Ramblings Around the Book Cliffs (Grand Junction) Colorado, May 2021


These days, I don’t get as much opportunity to do field collecting elsewhere other than the Smoky Hawk and Topaz Mountain Gem Mine, but I do try to get out here and there. One of my favorite locations is the Book Cliffs near Grand Junction, Colorado. I’ve been visiting this site since the mid-1980s. It’s an area famous for water-clear, sparkling barite in generally long, prismatic crystals. They occur on red and orange-stained concretion matrix. There is also bladed calcite that sometimes occurs in nice crystals along with some gypsum. Scorpions also abound in the fractures that run through the concretions.

It is a beautiful area, especially in the spring when the cactus are in bloom.


Scott examining barite float.

As with recent years, I was with Scott Luers, who is a barite and calcite digging afficiando and has continued to explore this area and has found some beautiful specimens. This year we returned to an area he had previously found and where we had found some nice crysals. The following day, we attempted a second area but could not locate the road. We ended up in a different area but there were plenty of “eggs” to explore.

There are, in fact, literally thousands of concretions along the trend. Most of them have been opened and recent activity is no where near what it was twenty to thirty years ago. Many consider the area depleated, but of course, it is not. Perhaps you need to walk farther or dig a little deeper, but much remains and will remain for many, many years. Be aware, there are active barite claims in the area.

Also, be aware, this is one of the heaviest recreation sites in Colorado for 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, camping, and shooting. As usual, we had several motorcycles driving by while we worked. And yes, they were respectful.

Here’s a view looking at the Book Cliffs. The concretions extend outward from the base.

Here, a concretion is spilling broken pieces down the hillside. 

Here is an “egg” that was excavated a good twenty years or more ago. Notice the critter nest in its protected opening as well as grass growing from the floor.

I decided to dig adjacent to the excavated concretion and found an area that eventually produced a few corroded barite.

You can see a couple of large, but badly corroded barite near where they were found in the bottom.

This is from a second area where I found some good open shrinkage cracks in the concretion. If barite (or calcite) is present, this is the area in the concretion where it crystalllizes  into nice specimens. Many times it is simply a seam that completely fills the would-be open crack. (Here is where scorpions also like to hang out with their minions [spiders and centipedes]). 

I brushed away the dirt and exposed this crystal. I could not find an attachment point, but it, and its buddy are nice crystals.

An unusually tablular barite on a bit of matrix.

The two best crystals.

Going home. Can’t quite last like I used to, but still managed to swing a pick for a bit and find time to enjoy the view. Now this place will heat up and the flies will be out along with stiff desert winds. Maybe another trip in October. Never when it rains. You’d be stuck for a week.