. . 

Blaze N' Gems Shop on York Road Was the Second Stop of the Day For Semi-precious Stones

Antimony Mine in Montana              Saturday, June 29, 2019

      Thompson Falls is the home of the United States Antimony Corporation. A visit to the company there with an interview  John Lawrence, the CEO, brought an extensive conversation of the development of antimony for manufacturing plus a lot more.       

     It was with his generous gift of his time that we learned the power and richness of sustained endurance in the field of mining some people have. The benefits for the American public will last a long time as antimony and other products they have developed are used extensively in so many items.

      We got gifts of brochures of products, photos, a rock, and warm greetings of knowledge of the company and the benefits of the mining materials it has developed. Such and eye opener into the world of mining. 

In Store Rock Shop; Rockin' Rudys

June 29, 2019

     An ongoing array of earthly treasures await you just off of Higgins in Missoula. New shipments arrive regularly with clever new ways rocks are prepared for the public. 

     These double terminated, heat treated crystals were a big draw plus their rock cupcakes. Fill your pockets on your trip through Missoula's perfect place to shop for rocks. Educational materials are provided also. Fun shopping experience with rock jewelry as well. 

Gem Mountain, Sapphire Hunting

Phillipsburg, Montana

June 30, 2019

      With a ride over Skalkaho Road from Hamilton, one can find the wooden archway of the Gem Mountain sapphire mining area, that has changed its hours of operation.  Sundays it is not open; just Wednesday through Saturday. Needless to say, you can still get the same opportunity in the town of Phillipsburg. It's another 12 miles into town.

     However, you can buy bags, buckets, cowboy boots and other sizes to take home and process at your convenience or pan on the streets. The gravel is heavily salted so one can gain access to their stones depending up the choice of purchase. Any way you put it, the company ensures your success in recreational prospecting.

      Due to the difficulties in getting help the mine out of town is only open a few days a week, so check on the times before you head out.

Barite and Crystal Hunting  Saturday, June 22, 2019

       When newcomers come to Great Falls and ask, "What can I do in Montana on the weekends for an adventure?" Answer is simple: let me take you rock hounding with Andrew Luna.

      He pines away in winter with snow high up to go looking for crystals on Cataract Creek outside Basin, Montana. When the dryness is prevelant one can follow him up and over the mountainside to fetch those dandies out of their nests or simple pull up roadside and scale a rock wall to get barite.

     Even though it is too soft to cut into stones, it is fabulous to hunt down. Way better than shooting an elk. Maddie approved of her trip to the woods to claim Montana treasures and she too pined away all day for a simple life in the woods. Don't we all!!

Is It Worth It? Sapphire Questions

Wednesday, June 19

      Stopped by El Dorado Mine recently to visit after you haven't been there for a few years. Asked for gravel bags; two left for $75 each with no guarantee for sapphires. Is that a deal? 

     Soon walks in two guys who put their two days hard work on the lighted grid and for over $150 worth of gravel at a quick scan looked like they didn't have any cuttable sapphires in the bunch. 

      I knew I would have much better groupings if I went to Phillipsburg Mine for a lot less investment; so I am on my way. Sometimes the mines are just played out maybe. Locals don't access so much, it's for tourist types. 

Butte Gem and Mineral Show  Saturday, June 15, 2019   Butte Civic Center

Large displays rolled in, vendors from all over the world, rocks of all sorts, coins, wood carvings, knives, world wide displays, mammoth tusks, beads and displays.

      Want some stimulation rock talk, these gem and mineral shows are it; this was the last for the year. Keep track of them for next year as you can get great deals with the % off bins. 

Ringing Rocks  Pipestone  June 15, 2019

     Get yourself a 4 wheel drive, head out on the interstate and exit at Pipestone. Follow the signs pointing to the top. Get set to hammer on some stones and make all kinds of sounds when you hit them. Fun times; only 3 places in the world will this phenomenon do this. Montana can ring the rocks. 

The Season Begins Here With Some More Recent Above

Gold Fox Newness      April 1, 2019  

     In making plans for the new season I found a financier who was willing to invest in a Little Monster from Kelly Fowler at Gold Fox in Conrad. We drove up there and voila, wouldn't you know it, the creative genius that he is, during the winter he created not just one, but two new machines for prospecting. One was a mini trommel and the other was a mini high banker. 

     The advantage to these new machines is that they are light weight and easily packagable for processing for gold in Montana's outback and can last up to 2 hours of remote processing.

     It was tough to decide what one to buy. The $900 one needed too much regalia, the $400 would only process fine gravel, and the $500 was the mini high banker that processed the gravel processed some. What did I get? You guess!

     Had to put in an order as they weren't even available. Came back weeks later to pick it up. Had to show it off to those of like mind. It's great, usable and valuable to own. He sells them all over the world. 


Stones and Bones          April 5th 2019, Billings, Montana

      When you are in love with rocks and in town for a funeral, one takes a spin by the local hot spot for rocks to check out the merchandise. Billings rock shop has it all and a knowledgeable owner as well. 

    Why bones in the name? Fossils abound with the influence that comes with them. This store has a peculiar entrance off to the side, but is so worth taking home some of the many choices on parade. 

     A visit is a must, enjoyable and perfect. Check it out! I just couldn't leave without filling my pockets with treasures.

Helena Gem and Mineral Show          April 14, 2019

      A room with a balcony and auctions going on rapidly with all kinds of vendors from all over hocking their wares both pricey and economical. In the Arabic Civic Center there are lots of tradition steeped in the organization and performance of this show.

      Because it is put on by the Helena Mineral Society, it has a variety of interests represented there and people can give you good rock hounding advice. This once a year event is great to put on your calendar for exposure for all things rocking in the state of Montana.

Public Hearing DEQ Style    Great Falls High School    April 24th, 2019

      When DEQ wants to hear from the public about the mining operation out of White Sulphur Springs, they set up a public hearing, offer all kinds of opportunity for input and people speak their mind.

      Many did just that so eloquently on that day and many topics were covered. There were not many who spoke in favor and many who said mining has ruined our state without management over its issues. 

     The best speaker was this man in black who was quoted by Karl Puckett in the Tribune as he was hard hitting. Curtis Thompson had it all put together. Whether anyone would listen, that was to be debated. 

Gold Fox Pick Up..It's Yours! Conrad, Montana April 25th, 2019

     When you put in your order and pay the first of April and there are many on the docket that are in the same boat, you wait for the word for when yours is ready.

     This day came, just one day prior to a demo day at the local school to share the prospecting fever. In one hour a gem of propsecting equipment can be yours.

     Of course, one quick clip of putting it into use with the "How To's" got put on the cell phone and came in handy when it was time to set it up. Now we are up and running with the latest equipment hot off the Gold Fox press. A YouTube video will be here soon. 

Lady of Lourdes Kids Learn Gold Panning & More 

Great Falls   April 26, 2019

     While swimming in the Peak pool a little girl said, "Hey, weren't you the one that came to my school and talked about rocks? I still have my rocks!"

     Paxton Tutor and Alma Winberry showed all ages in their specialty day how to pan for gold, sift for sapphires, and shared places to go and find these all over Montana.

      The parents in the pool added that their family goes to many sites in Montana to do recreational prospecting as well especially in Gold Creek which was mentioned in Butte Symposium in October as the real place where gold was found in Montana, not at Bannack. Oh well, it was the hunt for gold that settled our great state and has brought lots of prospecting history to it. 

Urban Art Project Windows Feature Rock Displays from May 18-September 5th

Great Falls

     Wanna find a place for your rocks, fossils and stones you collect while rock hounding in Montana? Why not add them to art and then they are on your wall for decades as people come into your house and admire them.

      Come see the Urban Art Project Summer Showcase until September 5 in downtown Great Falls. All kinds of artistic installations made from Montana rocks. You can even see a rock guy made by a 7 year old in one called, "Life of Rock People." Ellie Fudge had a great idea and then it was put into motion with the help of Alma Winberry and Emma White. 


Zortman Big Dig 

Big Success!! May 24-27, 2019

     Even though everything changed in the regular routine of the past, Kevin, of the Yellowstone Group stepped up to the plate and reorganized a dig for gold up the gulch with three spots to dig that proved better odds for everybody present.

      Many more went away with gold nuggets because, when one site wasn't producing we moved to the one that was. 

      The usual machines were not present, but new teams were. New friendships were formed, Nic Frank walked away with a metal detector, many others won raffle items for their Christmas lists, and happiness in the heart prevailed as the team process of working together, young and old worked well. Cheers to the Yellowstone prospecting group for having another fun super dig for people mainly all over Montana this time.

      This was a shot in the arm to go out and find gold in a variety of places and get those machines going for your search. This event gets you jump started and now we are on the go!! Getting gold is fun. More to come. 

Backyard Prospecting           Great Falls, June 1, 2019

     There comes a time each year when one goes no further than your own backyard. It is a time when the treasures you have hauled home have to be tested to see if they bare fruit. 

      In one's search for gold, some water, and a mini monster works well in the shade of the crabapple tree. Looking for gold nuggets can give you the color you want if you have dug in all the right places. 

      Nate Ziamboro tries his hand at prospecting with the latest piece of equipment. A quick, simple video from Kelly Fowler helps solidify the many steps to get the machine in working order. 

     For the year of 2019 propspecting season, in the past we have gone from the middle of May until the end of September with outings each weekend.

     This year we are switching it up again. 

     The season actually began April 1st and has been sporadic with a variety of events. We are no longer limiting ourselves to the weekends as we have had opportunity to go out prospecting in the middle of the week, so we have choices as to when we strike out and get er done.

    You will see here reports of the activities that you might find interesting with posts about places, experiences and what you might find as you create your own adventures with rocks, fossils and mining in Montana mostly.

     The state is so alive with energy of the mineral nature that you might stimulate the idea, "Oh, I never thought of that!" while checking out our events or topics.

      May you enjoy this free service as a gift to those who would like to enjoy Montana's outdoors and have an opportunity to engage with it. 

     Beginning a month earlier than ever before might mean you have more selection to choose from to take your family and friends to places on your many excursions around our great state of Montana.

    You will find topics of all sorts such as some listed here:

  • Butte Mining Museum
  • Ancient Rock Formations Remote
  • Gazing at a sapphire collection
  • Gold Fox in Conrad
  • Antimony Mine in Thompson Falls
  • Sapphire Picking in York
  • Giant Crystals in stores near you
  • Rock Shopping in Missoula
  • Panning for Sapphires in Gem Mountain
  • Unearthing dogtooth calcite from its cave home
  • Gem and Mineral Shows Rule! Why?
  • Mountainside sluicing
  • Searching for garnets in the ranchers' haven
  • Washing gravel for garnets
  • Getting Brazilian gems by the roadside
  • Can you find flourite in Montana?
  • Do caves call to the rock hounder?
  • Seeing gold retrieval without water
  • Visiting a dinosaur museum
  • Gold Panning Sites and Success
  • The "Big Dig"
  • The National Gold Panning area in Libby
  • Checking out gold mining history
  • Garnets in Alder
  • Agates in White Earth
  • Crystal Searching Everywhere
  • Barite Hunting on a hillside, just off the highway 
  • Ringing on the Rocks
  • Backyard Possibilities
  • Comparing Rock Shops to Mines of the same name
  • Prospector's Plans out of the state
  • Using a mini portable trommel in a moutain streambed
  • Getting shark teeth stew
  • Checking out rock sinks in Bynum
  • Learning about rock and dinosaur books
  • Crystal hunting techniques
  • Finding some educational videos
  • Learning from interviews with rock people
  • Does heat treating really work?
  • Does spending more give you more stones?
  • Do Montanans enjoy our outdoors more than out-of-staters?
  • Making equipment inspiration available?
  • Do roads to sites deter the seeker?
  • Can you use the same equipment in rock hounding as gold panning?
  • Government rhetoric can be a part of your rock experience
  • Schools can teach prospecting
  • What sites are teamwork experience for panning? 
  • Is art a part of the rock experience?
  • Do mineral clubs have claims to serve members? 
  • Are there prospecting inventions happening in Montana?
  • What does a statewide mining symposium have to offer?
  • And even a critique on the styles of the gold search...some not so productive in comparison
  • What popular activities can you see while heading to prospecting sites? 


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