Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Search for Black Turitella Agate - Rockhounding with The Polished Pebble

Turitella Agate
We arrived in Wyoming for our annual Elk/Rock hunting trip after the usual long drive ready for the challenge. Looking ahead to the weather, they were predicting rain in about 4 days. If you have ever traveled on the dirt/gravel roads of Wyoming....you would understand our concern.

You see, when it rains in Wyoming - the dirt roads turn to the stickiest, slickest, gooiest mess. It is really best to avoid them until they dry out. Since I had planned some trips that were farther away from home base this year...I had to get out there right away. Usually I would stick around & visit a couple of days before going out. Not this time. So the next day I was back on the road.

Heading out that morning....destination - Delaney Rim, just outside of Wamsutter, WY for Black Turitella Agate. Actually, it is "Goniobasis" - fossil snail shells in black agate. I had with me my trusty "Rockhounding Wyoming" book and was ready to go hunting.

I reached Wamsutter with no problems and the quick trip thru the edge of town was a breeze. But I was not prepared for what I saw after getting on the dirt/gravel road. It seems that the whole area was on LARGE natural gas field. There was numerous areas with large machinery & the BIG truck traffic was heavy. This could be interesting.

As I was counting the miles off to the first turn I noticed that there did not appear to be any road signs for the side roads here. And when I came to the mileage where I was supposed to turn...there was NO road. Backtracking I took the first road I came to that went to the west. No sign...oh well. The book said this road was a narrow road...not now. Then at the stated mileage I was supposed to see a structure (Metal Shed or Barn). Well, the mileage was off - but I saw something. And there was supposed to be another road sign...ugh, no sign. So I took a leap & kept going straight. The book said the road I wanted was little more than two parrallel ruts...my how things change. The road is now a well worn dirt/gravel road with lots of traffic.

The site that I was looking for was supposed to be on the top of a rim. As I climbed the hill and came around the corner I could see a bunch of black rocks. I HAD FOUND IT! Pulling off the road & parking, I got out my bucket & walked out onto the rim. There was Turitella Agate everywhere! Most were smaller pieces - but with alittle looking...there were fist size pieces that would cut some small slabs. There were also some small plates that had nice shells exposed on the top of the agate. I picked up a few of those too.

Road to Agate Bed

Remember, I had said this road was very busy...well it seemed that every truck driver waved as they passed. I always try to be as visible as possible & never trespass on Private property. This area is checkerboarded (One Section BLM, the next Private) so always know where you are. While working the area a truck driver stopped & motioned me over. He asked me if I was picking up that "snail agate", when I told him I was - he got on his radio. Knowing that I was on BLM land I was not really concerned. He talked to his boss back & forth. And then gave me directions to a location on their property that had bigger pieces. I had permission to collect there as long as I stayed away from their equipment. GREAT!

Area on top of the rim

Driving out there, I stopped along the way to look around. At first, I found much the same as the first area until I got closer to the exact area he described. The ground was littered with shells that had eroded from the agate & the area was almost pure black from all the agate. But here again, it seemed that most was smaller pieces. Then I got to looking around I found that people had been digging. This is where they were getting the bigger pieces. I spent some time looking and digging. Always filling the holes back in as much as possible.

Shells & bits of agate
 This stone is very heavy and the shells add an additional sharp edge. If you go, please remember gloves. I didn't have to break any of the larger pieces apart, but you might find the need to. If so, eye protection is a MUST. And as always, respect the landowners anywhere you collect. We don't need to lose anymore collecting areas. There is more development and land usage out here in "The Middle Of Nowhere" than ever before. By being respectful we can keep these places open to collection.

Those pieces of Turitella that I brought home are waiting to be cut. More pictures to come.

Connie - The Polished Pebble


  1. Update on this location.....the owners of natural gas oil fields that surround this deposit have gone in & leveled out the area. Destroying the deposit for collection. They have also changed the roads, so even finding the orginal location I was at was difficult. This area is one of the "checker board" areas in Wyoming where it is a mix of private & BLM. There is no more natural arroyo's or hills...just flat land on the top of the ridge. Can't help but wonder how they were able to do that to all the land there (private & BLM). Bet the BLM doesn't even know ):

  2. Thanks for the post, as I was going to go here next week to look for turitella agates. It sounds like that might be a waste of time now??

  3. Actually, if I was not having to travel very far to get there I would probably take some time & look around the area for outcroppings that were still intact. While I collected in the area that was well known from the book "Rockhounding Wyoming", there is a very large area on the ridges that might have escaped the leveling. If you go & find anything please let me know :)