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Author Topic: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal  (Read 1409 times)

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Greg Hiller

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Montana for rockhounding and sight-seeing.  We plan to start in Billings and head out eat along the Yellowstone river looking for Montana moss agate.  Any suggestions on how far east is too far?  We will have a small kayak we can put into the river here and there, hopefully to make it out to a few gravel bars.  I've always loved Montana agate and the way it cuts cabs so beautifully (strong, can be worked thin and perfect polish).

We figured 2-3 days would be enough for collecting along the Yellowstone.  We of course have the rockhounding guide to Montana, but didn't see too many good sites for lapidary type materials.  Lots of fossil sites. 

Our trip will end in the west end of the state in Kalispell about 10 days later.  We have a three day trip planned backpacking through Glacier Nat. park, going across the continental divide. 

Any suggested sites between Billings and Kalispell?  Anyone along the way want to collect together? 
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55fossil

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2018, 01:28:51 PM »

   6 Montana trips with Joe Love who lived in MT taught me a bit. There was a lot more agate and petrified wood in the farm fields than in the river, that you could see to find. The farmers were pretty willing to let you in fields that were not being farmed. I looked for fresh plowed fields and any nearby rock piles. Joe and I traveled with a guy who purchased multi-ton rock piles from many of the ranchers. The ranchers knew the rock had value! Offering a trespass fee or per bucket fee will often get you access. Just like in the Owyhee's, the ranchers have had enough of the jump the fence crowd. They are very friendly but do know how to say no. The best fossils did seem to come out of the river, just not for me.
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lithicbeads

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2018, 07:05:03 PM »

The border is too far east but the river gets pounded by locals selling to dealers. People drown on the Yellowstone. Afternoon thunderstorms have sent me back up stream through rapids from the 60mph and more down draft winds. Tornados are more common than you think  and this rockhound almost drowned in one and saw another rockhound get their leg shattered.Put in the Yellowstone but only go upstream. Irrigation diversion dams are very low and very hard to see when going downstream.Going up you see the hazards while under control.Very good lifejackets needed. The water is cold and the visibility about one inch in summer due to mud.Try  the eastern side of fort Peck reservoir just not by the dam for fossils. Billions of the in spots  on the wave cut terraces near the Hells Creek area. Ruby reservoir for garnets and the old west experience.By that I mean the campers have been held up by gunpoint numerous times over the years , all at once very efficient.Good crystals near Homestake Pass if you do not get shot at night in the campgrounds by drunks or fall into the hundreds of open mine shafts.After a few decades Montana got to be a huge pain to me, too much gun violence. A buddy of mine is a very dark African -American and he has had great success and made lifelong friends by asking farmers for access. Lots of wonderful people in Montana but also a number of people that shoot the police on sight.What a grand contradiction .
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Sandsave

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2018, 06:22:40 PM »

I've been to the Yellowstone several times, 1st time we tried the public access points a raft or something is a good idea as these areas where really picked over. I probably hiked 3-5 miles each side of the public access areas.
Our best trip was right after the ice broke and had arranged with land owners to access private land (most of the river is private on both sides)
The ice basically plowed the bank over and exposed a lot of mossys and wood, and the water was still low. Then followed any contributory creeks up away from the river as far as possible. We had really good luck between Glendive and the confluence of the two rivers, so way east .
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2018, 07:57:36 AM »

Thanks all for the suggestions so far. 

>We had really good luck between Glendive and the confluence of the two rivers, so way east .<

So you mean the confluence with the Missouri, so all the way into North Dakota?  That IS way east. 

Lithic, you have me pretty well scared about outlaws with guns now.  Never thought Montana was that dangerous, but it's been a long time since I've been there. 
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lithicbeads

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2018, 10:09:30 AM »

The  state is a wonderful place but big changes have come to montana with the huge traumatic influx of wealth  and fringe groups. Crime near the poor urban areas of the state is the worst  and near in Montana is a relative term in a state where a grocery trip can be 200 miles round trip.
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Sandsave

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2018, 12:28:00 PM »

Sorry, yes the Missouri river. We even found a couple Fairburn agates past Savage.
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montanajohn

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2018, 10:04:59 AM »

  for what its worth, I've ranched in eastern Montana 68 years and have yet to hear of anyone pointing a gun over rock hunting.  The lower Yellowstone, (North of Glendive) is best for agates with color (red) but miles City area is good too.  Yes, canoe upstream, you can always float down.  The gravel bars get picked over but high banks which erode a lot and are more difficult to get to will produce agates from week to week.  It will be dry and hot in August.  The river will be as low as it gets all year and will drop daily as farmers take more water for irrigation, which will leave new agates exposed near the water.  Try the fishing access sites and paddle as far from them as you can.  There will be agates for us all this year, the winter was long which made a lot of ice to plow with and its been high since which will hydraulically expose new layers of rock.  Have fun!
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55fossil

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2018, 09:30:57 AM »

thanks John...  I have not been out to MT in 6 years so did not want to comment on bad experiences.  I never had a bad experience. Being from S. Dakota farm stock I found the MT folks as good as ranch people come. Some even sold me rocks off their piles as well as giving me free access to plowed fields. This was more central MT but still awesome finds with less reds.  never saw a gun except in the back window of a truck, and few of those.
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2018, 10:55:16 AM »

Okay, I'm back.  Despite some serious airline hiccups we eventually made it to the Yellowstone river.  Thanks again to all who helped with the suggestions (particularly Montana John) on where to go.  Some areas we found a fair amount, other area we found next to nothing.  The worst places of course were where it was easy to access and had been picked over. 

Petrified wood (black and gray) is super easy to find.  We stopped picking that up pretty quickly.  I found some of what I think was also petrified wood with some yellows and reds in it, even one that I’m pretty sure was fossilized coral.  Not sure how that will polish up.  Total we brought home was about 70 lbs.  That was 2 people looking for about 1 ½ days.  Probably 2/3rd of that was Montana agate, and probably 1/3 of the Montana agate was nice material.  We picked up a fair bit of Montana agate that seemed to just be clear.  I've heard tell about the "iris" Montana agate.  Do you just get lucky on this with the clear pieces, or is there a method of determining if a piece will show the iris effect, and any tips on how to cut it to display that effect? 

I’ll post some photos below.  I particularly like the one that looks (to me anyhow) like a bear.  I’ll probably cut that one and polish it for a mantle type piece (started on it last night). 

After the collecting we went to Crystal Park for a day.  Fun digging and beautiful, but we did not find any large crystals.  Afterwards we went backcountry camping/hiking in Glacier National Park.  A lot of work carrying all your gear up/down the mountains.  Saw lots of goats, and even one grizzly bear. 
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2018, 10:56:22 AM »

The scene on the river:
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2018, 11:02:45 AM »

The bear one:
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2018, 11:05:30 AM »

More photos
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Greg Hiller

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2018, 11:06:28 AM »

more photos
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lithicbeads

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Re: Montana trip in August - suggestions? Lapidary materials is our goal
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2018, 02:04:28 PM »

You did quite well.The iris needs to be cut very thin and you need a point source light behind the iris  and then rotate it.The sun or a clear 100 watt bulb both work well. A little oil on the slab (both sides) helps.I use any cooking oil as it is easy to wash up.I have always had the best luck withy iris by cutting the nodule the hard way ,across tyhe lengthy.Not as easy to chuck in the saw obviously.
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