Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prospecting Cedar Mountain and Butcherknife Draw

It didn't make any sense. According to the topo maps we should be at the intersection of Dry Creek and Butcherknife draw, but according to the gps we still had ten miles to go both north and east. Turning north we headed up a typical Wyoming gravel road when I spotted an ant pile. Now ant piles are great places to prospect as the ants pile small grains of whatever is underground and we have used them frequently for sharks teeth, peridot and now prospecting for pyrope and chromium diopside.
I had been researching this trip for quite a while. Last year I had bought two publications from the Wyoming Geological Survey. I also discovered that Butcherknife Draw had been on the Treasure Hunting show and so I feared that it had been swarmed upon by the shows enthusiasts.Having already downloaded the beta topo maps from the USGS, United States Geologic Survey, I was getting the gps coordinates off their on line site. We had turned down Mckinnon Road and then had taken the Sage Mountain road past Black and Cedar Mountains.
Sage Mountain was directly south and it seemed pretty easy to follow the roads. A sign pointed north to Interstate 80 and we could see the small town of Mountain View to the northwest. We should be there!
Sure enough. there in the ant pile were small gems of pyrope. Collecting some I got back in the truck and we drove slowly looking for more ant piles. We looked and looked and looked, to no avail. It dawned on us that people had been mining the ant piles!
Stopping at several draws we looked for the larger gems and I shoveled some samples from creek bottoms for later panning. Giving up on Butcherknife Draw we drove west to Wyoming 414 and then headed south to Lonetree,(Which actually has several trees to its name).
From there we took Sweetwater County road 41, which took us up Cedar Mountain. The route was pretty spectacular and we could see for at least forty miles north and west
Sage Mountain was on display, along with the rest of Cedar Mountain. Far in the distance we could see the route we had taken. Following the winding and narrow road to the top, we reached the plateau, grateful that we hadn't met any vehicles on the narrow hairpins.
We stopped and checked out other ant piles, which now were in profusion, and of course didn't find any thing to speak of. Driving the rim road we eventually headed back down to reconnect with Sage Mountain Road. We did stop at a draw and found lots of red and brown and black agate, or at least colored chert samples. In some places the agate was so thick that it looked like a burned area from a recent fire.
The road finally connected with McKinnon road and we returned home past the Devils Playground and Black Mountain. It had been a great day traversing the southwest corner of Wyoming, going places that most people never even know exist. We both felt enriched by all the desert scenery. The area truly rivals Big Bend National Park,and the trip was the true treasure of the days prospecting! Clear skies.

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