In the past most years I drove or flew out to one of the large gem shows such as Tucson, Quartzite, or Denver. These days I typically go every three years, given the time and expense of these trips. This adventure involved 6,125 miles of driving over 26 days. The main two reasons for the trip were to buy gift shop items for the museum at the Tucson Show as well as speaking at the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. In addition, I visited several geologic sites to take photos for possible future books. I went to Palo Duro Canyon State Park (southeast of Amarillo, TX), Carlsbad Caverns, Saguaro National Park, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. I feel extreme gratitude that I am able to take a trip like this.


Late last year I received an invitation to go to Hawaii — again. As some of you know, I was fortunate to be able to go to Hawaii a few years ago (thanks to the generosity of friends and frequent flyer miles). However, during that first visit to Hawaii I was not able to go to the Big Island. The item on top of my bucket list has been to see an active volcano. So when this new invitation was to go to the Big Island and stay for free with friends – I decided to do it. To help pay for the trip I dove into a closet that I have not looked in for 17 years, which was full of artifacts, old photos, and other items. I sold some of the things from my blog and now have several notebooks with this collection in the museum’s gift shop Thanks to Sharon Smith for the invite and the good time, and to Steve and Dorothy Moon for their hospitality, generosity, and amazing excursions.

During the time we were on the Big Island, there was a lot of volcanic activity. Lava is currently flowing into the ocean on the southeast side of the island. A picture of the steam cloud is below.

Early in our visit we decided to drive to the top of the world — Mauna Kea. If you count the total height of the mountain from the bottom of the ocean floor, this volcano is over 33,000 feet – taller than Mount Everest. The photo below shows the first view of Mauna Kea after we drove above the almost permanent cloud layer (which that day was at 6,500 feet). The next photo is the sister volcano – Mauna Loa.

The diagram below features Mauna Loa, which is larger In volume but smaller in height. Both mountains are the top two tallest in the world.

Here are a couple of photos I took from the top of Mauna Kea.

Because of successive lava flows, sometimes molten pathways become covered and form lava tubes, or pukas. Sharon and I went and checked one out in the Volcanoes National Park.

Basaltic rock is everywhere on the Big Island – geology in your face to be sure! Below is a picture of rough basalt that is only a couple of hundred years old. The next photo below shows a finger of lava from Mauna Loa that flowed around one hundred years ago.

Since I live in Grand Marais, I am used to Lake Superior sand. In my research before the trip, I found out that there is a green sand beach on the Big Island – one of only four in the world. We had to walk in one-way three miles or so, but it was worth it. The green comes from the olivine crystals that were embedded in the basalt, but then eroded out. The beach is surrounded by half a lava crater.

There are also black sand beaches that consist of sand-grain size pieces of basalt.

The southernmost point on the Big Island is the southernmost point in the U.S. The photo below shows an area near the southern tip.

The other highlight of the trip was seeing active lava at a side vent of Kilauea. Here are photos I took from the viewing platform of the same side crater during the day, and one at night. Two weeks after we were standing at this spot, the side of the crater caved in.


Last year I did not drive out west because I was working on the online rockhounding classes. So this year I decided that I had to make the drive – all 6,285 miles of it.

Thanks to friend, Helen Riley, for flying out to Arizona to share the adventure, which included hiking the Grand Canyon and Sedona. I also visited the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.

First, a few Grand Canyon photos.

A couple of Painted Desert photos…..

I really enjoyed the Petrified Forest.

We went on eight different hikes in the Sedona area. They were all different, but all awesome.

On my way back east, I stopped in Albuquerque for a few days. Thanks to the Hannishs for their hospitality. When I left early one morning, I caught this sunrise glow as I drove over the mountains east of Albuquerque.


Since my friends knew I was driving out to the Tucson Gem Show, three asked whether I was going to again hike the Grand Canyon. I love sharing the canyon with friends, so a year ago I made the necessary reservations. I hiked with friends Wendy, Helen, and Phylster. We stayed at Bright Angel Lodge the night before our descent. We hiked down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, where we stayed for two nights. On the day we spent at the bottom, we went on a day hike up the Cedar Creek trail to the section that overlooks the Colorado River. Then we hiked out the Bright Angel Trail. In all we hiked 21 miles with 12,000 feet of elevation change. Considering that all four of us are in our mid-50s, we did well to complete the hike with no injuries – not even a blister! The weather was sunny and warm, which was amazing since it snowed at the canyon the three days after we left.

Included below are some of the pictures from the hike. More can be seen on the blog at

ROCKHOUNDING AND ADVENTURE TRIPS: Kentucky Agate Hunting – April 2010

In April during spring break, friends Gerald and Jill Phillips and I drove down to Irvine, Kentucky to go agate hunting. We teamed up with Scott and Melinda Hardy to learn the tricks of the hunt. I must admit it is totally different than looking for Lake Superior agates.

First of all, you need a pair of fishing waders. Although they call them creeks, in my opinion they are rivers. Not only was the current swift, but we had to portage around deep holes on several occasions. As I also explain in the Mineral of the Month update this month, you search by using sound. When you find round rocks in the river, you hit them with a rock hammer or other metal object. The silica rocks have a certain “ping” sound, as compared to other river rocks.

I must admit that the river was beautiful. It had a brilliant aqua blue green color. We hunted for six hours walking upstream in the river where ever we could and down a four wheel trail on the way back to our car. It was certainly a good time.

Here is a shot of the river and a couple of shots of Melinda, Gerald, and Jill.

I have not yet cut any of the possible agates I found. However, I did buy quite a few from Scott Hardy. I have a great assortment for sale at the museum for prices that are far less than what you see on the internet. Here is one of the agates I purchased from Scott.

In addition to agates, there are a lot of other silicified rocks you can find in the river.


ROCKHOUNDING AND ADVENTURE TRIPS: Moose Lake Agate Days – Summer 2009

I attended Moose Lake Agate Days, located around an hour south of Duluth, for the fifth year in a row, second with a booth. Since the event was mentioned on the Travel Channel’s Cash and Treasures show, the number of people in attendance was almost out of control. On Saturday, there were definitely too many people in the gym. However, sales were great and the agates this year were even better than last year.

I was able to spend a little bit of time agate hunting. However, the owner of my favorite gravel pit is leasing out the pit to an asphalt company. There are so many trucks coming and going, that it is not safe. As a result, Doug has asked people to stay away until the contract is over in two years or so.

Thus, my friends and I tried our luck at farm field hunting again. We returned to the Aitkin, MN area and went with permission to the field in which I found the semi-fister in May. I didn’t find any big ones this time, but my friend, Jill, did.

Below are some of the photos I took to document the big agates that were either available for sale, or at least displayed. The first two show some of the booths inside and outside. The other photos show some of my favorite agates that I saw and was able to document.



It has been three years since I drove out west to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Of course, in 2005 and 2006 I lived in New Mexico all winter and sold my mineral art as a member of a co-op gallery. Thus, during these years the drive to Tucson was a lot shorter! Last year was the first time in a decade that I did not attend. This year since I have the new vehicle, I decided to drive. However, since I was driving out without staying for a few months, the driving was consolidated into a three week period. As a result, the total miles of 6,060 represented an average per day of over 275 miles! Considering that I spent five days in the Tucson area, three days in New Mexico, and four days at the Grand Canyon, it is obvious that there were several days that I drove over 800 miles – especially on the way home!

After visiting friends and relatives down state, I started driving south to Arkansas on February 2nd. Thanks to the books on tape loaned to me by my friend, Marsha, I drove to within an hour of Arkansas the first day. The next day I visited Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs, operated by the University of Arkansas. I needed a break to get some exercise. Although it was chilly, there were several trees in bloom. I am sure the blooms didn’t make it much longer since the temperature dropped to the mid-teens that night. During my travels, it was colder than I expected, but I stayed toasty sleeping in my Suburban on a roll-away mattress situated on a raised platform.

On Tuesday, I rendezvoused with Dee and Gee, who own one of the crystal mines located around 40 minutes from Hot Springs. They told me about a near-by campground that is free in the winter. We met up again the next morning and I followed Gee over to his mine. I enjoyed walking over his dump piles looking for evidence of any quartz crystals. I only stayed for a few hours, but found several dozen crystals, including the monster shown below – well worth the $20/day fee!

After continuing my drive to New Mexico, I spent the next few days visiting with friends, soaking in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente, and hiking at Bandelier National Monument. Pictured below are some of the pictures I took at the Tsankawi portion of Bandelier. This part of the national park has been left untouched by the National Park Service and remains the way it was when the cliff dwellers left over 500 years ago.

The driving continued on Monday as I arrived in Benson, AZ that night. The next morning, we were greeted with four inches of snow. Of course, everyone blamed me for bringing the snow from Michigan. I spent the rest of the week attending the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which are actually 44 different shows. I don’t think that anyone actually goes to all of them, but I visited at least a dozen. I not only purchased some of my standard products, but I have several new things for the museum’s gift shop. I also had the pleasure to buy higher-ticket items for friends in Lansing. It is a good thing that I have a bigger vehicle because I had to fit a lot of product into the car. I don’t think I could have done it if I didn’t have room under my bed’s raised platform.

At one of the shows, to entice buyers to come in, they situated one of the most incredible amethyst geode that I’ve ever seen. How this was mined out of the earth and transported from Brazil to the J.O.G.S. show in Tucson – I’ll never know!

After I left the show, I camped at Tucson Mountain Park, which is located west of the city. Below is one of the cactus pictures that I took at sunset.

The next item on the agenda was the Grand Canyon. I drove through the eastern entrance of the park. The photo below was taken from the top of Desert View.

This was my 14th hike down the canyon, but only the second time that I hiked all the way from Phantom Ranch to the top in one day. I was glad that an opening occurred so that I could stay down an extra day to recover a little before I had to hike out. I descended down the South Kaibab Trail, which is the shortest rim to river trail at a little over 7 miles, but also the steepest. The first picture below was taken at the top of the Kaibab Trail.

As I walked down, since I was on a solo hike this time, it gave me the opportunity to read one of my Grand Canyon geology books as I descended layer by layer. Since the top section of the trail is in shadows all day, it is quite icy this time of year. Hiking poles and boot crampons are a must if you want to be safe. The trail starts with a long series of steep zigzags through the Kaibab Limestone. The tan walls are pitted with thousands of white and yellow chert nodules. These pockets formed from the silica spicules that accumulated from the sponges that lived in a shallow sea here 270 million years ago.

When I was around half way down and hiking through the Supai Group along the O’Neill Butte (formed 310 to 285 million years ago), I explored a flat area to the west of the trail. I was surprised to find some self-organized microcrystalline quartz pockets inside the sedimentary rock.

As you hike around the O’Neill Butte and past Skeleton Point, the trail descends down a massive cliff of red wall limestone that was deposited in a shallow sea that covered most of the North American continent more than 318 million years ago. After you finish with the switch backs, the trail straightens out as you pass outcrops of Mauv Limestone (350 to 400 million years old) that have ripple marks and worm burrows.

Next, after passing the rest area at mile 4.6, the trail reaches “The Tipoff,” when you enter the inner gorge. This is the first real good look you have of the Colorado River, which appears directly below you. On one hand you are relieved that you can see Bright Angel Campground and know that the end is in sight. Then you realize that you still have nearly 3 miles to go, including a good deal of the elevation change.

The last mile and a half of the trail seems to be a never ending series of switchbacks. I was entertained, though, by seeing my favorite Grand Canyon rock: Zoroaster Granite. This salmon-pink rock is comprised of pink orthoclase feldspar, white quartz, and shiny silver mica. Around 1.7 billion years ago, the area that is now the Grand Canyon was an ocean. The continental plate ended at what is now Wyoming. The ocean plate collided with the continental plate, and the ocean crust subducted down approximately 7 miles below the earth’s surface. Some of the rock heated and metamorphosed to form various schists and gneisses. Other rock subducted a little deeper and melted. As the magma rose back toward the surface in big blobs, similar to the wax blobs in a modern-day lava lamp, it squeezed its way into and around the metamorphic schists to cool into veins of pink granite. Below is a close-up picture of the granite, as well as a photo of the inner gorge wall showing the seams of granite inter-twined in the Vishnu Schist.

After leaving the top at around 8:30 a.m., I arrived at Phantom at 4:30 p.m. I stopped in the canteen to get my cabin assignment. Each of the dorm cabins have 5 bunk-bed cots, a toilet, and a separate shower. After a quick shower, I headed to the steak dinner, served family-style, at 5:00.

On the in-between day, I hiked to the top of the inner gorge on the north side, down the Cedar Creek Trail. This was a tremendous day. I found a south-facing ledge and parked myself for a few hours. I spent the time reading my geology books, taking pictures, eating my Phantom Ranch bag lunch, and taking a nap. As I sat there, I really studied the rocks and layers of the Grand Canyon. One of the surprising things I learned is that there are many gaps in the geologic record. One of the largest is the gap named by explorer, John Wesley Powell. He named the gap: The Great Unconformity. The amount of geologic record missing varies across the length of the canyon. In the picture below that I took from the Cedar Creek Trail, you can see that the horizontal Tarpeats Sandstone (525 million years old) sits directly on top of the 1.7 billion year old Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite. Thus, 1.2 billion years, or one-quarter of the earth’s history, is missing! This gap is shown below in the left photo. The picture on the right was taken from the Cedar Creek Trail, looking down the inner gorge toward the east.

At Phantom Ranch, when you are preparing to hike out of the canyon, the day starts early when one of the employees knocks on your door at 5:00 a.m. Breakfast is at 5:30. I started hiking out by headlamp just after 6:00 a.m. I took the shot below with the self-timer, by placing my camera on the corner of the silver bridge.

Then, I hiked the 9.6 miles out the Bright Angel Trail getting to the top at 3:00 p.m. In total over the three days, I hiked nearly 23 miles with an elevation change of over 12,000 feet! Although I enjoyed it, I must admit that it does not get any easier, especially since I am now in my mid-50s! Below are a couple of the photos I took on the nine-hour hike out of the canyon. I sure was glad to get to the top!

I would like to thank all those who helped me and/or spent time with me along my travels including: Kim Amthor, Jonathan and Jessica Brzys, Marsha Hendrickson, Clare Comstock, Ardis and Ed Hannish, Karen and Harold Boaz, and Sandra and Mark Lange.

ROCKHOUNDING AND ADVENTURE TRIPS: Michigan Karst Cave Information – January 2009

NOTE: The following information was taken from the Michigan Karst Conservancy web page. Contact information is at the end of this article.

Karst is a term that was first applied to a plateau region of the Dinaric Alps in Yugoslavia. It is now used to describe similar regions throughout the world that have features formed largely by underground drainage. Karst terrains are characterized by caves, steep valleys, sinkholes, and a general lack of surface streams because drainage is underground. A consequence of this is not only a very interesting landscape with unusual habitats for plants and animals, but special problems in water supply, waste disposal, construction, and other land uses.

What does this have to do with Michigan, a land literally scoured by glaciers, a land covered with glacial clay, sand and gravel? Surprisingly, Michigan contains some areas of true karst. They are limited in extent, but this rarity increases their interest and importance. There is also considerable variety in Michigan karst areas: gypsum karst is found in Kent and Losco Counties; a significant amount of surface drainage goes underground in Monroe County, and reappears at “blue holes” in Lake Erie; spectacular sinkholes and earth cracks are found in Alpena and Presque Isle Counties; and the broad band of outcrops of the Niagara Escarpment in the Upper Peninsula hosts a number of karst sinks, springs and caves.

Each of these areas is in some ways unique to the geology of Michigan. Some sites could be considered of national significance. Yet, today, most of these areas are subject to the possibility of incompatible or damaging use. They are also mostly on private land and most may not be visited by the public. Protection and awareness of these features, and their potential for educational and scientific uses, is what the Michigan Karst Conservancy (MKC) is all about.

Our Purpose

The Michigan Karst Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation of examples of Michigan’s karst areas. It was formed in 1983 by people with an appreciation for Michigan karst features, when it became apparent that no other groups were interested and able to actively protect such areas for their inherent geological interest.

The purposes of the Conservancy are the acquisition, management and protection of the finest examples in Michigan of karst areas and features, as well as scientific study, and conservation education regarding karst.

There is only a finite time within which to establish protection for the most significant areas. Indiscriminate use of sinkholes in Alpena County as dumps and landfills is still occurring, which results in groundwater pollution and degrades and obscures these fascinating features. Many sinkholes have also been filled in for farming. In the Upper Peninsula, one large and several small caves have been quarried away (in a State with very few caves and in a situation where the caves could have been preserved with negligible cost or trouble). In other areas, erosion damage is occurring due to uncontrolled foot and vehicle traffic.

Risks of further loss of the relatively few remaining significant features by activities that would not preserve them are very great. It is, in fact, the small sizes of the remaining significant karst areas that make them an opportunity for preservation. Because the areas are small, it is possible to acquire the land and hold it in trust for informed public use.

The MKC now owns two preserves. The 480 acre Fiborn Karst Preserve in Michigan’s upper peninsula, purchased in 1987, includes an extensive and nearly complete karst drainage system with features such as sinkholes, caves and disappearing streams. The 31 acre Stevens Twin Sinks Preserve west of Alpena, purchased in 1990 and enlarged in 1996 by the donation of the 2.5 acre Bruski Sink, contains examples of sinkhole habitats unique to that area. Scientific research and educational programs are conducted at both preserves. Additional information about these preserves and about visiting them may be obtained by contacting the MKC at the address below.

How Can You help?

The MKC is the only land trust group in Michigan dedicated solely to preservation of examples of Michigan’s unique geology and associated ecosystems. Like other similar groups involved in plant, animal, and habitat protection, the MKC receives no government support, but relies solely on YOU, the public, for its funding. One way to support the MKC is by becoming a member. Dues finance the operating costs of the MKC, and many members volunteer their time in the work of the Conservancy. Members receive a regular newsletter and notices of meetings and programs. All except Student and Institutional Members may hold office and chair committees. All except Student Members may vote to elect the Board of Trustees, the governing body of the MKC.

However, the preservation work of the MKC is based upon donations for buying lands and managing their features for appreciation, protection and study. The MKC accepts donations in many forms: you may wish to donate cash, possibly a gift of land suitable for preservation, or land or securities that may be sold to finance the MKC’s preservation activities. We need your help to preserve Michigan’s karst lands. The future of the natural history of Michigan will be enriched by your generosity.

Michigan Cave Information

It doesn’t seem likely that there would be caves in Michigan, but there is! Caves are few in our state but not unknown in the region. In fact, Michigan caves have some interesting history associated with them. A cave is formed by water seeping in the cracks of limestone bedrock. Water in the soil picks up carbonic acid that eats up softer layers of limestone it passes through. After countless years the water creates sinkholes, underground streams and caves. This combination of formations is called “karst” terrain and can be found in the Great Lakes region due to a geologic formation called the “Niagara Escarpment”.

The Niagara Escarpment is the edge of a thick series of dolomite limestone layers. The rocks are resistant to erosion and stand as a prominent line of bluffs. The ridge runs around the west side of Lake Michigan north into Door County, Wisconsin, over to the Garden Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to Mackinaw, Drummond, and Manitoulin Island, then the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario Canada. From there the Escarpment goes southeast across Ontario and into New York, where it creates the Niagara Falls. It’s along this escarpment where many caves can be found.

Although every Michigan cave claims to be the only one, there are a number of them, some of which are open to the public. Bear Cave, downstate in Buchanan, is open to the public. It is not a karst cave, but a much rarer “tufa” cave. It has stalactites, flowstone, petrified leaves, and other strange shapes, all colored by metal oxides. In 1875, the loot from an Ohio bank robbery was hidden in this cave. Inspired by this event, it was featured in the 1903 movie The Great Train Robbery that is now considered a silent film classic. The cave is entered through the gift shop.

Skull Cave on Mackinac Island is a karst type of cave found on the Niagara Escarpment. According to tradition, this is the cave in which the English fur-trader Alexander Henry hid during the Indian uprising of 1763. He claimed the floor of the cave was covered with human bones. Possibly it was once used as an Indian burial.

Burnt Bluff Cave, AKA Spider Cave, in Delta County (in the U.P.), has some Indian pictographs (rock drawings) associated with it. This site is located on private property, and the pictographs appear at the base of a 140 foot limestone cliff on Big Bay De Noc. The small cave is thought to have been used in some ritual. Over 100 projectile points were discovered in Spider Cave, all with broken tips, suggesting they were thrown into the cave.

The 480 acre Fiborn Karst Preserve in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is owned by the Michigan Karst Conservancy. It includes an extensive karst drainage system with features such as sinkholes, caves and disappearing streams.

In eastern Alpena & Presque Isle Counties, exposed limestone bedrock is common and karst depressions or sink holes can be found in the Rockport area. The 31 acre Stevens Twin Sinks Preserve west of Alpena, purchased in 1990 by the MKC, contains examples of sinkhole habitats.

There are also underwater “caves” in the lakes. The Alger Underwater Preserve offers two main diving attractions: shipwrecks and sea “caves”. The sea caves are portions of underwater sandstone cliffs where the softer sandstone has been eroded away by waves. Other “sea caves” are found along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The caves are found in water 20 feet deep or less. The Thumb Area Underwater Preserve has caves created by eroded limestone. The caves are located near the edge of the reef near Port Austin Lighthouse.

Unbelievable as it may be, there is a group of islands in the Great Lakes that aren’t from this world. The Slate Islands near the top of Lake Superior, south of Terrace Bay Ontario, are seventeen islands that many scientists believe to be the product of an impact crater. A staff scientist at NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute claims the meteor that created the Slate Islands was about 20 miles in diameter. Studies indicate that the asteroid entered 2 miles deep inside the earth and has a 30′ wide shatter cone. Shatter cones are found around sites of nuclear explosions but are only about an inch deep. The shatter cone on Slate Island maybe the worlds largest! Traveling at up to 12 miles per second, it vaporized in a blast equal to more than one million tons of TNT. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima generated the amount of energy of only 15 thousand tons of TNT.

The size and speed of this asteroid puts it in the category of a “dinosaur killer”. Popular dinosaur extinction theories claim that the impact of a large asteroid caused a “nuclear winter” that wiped out most of the life on earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The theory claims that a single high velocity asteroid impact in an area now covered by the Gulf of Mexico was to blame. Estimates of the age of the Slate Island crater range from 350-450 million years old and the mass extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have occurred around 65 million years ago. Given these age estimates, the Slate Island event happened well before the age of the dinosaurs (claimed to have begun around 200 million years ago).

Mackinac Co., Michigan
Michigan Karst Conservancy – Project No. 1

The Fiborn Karst Preserve, a property of the Michigan Karst Conservancy (MKC), was created in 1987 to protect and manage the unique natural features of the area, which include extensive outcrops of limestone, the longest known cave in Michigan and its associated streams and sinks, and the plants and animals that occupy a variety of marsh, woodland and cave habitats. The preserve is managed as a natural area and is available to the public for scientific study, educational programs, and nature appreciation activities that cause no damage to its features. Two interpretive nature trails with trail guides commence at the Emma Kalnbach Pavilion area.


The limestone outcrops and caves were identified as a potential economic resource in 1898 by Chase S. Osborn (1860-1949), editor, prospector, writer and politician (Governor of Michigan, 1911-12), who, with William F. Fitch (1839-1915), general manager of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad (1888-1911), bought the land and opened the quarry in 1905. The name Fiborn combines the names of Fitch and Osborn. The land and quarry were purchased by Algoma Steel Co. in 1909. The village of Fiborn Quarry existed between 1905 and 1936, when the quarry closed. Remnants include a number of foundations. Historical records of the village and quarry operations, and early descriptions of the caves, have been partially collected by the MKC in its ongoing Fiborn History Project. A display of historical documents and photographs is now located at the Emma Kalnbach Pavilion at the Preserve.

The first known studies of the caves were in 1901 by Michigan State Geologist A. C. Lane, who mapped and described one of the caves and numerous openings and other surface features that existed prior to being quarried away. Beginning in 1975, the Michigan Interlakes Grotto (MIG), a chapter of the National Speleological Society, mapped the remaining caves and conducted hydrological and biological studies. At the same time, the caves became more widely known and more heavily visited. Increasing vandalism and concern for their future led eventually to the incorporation of the Michigan Karst Conservancy in 1983, and the purchase of the land in 1987.


The Preserve is on a portion of the Niagara Escarpment – a band of resistant outcrops (mostly dolomite) of Silurian age that form prominent hills from the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin to Niagara Falls (and beyond). The escarpment is subdued here, but the limestone is close to the surface and drops off quickly further north. The quarry is in the Fiborn Limestone member (type locality) of the Hendricks Dolomite (Burnt Bluff Group). An extensive swamp to the south is “perched” on the escarpment at this point – aided by the activity of beavers. The South Fork of the Hendrie River is cut into alluvial deposits to the east and north, forming a local base level.

The caves formed by ponded water from the swamp dissolving joints and bedding planes in the limestone between the levels of the swamp and river. Most of the cave enlargement probably occurred following the fall of the post-glacial Lake Algonquin, about 10,000 years before the present, which had earlier covered most of Mackinac and Chippewa counties. There are ancient sand dunes and shore features in the area.

Water from the swamp currently goes underground at several sinks located over a distance of about 2.0 kilometers east-west, and resurges at a spring along the river (not in the Preserve).

The longest cave in the Preserve (620 meters) is Hendrie River Water Cave. It carries about half of the karst drainage from the swamp. The stream flows north in the cave, against the dip (which is ca.8 m./km. to the south), over a 3 meter waterfall formed on a resistant dolomite stratum, and disappears into a sump. The stream then turns east and flows 1.6 km. to its resurgence. The cave below the waterfall floods after heavy rains.

Opportunities exist in the Preserve for studies in stratigraphy, hydrology, water chemistry, sedimentology, speleogenesis etc. Proposals for such research are invited from institutions and individuals.


The Fiborn Karst Preserve is managed by the Fiborn Karst Preserve Committee of the MKC.

It is the purpose of the MKC to manage and protect karst areas for scientific study and conservation education. These purposes are implemented by making MKC Preserves available, without charge, for public uses that are compatible with long-term preservation. Protection of natural features of a Preserve, and the safety of visitors, are major concerns. For these reasons the following policies have been adopted for the use of the Fiborn Karst Preserve:

The preserve is open to the public, except as noted below:

  1. The following are not permitted in the preserve: fires, camping, littering or dumping, alteration of any natural features, collecting of firewood, vehicle use off-road. firearm use except during firearm hunting season, trapping, or pollution of soils or streams.
  2. Permission from the Preserve Committee is required for climbing or cave exploring, scientific collecting (of minerals, flora or fauna), excavation or movement of soil or rocks, and installation of instrumentation.
  3. Climbing and cave exploration in the Preserve are permitted only if an experienced climber or caver (as determined by the Preserve Committee) accompanies each group, and a liability release and acknowledgement of the Preserve Use Policies is signed by every visitor.

The Preserve is available for both research and recreation by interested persons and groups. Classroom projects, theses, individual growth experiences, nature study and appreciation, photography, and art work, are all activities that are encouraged by the MKC, so long as they are conducted in a manner to protect the natural features of the Preserve.

The work of the Michigan Karst Conservancy is carried out by volunteers, who believe in the value to the public of protecting examples of karst features in Michigan for educational and scientific uses. Donations to the MKC are tax deductible in accord with federal law. For further information about the MKC, and membership in it, write:

Michigan Karst Conservancy
2805 Gladstone Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
E-Mail mkc @


Dear Web Page Visitors:

This information was sent to me via an email. I have reproduced it here for those of you who would like to preserve the ability for people to continue rockhounding and are willing to get involved to protect this right.

The habitat of the rockhound is diminishing at an astounding rate. More and more of its free roaming areas are being gobbled up each and every day by the changing environment. Soon the range of the Rockhound and its offspring the Pebble Pup will become so diminished that extinction will be imminent. As the environment changes, the ecosystem of the rockhound is slowly being replaced by the ecosystem known as “Wilderness”, which is a poisonous dead zone for the Rockhound and Pebble Pups. Soon they will go the way of the Smilodon, the California Grizzly Bear and the now extinct Naugas (which were hunted late in the last century for their hides that were used exclusively in the creation of the Bean Bag Chair).

What can be done to save the ecosystem and the fee range habitat of the endangered Rockhound and Pebble Pups? We can do a lot if we ban together and take action now, before it is too late. We need to review all the facts, formulate a plan, distribute the plan and then execute the plan by contacting all of our elected representatives with our facts, figures and recommendations for saving the ecosystem of the rockhound.

Currently before congress there are several new wilderness bills and one bill that will make some fossil collecting and ownership a federal crime. The California Wild Heritage Act and The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act when passed by Congress could reduce the ecosystem of the rockhound, just in California, by around 3.26 Million acres of new wilderness habitats. The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act when passed by congress will make the collecting and ownership of vertebrate fossils found on public land (BLM, USFS, and State land) a federal crime with punishment with fines and/or imprisonment. Collecting of these fossils on private land is allowed with the proof of collecting on the holder of the fossils. There needs to be allowances for the collecting, ownership and public display of these vertebrate fossils by the amateur collector without the fear of criminal prosecution or civil legal action. We all understand that significant finds like “Sue” need to be preserved for all to enjoy, but the collection, ownership and public display of smaller finds of non-significant, non-descript vertebrate fossils should be allowed in the legislation.

If we do not get involved and take a proactive approach the above legislation will become law and the Rockhound and Pebble Pups will become extinct just like their ecosystem and free range habitat.

So what can we do? First read the proposed legislation, determine the effect of the legislation in your collecting areas. Inform all of your club members of the urgency of the legislation. Formulate a response with recommendations that are attainable. Write letters to your elected officials and present your case and points. If we do not make our voices heard we will loose the battle of the Rockhound and we will become extinct. We can make our voices heard in Washington by supporting and joining the American Lands Access Association (ALAA) as clubs or as individuals.

Below are the Bills and their authors with links to the websites where full information on their status can be obtained.

I have copies of all the above bills in MS Word format. If you or your club would like copies please send me a note with your email address and I will send them to you.

John Martin
California Federation of Mineralogical Societies
Public Lands Action Committee – South
Palmdale Gem and Mineral Club


 Wonderful World of Agates, Weis Earth Science Museum, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, Menasha, WI July 10-13, 2008

A dedicated group of people have been planning this agate show for a couple of years. The purpose of the event was to celebrate agates and other forms of microcrystaline quartz. Everyone who attended agrees that they were completely successful. There were presenters and dealers from all over the world including Australia, Germany, China, Argentina, Brazil, India, and Mexico. Many of our states were also represented including South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, Montana, Nebraska, California, Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho, Tennessee, Missouri, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Below are pictures of the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the exhibits, as well as a picture of the main exhibit area and the booth, which was in the rear corner to the right under the American flag.

On Thursday at the show, a lifetime achievement award was granted to the First Lady of American Rockhounding: June Culp Zeitner. She has inspired rockhounds for more than 50 years. Mrs. Zeitner authored ten books and many thousands of articles, columns, and book reviews. Her first book, Midwest Gem Trails, helped to launch the rockhounding industry in the 1950s. In the 1960s she initiated the campaign that later led to all 50 states adopting an official state gemstone. In 1967, June founded the National Rock hound and Lapidary Hall of Fame, located in Murdo, South Dakota to recognize excellence in the earth sciences by inducting one or more persons each year. Below is a picture of June receiving her achievement award. When the booths opened to those who registered for the presentations on Thursday night, the first person who purchased something from my booth was June — which was a real privilege.

The presentations in the technical portion of the show on Thursday were outstanding. There were photos and information presented about agates from all over the world. Each presentation was 25 minutes long, allowing questions for five minutes from the registrants. I asked one of the presenters if he thought anyone would ever succeed in manufacturing artificial agates and was relieved when the answer was: “No, not likely due to the complex nature of agate genesis.” Below are a few of the pictures I took of agate close-up slides, that I believe were presented by Doug Moore.

In addition to the presentations and dealer booths, there were also agate displays. Below are some pictures of a few of the agates and microcrystaline quartz specimens. The Fairburn Agate is quite large: over 50 pounds! The Pseudomorphic agate is from Chihuahua, Mexico. It formed when agate coated and replaced aragonite. The Tennessee Paint Rock is an interesting mixture of agate, jasper, and chert. The Royal Imperial Jasper is from Zacatacas, Mexico. The Intarsia creations were magnificent and one of the hits of the displays. They were created by Eugene Mueller and are from the collection of Karen and David DeBruin. Each intarsia is a stack of very thin sections of various minerals sandwiched together to create the painting-like images.

Wonderful World of Agates, Weis Earth Science Museum, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, Menasha, WI July 10-13, 2008

Moose Lake Agate Days, Moose Lake, MN July 19-20, 2008

The 39th annual Moose Lake Agate Days was also a successful show. After trying to get into this show as an exhibitor for many years, my diligence finally paid off. For those of you who have attended Agate Days, you are aware that the rough rock displays are outside and other displays are inside the school. Thunderstorms hit the area on Saturday afternoon, all but shutting down the outside booths. Thus, all of the attendees crowded into the gym. It was nuts. I am sure the fire marshal was no where to be found.

For the first time I also attended the informal gathering in the motel parking lot on Friday night. Pictured below is an interesting Lake Superior Copper Agate purchased by Terry Roses. There were more large Lakers than you can even imagine. A few are pictured below.

As usual, I attended the show with my agate friends, Jill and Gerald Phillips. While in Minnesota, we visited with a friend who does not want to be identified. He acquired this 14 pound “bean” agate, shown by Jill below. Although there is no evident banding on the outside, it is clearly a large laker. When asked if he was thinking about cutting off an end to show the inside, he said: “Absolutely not. I want there always to be a mystery about what is on the inside.”