Searles Lake Gem &
Mineral Society


Tools for Mud Field Trip
1.  3-tined cultivator to dig through mud
2.  Small brush to wash mud crystals
3.  Brine to wash crystals
4.  Bucket to hold what you find
5.  Carpet square to kneel or sit on (optional)
6.  Gloves to protect hands (optional)

All these items can be purchased in the SLG&MS General Store at reasonable prices
Mud Tools
Tools for Blow Hole Field Trip
1.  3-tined cultivator to dig through piles of crystals
2.  Bucket to hold what you find
3.  Carpet square to kneel or sit on (optional)
4.  Gloves to protect hands (optional)

All these items can be purchased in the SLG&MS General Store at reasonable prices
Blow Hole Tools
Tools for Brine Pool Field Trip
1.  Geologist's pick to chop off small specimens
2.  Heavy steel bar with blade for large specimens
3.  Bucket to hold what you find (boxes work well too)
Gloves to protect hands
Carpet square to kneel or sit on (optional)

Items 3, 4 and 5 can be purchased in the SLG&MS General Store at reasonable prices, and salt bars can be rented for weekend
Brine Pools Tools    Salt Bar

Don't Stop Here, Read On!!!!

Jim Fairchild - Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society

The operating company on Searles Dry Lake, Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. (SVMC), permits public mineral collecting at just one time each year: during the annual gem and mineral show of the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society. The show always begins on the second Saturday in October. This show date was chosen because it is the very best time of year to collect Searles Dry Lake minerals; the brine level is below the salt surface (necessary to collect Upper Salt minerals), the mud is dry and hard and can support the heavy equipment used to bring it to where it can be prospected for minerals, and the pink halite has formed well and not yet begun its annual winter dissolving. The weather is also cool enough to make collecting comfortable (Searles Valley can reach 120oF during a summer afternoon).

During the show there are three field trips to Searles Dry Lake, and on each trip different specimens are available. The first field trip at 9 A.M. on Saturday is to collect minerals found in the near-surface muds. For this trip SVMC uses a large backhoe to dig up to 600 tons of mud and load it into trucks. The trucks then carry it about two miles where they spread it in a area where visitors can prospect it for specimens. This trip features very large Hanksite crystals (some up to 3 or 4 inches across), large clusters of large Hanksites growing together with other minerals (some clusters up to 100+ pounds), occasional large Borax crystals, and bladed Trona crystals. These are buried in very fine, sticky, black MUD! You will get very DIRTY! At the collecting area there will be brine to wash your crystals in and brackish water for washing yourself. You may want a geologist's pick, three-tined garden cultivator, or a hand trowel to work through the mud to find good specimens. How long has it been since you played in the mud!

The second trip at 2:30 P.M. on Saturday is to the salt surface where Upper Salt minerals from 30 to 45 feet beneath the surface have been lifted to the surface and spread for your selection. The rarer minerals available are Hanksite, Sulfohalite, Borax, and Trona. Each of these is found in just a few places in the world (Hanksite is found only one other place, Lake Katwe in Uganda, Africa). This trip also features a demonstration where several tons of these minerals are "jetted" from below and spread across the surface. This trip is the most popular with up to 1000 collectors each year. Since collecting is on a dry salt surface and the material is spread thin, collecting is clean and easy and no special tools are needed. However, you may get your shoes wet with brine if you choose to either stand too close during the "jetting" demonstration or rush in just after the demonstration ends.

The third field trip at 9 A.M. on Sunday is to collect the beautiful Searles Dry Lake pink halite. This will be the only mineral available on this trip. The best specimens are usually found on the underside of overhanging ledges beneath the surface of open brine pools. The best ledges are usually in the deepest pools. To collect your specimens you will have to be able to chop off the ledge. Since most ledge material is tough and hard, heavy digging tools such as picks or a heavy steel bar with a sledge hammer may be necessary. Since the brine pool may be up to 2-3 feet deep, you may want a partner to catch the specimen once it has been chopped off so that it does not get lost. Some good specimens are also found where a pressure ridge has created a void at or just below the brine surface. Again, the salt in these ridges is tough so heavy tools are helpful.

All Searles Dry Lake minerals you can collect dissolve easily and quickly in water. Therefore, DO NOT WASH SEARLES LAKE MINERALS IN WATER, they will disappear! Use brine. Although brine can be obtained during the second and third field trips described above, this brine is not saturated in sodium sulfate.  Since Hanksite is about 85% sodium sulfate, washing your Hanksite specimens in this brine can still result in leaching of the crystal surfaces.  Brine from deep wells that is saturated in sodium sulfate is available for purchase at the General Store in the Show Building.  But even when using deep well brine, do not soak your specimens in the brine, and keep the brine near room temperature. The sodium sulfate in the brine changes solubility very quickly with temperature and the stable crystal form of the sulfate minerals changes at about 60oF to form a highly hydrated salt. If this occurs it will probably destroy your specimens.

Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society
P. O. Box 966
Trona, CA 93592-0966
Phone (760) 372-5356

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