Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rock Collecting in Utah’s West Desert

100_4394A few weeks ago we explored Utah’s West desert, and traveled along the historic Pony Express Trail. (You can read more about that adventure and how to get out there HERE, as this post is going to be dedicated to the rock treasures we found in that same area.)

On that adventure, we weren’t feeling brave enough to venture any further than Simpson Springs, so we went back on Memorial Day to attempt the adventure beyond Simpson Springs, and to the Dugway Geode Beds. We took along a rock expert who showed us the best places for rock collecting, and to show us what we were looking for.

942305_592727177427884_1244717474_nWhat to bring on your Rock Collecting Adventure:

  • Rock hammer
  • Safety goggles
  • Small bucket for collecting rocks
  • Larger bucket to store rocks in
  • Shovel and/or pick
  • Sunscreen, hats and other protectors from the sun. This is desert area, and it gets super hot!
  • Signed waiver if you plan to collect geodes in the rock quarry at the Dugway Geode Beds. You can contact The Bug House at (435) 864-2402 or email There are places to collect geodes without obtaining permission, but the best spot is in the rock quarry.
  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip, and you have enough provisions such as food and water. Read our tips on our West Desert post.


Wonderstones are colorful rocks that are found in many places, including Utah’s West desert. The best place to find wonderstones in their natural state are near Vernon. They are beautiful volcanic rocks consisting of volcanic glass particles that have been welded or stuck together by heat, creating beautiful colors and shapes.

“Tumbled” Wonderstones

Many rock collectors like to polish and shine the rocks they find. Because of the material that  wonderstones are made up of, if you try to polish them or rub them together, they crumble under the pressure.That is where “tumbled” wonderstones come in. Millions of years ago in Lake Bonneville, wonderstones were “tumbled” in the pressure of the Lake, and became polished and shined. Tumbled Wonderstones are smooth and polished, which is a rare site to see. One of the only places on Earth to find naturally tumbled Wonderstones is in Utah’s West desert. Before you reach Simpson Springs, you will find a rock quarry full of naturally tumbled and polished wonderstones.

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Geodes are certainly a treasure to find. Breaking open a geode and finding sparkling, shining crystals is fun at any age! 100_4370One of the best places to find geodes is at the Dugway Geode Beds. It is about 25 miles West of the Simpson Springs Pony Express Station. Follow the sign, and you can’t miss it.

Geodes are rocks that volcanic gas gets trapped inside and forms crystals and hollow cavities. You will want to look for round rocks that aren’t very heavy. The best geodes are going to have bubble-like formations on the outside. This is how you can tell there are hollow, crystal-filled cavities inside.

If you find a rock that you think might be a good geode, break it open with your rock hammer to find out what’s inside. Make sure you are wearing your safety goggles, and that you are a safe distance from others; rock geode bulgesfragments will go flying in the air.

The rock expert we went with took us to a place where some of the best geodes are found. You do need permission before going, so make sure to do that ahead of time, as you will need a signed waiver.

There are plenty of places at the Dugway Geode Beds to look around and find geodes without permission, so you could also do that if you choose to do so.


Native American Artifacts

100_4356This area was full of ancient civilizations and Native American tribes. This is also the route the Pony Express riders traveled.

Please be advised that if you DO find any ancient artifacts, please leave them where they are. It is a federal offense to remove historical artifacts from this area.

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