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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Looperites at Pebble beach, Marathon, Ontario

This last week, my family and I took a mineral collecting vacation to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  The last stop on the trip was Pebble Beach in Marathon, Ontario in search of looperites or 'glow-in-the-dark' rocks are the locals know them.

The looperites is the name these rocks have in upper peninsula of Michigan, along the southern shore of Lake Superior.  I purchased on for reference.  The specimen is a very common looking gray and white mottled igneous rock containing fluorescent sodalite.

So, I started doing some research (using my software Digital Rockhound's companion) and found areas where syenite (silica deficient rock composed mainly of alkali feldspar and ferromagnesian minerals such as hornblende and in certain locations sodalite.  Famous area is Bancroft, Ontario (much further east) where sodalite has been mined.  I was looking for a source closer to Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  In the images below, the red is syenite and there is a large deposit located in city of Marathon.  

These images were created in DRC 4.0 (not released yet August 2019!) using geology of Ontario shapefile from the Ontario Ministry of Mining, Bing aerial view in Mapsui for WPF.

Researching Marathon, I discovered Pebble Beach, which could be renamed cobble or boulder beach.

Some images from Pebble beach:

I purchased 6 high powered long wave ultraviolet lights from  A word of caution, these flashlights are 100 UV LED light source that is very bright.  Some people are sensitive to blue-purple frequency light.  I know in indoors using one of these flashlights on my mineral collection I get a head-ache after about 15 mins of use but outdoors these are fine.  You can spot a strongly fluorscent mineral at 3-4 feet away.

My family scanning about 1 km of beach with the lights.

In the end, we found about 8 fluorscent stones, 3 very nice ones and 4 larger cobbles with single fluorscent crystals, and one odd stone fluorsces pale red (still researching this one).
Here are two of the nicer stones.

Things to know before you go...
  • During bug season, you will need bug spray.  Gnats, mosquitoes, and black flies were very  thick the evening we were on the beach.
  • Pebble Beach is a local park and is well marked with parking and playground nearby.
  • It is a steep walk down to the beach and the beach itself is difficult, high ankle hiking boots are recommended.
  • Go to the beach before sunset to get the lay of the land before exploring the beach after sunset.
View of Lake Superior at Marathon.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Panorama Amethyst Mine, Shuniah Ontario.

Today, we visited our second amethyst mine in the Thunder Bay area: Panorama Amethyst Mine, in nearby Shuniah Ontario.

Web site:

Things to know before you go...

  • As of June 2019, it costs $10.00/person plus you are charged $4.00 /lb for any material you collect.   
  • The staff is very friendly and helpful.  We did get a personal tour of the active mine area by the owner
  • You cannot collect in the active mining areas but that is okay.  The staff has freshly mined rock dumped through out the area and some very very nice can be found. (Turns out this is Canadian law issue about who can and cannot be in an active mine area).
  • Bring hats, gloves, deep woods bug repellent and drinks.  The bugs can be thick.
  • This mine does produce some very dark purple amethyst suitable for lapidary and tumbling as well as nice drusy crystals.
  • The is located about 6 km in off the main road on unpaved gravel road.  There was a steep hill but the mini van made it fine.
  • Mine does accept credit cards.  We used up the last of our cash and had to put a little of the purchase on credit.
Photos:  Road to the mine:

Cool display pieces outside the visitor center:

Collecting area:

Active mine area (tour no collecting)

In closing, well worth the stop.  Very friendly staff and owner, we had a blast collecting and talking with everyone.

Diamond Willow amethyst mine, Pearl Ontario

Yesterday, my family and I visited the Diamond Willow Amethyst Mine in Pearl Ontario which is about 40 km north of Thunder Bay.  It is one of several mines in the area where you can pay to dig your own amethyst.  At Diamond Willow, you can fill a bucket and pay just $25.00 (June 2019 prices).  You can purchase additional buckets and if you find piece too large for a bucket the staff estimate its value based on percentage of gem material of the rock.

Things to know before you go...

  • The mine  has a Facebook page.  It is being maintained and accurate.  (We visited on July 1st Canada Day and the page indicated that the mine was open.)
  • The mine does allow you to bring in small hammers and chisels (no large slede hammers).I would recommend to do this.  It was relatively easy to rough trim pieces with just a hand sledge and a chisel.  Some of the rocks can be large but are often fractured.
  • You cannot collect in the active mining areas but that is okay.  The staff has freshly mined rock dumped through out the area and some very very nice can be found.
  • Bring hats, gloves, deep woods bug repellent and drinks.  The bugs can be thick.  I saw a couple of people wearing large hats with mosquito nets, very smart.  Gnats, flies, and mosquitoes can be changing during summer months.  It was 86'F / 30'C when I visited in June and very humid.
  • The is located about 4 km in off the main road on unpaved gravel road.  I had no issues driving our Honda mini van in but be aware in heavy rains this road might be difficult to traverse.
  • Being from the states, I brought Canadian currency to the mine to pay for the visit.  We paid ~$200 Can for our haul.   Here in Ontario, places will happily take US currency but at face value no on the fly conversations.  
Enough words how about some images...


Heading to the mine.

Collecting areas in the mine:

Active mining areas 

Our haul:

All in all, we had a great time and collected some awesome amethyst.   Well worth 1000 mile track from Ohio!

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