Central Montana Prospectors
Central Montana Prospectors

Billings, MT Review September 3rd-5th


Raymond Olson

     For Labor Day weekend what do locals do for a pause or entertainment? My mom’s brother, Ray, with his family heads out for garage sales Sunday morning. When they discover a sea of rocks at the home of Jerry Denk a call was made to the visiting relative looking for rocks. “You don’t want to miss this one!”

     This one step of thoughtfulness was a boon in multiple ways. 701 Broadwater will be emblazoned in the memory as a source of all things rocks. Upon first sight there was a sea of boxes of rocks. Rocks lying on top of tables, under them, along the fence in boxes and so many to choose from a person could get sick from overstimulation.

     But soon the tally was made, rocks hauled to the car, and treasures drove away to new destinations. The purpose of the trip to Billings was to follow the steps of Rockhounding Montana, but nowhere in the book was it mentioned that massive choices of rocks could be found on the streets of Billings at a garage sale rather than in the Yellowstone River and the Billings hillside.

     Thanks, Raymond, for thinking of others.



Jerry Denk

     The source of rocks one would never know would be a stranger in Billings, Montana and part owner of a day care. Jerry had on display at his bi-annual rock sale a myriad of rocks he had been collecting for a lifetime. It was obvious he knew his stuff, had an economical mind and was willing to let go of his stash.

     Jerry helped you identify unknown rocks, provided the baggies to scoop out your selections of devil’s toenails, brachial fossils, Montana diamonds, Indian money, crystals and told you of the going price for agates. He allowed your box to fill for $5 to be bulging over with treasures of all kinds.

     You could tell his family watched his passion from a distance as he was the true lover of rocks. He showed me his buffalo he had carved in rock as he made jewelry from rocks and had them lined up for sale. But his sea of earthen creations was the main attraction. They are the featured discussion with many of late with the phrase, “You want to see my rocks?!”


Billings, Montana

      One of the destinations mentioned in the book Rockhounding Montana was the Billings area. The sites mentioned seemed easy to get to and simple enough to find while visiting relatives at the same time. But it was a different story when setting out to follow such descriptions.

      Of course one always seems to go to the computer to check out information because it is so easy and convenient to google. Pompey’s Pillar, I remember as having seen the exit off the interstate on my many travels. Karen Olson looked it up and it was 30 miles away. But in the book it says it is right in Billings. Hmm…Headed out the visual path on I94 soon to check the book and find it was right in Billings. What? So followed the information and went on a wild goose chase that ended up with me following highway signs to various sites. Ditched that one fast when multiple sites had the same directions.

     The big rock wall just behind giant oil pipes, electrical wires and industrial buildings along the interstate can only be viewed in your imagination as Lewis and Clark saw it on their trek along the Yellowstone. It is hard to get to and not as it says in the book. Local residents said those places had been long gone years ago. Nothing much is as it says. You have to go find your own adventure there; it was



Pictograph Cave State Park

     This Montana landmark is a national historic landmark, and a state park designated in 1964. There is no collecting of fossils or rocks on this site nor on the Four Dances area either. But what you see and observe is fabulous.

    The hillside showcases the caves, there is a teepee set up on the trail and the Park Rangers are knowledgeable and helpful to understand the facility and show respect for the Native traditions that are a part of it. One of them played an original Native drum with the dual leather sticks that resonated in the small display area. Large photos of the cave paintings add to the ambiance of the experience. Two hundred year old trading beads beam from the small display case of Native art speaking of the influence of the Natives in the area at the time of discovery.

     Smudge sticks and wooden whistles add to the sounds, sights and smells of this park. The ranger lit some bark to smell how it would be in the campsites of the original people. The scenery on the drive out to the pictograph caves was breathtaking as well. In just a few short miles you were tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. You would not even know it was nearby.

    This was a true joy to visit even though there were no Billings fossils to be found there.

Remember: You take nothing from state parks


Four Dances

     A discovery on the way to the “Pictograph Cave national Historic Landmark” south of Billings was markers indicating an area called the Four Dances to explore. Upon driving into this BLM area with a short tour, a caretaker, Lynn, came out of his RV to see if he could help. He explained his role in the area as a volunteer, how he lead individuals and groups through it to observe the 50 some different types of birds and the history of the landscape. He also collaborated with me on his interpretation of the book.





Rockhounding Montana.

     Lynn and I figured out together that this book was made by some writer in NYC copying and pasting material at their computer without any actual knowledge of the area because their entries were so untrue and bogus that they couldn’t have known what they were talking about other than in a detached way. We talked in the rain until we were sopping wet, but he shared his love of service with others in regards to the land, the area, and rocks.

     The Billings Rock and Mineral Society was brought up as he is a member and attends when he is in the area until October when he travels south for the winter. It was mentioned that there are never returned phone calls or emails from these groups that just have their webpage for stamps. He said they were in the process of using Facebook instead of the webpage to maintain contact. But he mentioned that each person likes different types of rocks so you have to find locals that have the interest in what you are looking for. He grew up in a family of jade fanatics and he was the only one who maintained an interest.

     Lynn has volunteered at this Bureau of Land site for at least 12 years every summer and it was designated for Montana by that department for the last 15 years. He has served the people who journey there well and will talk in the rain to do it!! Such a treat.

Lots to Learn!

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