TOPAZ MOUNTAIN GEM MINE
TOPAZ MOUNTAIN GEM MINE
NOTE: Our mining season for 2020 is closed. We plan to begin operations again next spring in June, the Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. We will book visits to both sites (amazonite and topaz) beginning in mid-May. We will not have dates until early May, depending on permits and annual clearance. We hope to have two or three dates (generally on Saturdays) for the public at large. Most of our digs are reserved for clubs. If you are a member of one of the Colorado clubs, contact them for future plans. Most of the clubs do a great job of filling all spots we make available and constantly help new members foster their love for digging.
Special Notes: As of 2009, you are not allowed to take any motor vehicles beyond signed gates (green gates or posts with signs Active Mining Area; No unauthorized motor vehicles beyond this point; By direction of U. S. Forest Service) onto our claims if I am not present. I was required to gate my claims and to pay a bond for the roads and will take them out and reclaim them when mining is complete. This is per Forest Service regulations. They will be ticketing you if you do not have written permission to be there from me. “I know Joe Dorris, and he gave me permission,” is no longer acceptable. (This reflects their efforts to equally enforce regulations for all mine owners.) If you have arranged a visit, then I or one of my representatives will be on site and this is not a problem.
VISIT THE TOPAZ CLAIM
VISITS: We love to share what we do and believe in allowing the public, especially rockhounds, the opportunity to visit our mining operations. Keep in mind, these are active operations and we are subject (as you are) to all Federal, State, and County rules and regulations, particularly the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Safety is paramount in everythingn we do.
CLUB VISITS. You must make all your arrangements through your club for dates, meeting times, etc., and not through us. However, all claim information, tools, safety, etc., is covered below and you will need to understand and comply with this information even if you are visiting with your club.
OPEN DIGS. IF WE HAVE A DIG OPEN TO THE AT-LARGE PUBLIC, the dates will be listed here. At that point, you may contact us at email: email@example.com. Give us your contact information and if we can get you into the open dig date, we will contact you back. (Do not show up unless you have a positive contact from us.) Read all the following information and bring your signed safety release and proper tools, etc. with you.
DATES FOR 2021: None at present.
OPERATIONAL SEASON AND TIME: Generally we will operate June through mid-August. This is the time we will attempt to schedule your club trips. The mine opens at 9 AM and closes at 4 PM on visit days. If there is bad weather, we will call digging early for safety reasons.
If you are not a member of a CLUB VISIT or an OPEN DIG, there is no digging or trespassing allowed. Digging of any kind and picking up minerals of any kind violate the Forest Service and State permits and Federal law. Unless you have specific written permission from me, Joseph L. Dorris, you do not have permission to dig or pick up minerals on this mine. If you are transiting the active mining area to get access to the National Forest, you are allowed to walk along the access road only. The open active area is off limits and you can be cited for trespass. This is primarily a safety issue and is necessary for us to comply with MSHA and Forest Service regulations.
DIRECTIONS TO TOPAZ MOUNTAIN GEM MINE
From Colorado Springs, take U.S. Highway 24 west to Lake George. Drive through Lake George and turn north on Park County Road 77 (Tarryall Road). Go approximately 6.5 miles. Turn right onto road and cross Tarryall Creek. You should see the brown Forest Service sign marking the road (F. S. Road 211) also known as the Matakat Road. Proceed about 2 miles and pass through cattleguard. You are now on the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine. Operating sign is posted on fence on your left. Park in pullout on the right. Walk up to where we are operating and ask for Joe Dorris or the mine supervisor.
TOOLS TO BRING
There is no digging in the banks or undisturbed areas. We operate by digging up the “gravel” which includes topsoil, subsoil, some clay, some gravel, and hopefully a few topaz. The topaz occurs from surface down.
We pile this material in rows and piles all over the active disturbance. Eventually, all of this material is brought down to the shaker system and run through it in search of topaz. In the meanwhile, you will have access to raking through these piles.
Therefore, the most important tool is a garden rake with heavy tines. Use the rake to rake the piles and loosen up the gravel. I also recommend you bring your own screen (mesh no larter than 3/8″ or you will lose some good topaz), a good shovel, a small rock hammer with good point, and a small canister for your finds.
Some diggers bring a garden shovel in order to dig into the piles and toss the dirt out to where they can more easily rake it. You will use the rake to rake out the “gravel” repeatdly in search of topaz.
Also bring appropriate clothing for the weather, water, sunscreen, and insect repellant. Wear boots (with good traction), gloves, hat for the sun, possible coat for cold weather, and rain gear. Afternoons often cloud up and we have thunderstorms. (We shut down during lightening.)
Bring a good lunch and energy food.
During the season, I will have a portable restroom on site, but there are no other facilities.
For emergencies, I will have first aid kit, communications, water, and other back-up material.
This is not a fee-dig site (meaning, you are not paying to dig). To help us in searching for topaz, you will need to purchase a $50 bag of topaz gravel per individual or family unit (including kids). This helps pay for the operation and facilities such as the portable restroom. It also offsets the cost of shutting equipment down (it’s being rented), the cost of paying an operator, and the cost of Pinnacle 5 personnel who are on site to assist you.
The bag of gravel you purchase comes from the second screen of the shaker. Although it may contain a “wild” topaz, the gravel we process does not contain very many stones. To make sure you find something, we add several small topaz (sometimes a pretty large one) to the bags. At least one of these will be suitable for cutting a small gem. There may also be some smoky quartz in the bag. And, just for fun, we add some amazonite chunks from the amazonite claims. (Very rarely a piece of amazonite does show up at the topaz claims, but what you find in the bag has been added.) You keep everything that you find in the bag, and we feel it is definitely worth the $50.
All subsequent topaz you find on your own during your visit is the property of Glacier Peak Mining. If you wish to buy a topaz you find, the mine manager will generally offer to sell it to you. If so, it will be at a wholesale rate (about half its value). If you decline the offer, the stone remains the property of Glacier Peak Mining LLC. You are welcome to keep any smoky quartz crystals you may find.
If you wish to purchase a bag of topaz gravel, e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also find some available at The Picket Fence (Claire Shaw), 723 Goldhill Place, in Woodland Park (719) 687-2860. We sell some of our finished jewelry, specimens, books and cut stones through them.
We will also normally bring other specimens to sell, usually specimens from the amazonite claims and other topaz crystals. These will be offered at half price and directly support our operations.
The mine closes at 4 PM (or earlier in the event of bad weather). At that time, bring your finds to the mine manager or your host to have them assessed. You will normally be allowed to purchase the very best one(s) and be given some of the smaller, or lesser topaz (depending on what you find).
Although this is North America’s most productive site for producing topaz of faceting size, very few stones are recovered during a given day. A person who is actively digging and raking may be expected to find two or three small stones and if lucky, one over 15 carats. Many people find none. (That includes the personnel who are operating the equipment.) Of course, some as much as 1,500 carats have been found, and that’s what we all hope for.
Otherwise, enjoy the gorgeous scenery, the comraderie of digging with friends, and a chance to get out doors!