Our Field Trip to Boron

by Karen Dawes

Lithosphere (May 1996); Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.; Fallbrook, CA

The March issue of Lithosphere listed the Mojave Mineralogical Society Show in Boron on the "Upcoming Events" page. Knowing that collectors can go to the Boron plant only once a year during this show, my husband, Mike, and I decided to go. I had collected in Boron several years ago, but Mike had never been there. (In 1925 the world's largest known borax deposit was discovered in Boron. Mining began in 1927. Even now, 50% of the world's borax comes from the Boron open-pit mine.)

We decided to go up on Friday when we found out that we had to register for the field trip between 8:00 and 8:30 Saturday morning!

Shortly after 8:00 a.m., we arrived at Boron High School to register along with an amazing number of other rockhounds. When we set off a little before 9 o'clock, we were in a caravan with at least 60 or 70 cars.

After we entered the Boron plant property, we stopped by the huge pit, got out of our cars, trooped over to the edge, gaped appreciatively into the enormous hole, piled back into our cars, and continued on our way to the dump area.

Collectors are not allowed to roam freely, but the area set aside for collecting is very large.

Once there, we parked and, again, people poured out of their cars eager to begin. It quickly became apparent that at least 50% of them were utterly clueless as to what to collect or how to do it.

To find the colemanite you must break open a boulder with a sledge hammer and hope that some is inside. It is very hard work. Mike set to work doing this while I picked up some nice kernite pieces.

Mike wasn't finding colemanite in any of the rock so we decided to move to a different area where a plant employee assured us that colemanite could be found.

The morning was heating up and jackets were coming off fast. With no breeze, the new location was even hotter. Mike found a boulder he liked down a 30-foot embankment and started to work on it. It did contain colemanite which then had to be carried up the embankment. We'd been at it for a few hours by now. It was around 90 degrees, I guess; although when I put the thermometer in the back of the truck, it shot up to 120 degrees. Every time a vehicle drove by, a gritty dust would fly that stuck to sweaty bodies nicely.

Mike broke open another boulder which contained some small, but nice, colemanite crystals. He had turned bright red with all the heat and the effort of swinging an 8-pound sledge hammer.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. At 2:00 p.m. we had to leave. The caravan was down to about 15 cars. Everyone else had already left.

We went back to Boron High School to see the Mojave Mineralogical Society Show. They had some very nice displays. There were many dealers including quite a few in the parking lot. We had a good time looking and buying a few specimens, too.

That evening back in our trailer, Mike whimpered every time he moved. It was kind of like having a new puppy.

It was a great trip! We brought back colemanite, kernite, and ulexite for the Volunteers for Minerals. I don't know about Mike, but I can hardly wait to go next year.

Copyright © 1996 by Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.

The preceding article was originally published in the May 1996 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).

Permission to reproduce and distribute this material, in whole or in part, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted provided the sense or meaning of the material is not changed and the author's notice of copyright is retained.

Last updated: 18 September 2002