New Discovery! Dead Camel Jasper
by Philip Stephenson
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September 2015,

 For my fall digging season, a friend of mine Walt Harrison, came over from California to help me dig at my Linda Marie Plume agate claim (Rock And Gem Magazine, January 2016). The next day we were going to head out to the mine to begin the dig, but in the mean time we were hanging out in my shop, talking and comparing notes on different stuff I had laying around. Walt starts looking in my buckets I have in the shop. “You know Jake Jacobitz says, ‘someone might have piles of rock in their yard, but you can always find the best rock sitting around by a man’s saw,” I say.  Walt says with a laugh, “Is that right?” I can see he’s mulling that thought around and he say’s, “You know…now that I think about it he’s right!, I have some of my best rock sitting by my saw waiting to be cut!” He drops the rock back in the bucket he was looking at and starts heading toward my saws.  I have my own “on deck” rock sitting around my saws in wire baskets and in small piles. Milling around by my saws, he pulls a basket of another and says, “What the heck is this?” I walk over and look at it. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that, it’s Lahontan Jasper.” Walt, looking at the pure porcelain quality says, “Man! that’s some hard stuff and the colors are so bright!” I tell him the story of stopping by the rock shop on the way to California for Thanksgiving, and explain I never got around to go looking for it because of being so busy with my other mines. Walt is a great prospector. I have always been impressed by his innate ability to find and dig up some of the best rock that everyone else has been walking over for years. Knowing this, I had an idea. “Let’s go look for it in the Spring. I know the general area, and if it turns out to be a good place, we’ll go into together on the claim”. Walt says, “Sure! Let’s do it”. I had done some research on it years back. I’ll hand it off to Walt to do some more investigating. But for now, I put one of the Lahontan rough’s in the saw and began cutting. After a while, the saw stopped cutting and shuts off. Lifting the hood, we looked at the cut slab. We both looked at each other. We both had wide grins and twinkles in our eyes. Bright blood reds, greens, blues and yellows with a brecciated pattern stared back at us. I washed off the slab and to our amazement, the jasper was so hard that the surface of the slab looked like it was polished by the saw blade. All during my dig at the Linda Marie Plume claim the following weeks, Walt and I discussed how we were going to find the Lahontan.

March 2016,

Weather plays a great deal in the planning of mining or prospecting in the desert. Too hot, and the time spent looking or digging is limited to early morning and late evening. Protection from heat and sun is paramount. Sun screen and tons of water are essential. With no shade in the desert, exhaustive hand digging can be dangerous. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are always in the back of your mind. Too cold, and you have to wait until late morning, so the sun can warm things up, especially the hands and joints. Then, you head back to camp before the sun goes down, to cook, clean up and get nestled in. In the desert, nights get cold fast and you need to be well prepared before daylight disappears. Too wet and the chance of being stuck out in the middle of no-where for days or perhaps a week, until the ground dries up is not fun. So, finding a “window” or “goldilocks zone” of not too hot, not to cold and no rain in the weather pattern is what we are looking for before heading out.  A week in March 2016 turned out to be a prime weather window.  Well prepared and out fitted, Walt and I, with a handful of Google maps, set out to start our search.

Exposed, color rich Jasper pinnacles dot the landscape in columns or stand alone as individuals.

Each jasper pinnacle needs to be investigated, for each has its own uniqueness of color and pattern.

Some pinnacles don’t need to be hammered on to prove what beauty lies within. Some have been naturally exposed to reveal its secrets.

We began our hunt up a sandy creek bed. Seeing good signs in the wash as we went, we knew it was the right way. We came upon a great outcrop of colorful rhyolite about 50 feet high. Seeing an opening between the cliffs, we started up the sandy hillside towards the top. On reaching the top, we were expecting to see more Rhyolite, but instead, we saw jasper littered everywhere. Within a few paces, small jasper pinnacles dotted the plateau. Here and there across 40 acres or so, sticking up about 4-6 feet high though the surface were these pinnacles. So much jasper was on the surface as we walked across the ground that we could hear clinking noises, as if we were walking on china plates. Picking up and examining the jasper, it was plain to see it was not the Lahontan. It was still a porcelain jasper, but the color and patterns where a lot more plentiful and came in different verities. Walking up to one of the colorful pinnacles, we realized that they have never been touched by hammer. The chunks of untouched, red flower patterned jasper that fell from these pinnacles piled up around it. They resembled the Original Owyhee picture jasper, but still different enough to be it’s own unique rock.  We were there most of that day and the next. We looked around at the different prospects and came to the conclusion that it was virgin ground, never dug or touched by a slamming hammer. I have several mining claims, all of which, at one time or another, have been scratched on by rockhounds. Over the decades, most places, where good lapidary material was found, has been either dug out or is protected by the US government. So, to find a world class jasper, on virgin ground, is a chance find of a lifetime.

For the few days that we were there, it was Rock Heaven. We found patterns and colors that may resemble some other known rocks, but still  different enough to have its own uniqueness. It was very hard not to pick up every single rock. But, the iron content within the rock stains the outside over time. Therefore, the only way to see what’s inside is to, “Prove it”, by knocking off a chip. This in turn makes it that much more exciting. It’s like finding a hidden treasure in each rock you pick up. Pretty soon, we where piled high with gemmy rock and looking forward to cutting it back home.

Colorful, delicate, intricate, interlaced patterns with white, yellow and blue backgrounds make beautiful specimens and cabochons. 

Large boulders from the pinnacles make excellent candidates for slabbing. Cutting the rock at different angles can bring about very stunning patterns.   

After about 5 days, we decided to give our arms and hands a rest from proving rocks and continued our original quest to find the Lahontan. Following the same route, we passed the big rhyolite cliffs. We climbed up a few more sandy hills and there before us lay the site. We found the prized Lahontan. I can now understand and appreciate the old timers description of it being a, “Hard dig”. Steep ravines and sandy dunes surround the site, so getting equipment in would very hard but not impossible. However, building a road on BLM land to get to the site would cost a great deal, especially the amount of bonding required. For those unfamiliar with bonding, it’s as follows: “You, or your designated operator, are also responsible for reclamation of any land that you disturb, for which you must submit a cost estimate and a financial guarantee to the BLM. The term "financial guarantee" refers to any required contractual document and financial instrument used to guarantee that an operator will perform reclamation as required by the regulations. These contractual documents are commonly referred to as bonds”.  In others words, if I dig a big hole and then I get hit by a bus, the BLM takes the Bond money I put up, then they contract someone to fill in the hole.

 Walking up the sandy rise to the Lahontan, we see obvious signs of old hand dug holes and proving chips litter the ground. But at first I’m a bit surprised, the hand dug holes are not as big I thought they would be, considering the beautiful colors, quality and quantity of the rock. That is until we start digging ourselves. Wow, this is a hard dig. The porcelain jasper is extremely hard and overburden (sand/dirt) covering the top of the dig falls in the hole which constantly needs to be mucked (cleaned) out. In addition, the site is on a south facing slope, which gets continuous sun. Even with a shade tent to protect us from the sun, the reflection of the light colored jasper is hot and hard on the eyes. Digging the whole day at Lahontan, with our backpacks full of rock, we start the long hard walk back. This site is not going to be an easy dig, but the results of our hard work is going to be worth it in the end.

Since the jasper is rust coated, the only way to find out what’s inside is to break each rock. Beautiful surprises await with each hammer tap

 Later that evening, having had dinner and now relaxing at camp, we share stories and thoughts of our current expeditions. Now, we begin discussing a name for our new discoveries. Most claim are named according to where the discovery was found, an old sweet heart, wife, animals, or a particular feature of the stone or mineral. Having researched the maps of the area, I remembered seeing the nearby Dead Camel Mountain Range on the map. So, I say to Walt,

“How about Dead Camel Jasper?” Walt gives me a funny, dubious look and says, “Dead Camel?” I say, “Yeah, after the Dead Camel Range”. Then, I tell him the story behind the range’s name. Walt says, “ I knew they used Camels down in Quartzite Arizona years ago, but I didn’t know they had them up here too? Laughing, he says, “Well, it’s a name you won’t forget”.

Red Falcon Jasper
Red Falcon resembles the Original Owyhee picture jasper, but still different enough to be it’s own unique rock. Also, unlike some of the Original Owyhee picture jasper where the patterns sometimes tend to be on the outside skin, the Red Falcon patterns go all the way through the rock. Red Falcon Jasper

 Early in the day, Walt told me that while digging in the side of the hill, he heard a swooshing sound and then thump just above him in the sky. He looked around and saw a small cloud of feathers floating in the air. Over on the near by cliff, across from where he was digging, he saw a Falcon with a small bird in it’s talons' that it had just “nailed” out of the sky. I said, “Hey! What about, Red Falcon Jasper?” Walt says, “Hmmm… ya that sounds good”. Although the rock is very close in location to the Dead Camel brecciated type jasper, this rock is very different from it. The Red Falcon primarily has red streamers and/or flower type patterns set in a light yellow, pink, or white background or a combination of both. The Red Falcon is similar in ways to the red Original Owyhee Picture jasper and Owyhee Flower jasper, which mining legend, Jake Jackobitz, discovered years ago, but with two very important differences. One, unlike some of the Original Owyhee picture jasper where the patterns sometimes tend to be on the outside skin, the Red Falcon patterns go all the way through the rock! Two, Red Falcon is extremely hard with no silty soft spots.
For me, it’s hard work digging using bars and hand tools. Guess I’m spoiled using an excavator at my Feather Ridge Plume, (Rock And Gem Magazine, December 2014) and Linda Marie plume in Oregon. In addition, I’m not getting any younger and the old joints in the hands take a bit to get warmed up in the morning. Red Falcon and Dead Camel, being new discoveries, still have many other pinnacles and hidden treasures yet to be explored. Who knows what other exciting patterns and colors Mother Nature is hiding from us out there! Stay tuned

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Dead Camel and Red Falcon Rough For Sale

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