On October 15, 2017 I loaded up the kids in the minivan and headed for the hills of Vernon, Utah. It’s a 90 minute drive from West Jordan that takes you through the tiny town of Vernon and onto a deserted dirt road that wiggles through BLM land and ends up at a small quarry full of wonderstone. Make sure to pack a lunch or even the gear to camp overnight as once you’re that far out and you’ve gathered all the wonderstone you’d like, take a seat and enjoy the view, you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and the wonderstone quarry is a piece of cake to find, you really can’t miss it.
What is Wonderstone?
Once again, I am an air traffic controller, not a geologist, so I like to leave these descriptions up to the experts. Here’s what Utah Geological Survey had to say: “The Vernon Hills wonderstone is a welded-vitric tuff (vitric means glassy) of rhyolitic composition. It is a volcanic rock composed predominantly of volcanic glass particles which have been welded or stuck together by heat and compacted by the weight of overlying material. Alteration of the rock by circulating ground water produced the colorful banding. The maroon and yellow-brown colors are due to the presence of iron oxides.”
Don’t forget to bring –
- Rock Hammers, Chisels and Safety Glasses if you’re really serious. Otherwise you can simply just pick up the wonderstone that is already there, that’s what we did.
- 5 Gallon Bucket
- Hat and Sunscreen
And if you plan to stay overnight –
- Tent and Sleeping bags
- Food, Water and Stuff to Make S’mores
- Camp Chairs
- Fire Wood
There are a few things you need to know about camping on BLM land, click HERE to read a list of their camping guidelines.
I followed Utah Geological Survey’s directions to the Wonderstone Quarry and it was super easy. Here is what they wrote:
“How to get there: From the southern edge of Tooele, travel south on State Highway 36 about 31 miles to the town of Vernon. Continue on highway 36 an additional 4 1/2 miles until you reach a dirt road adjacent to and west of the railroad tracks. Turn north (left) onto the dirt road and travel next to the railroad tracks for 1.7 miles until the road curves to the northwest. From the curve, travel 0.4 miles to the end of the road.”
They suggest a 4WD vehicle and I would agree if you suspect the road to be wet, but when we went it was 100% dry and my minivan did great navigating the dirt road back to the quarry. Also, if you see a marked claim or recent mining activity, do not take rocks from that area. We saw nothing of the sort when we were there, but you never know from year to year if someone has filed a BLM claim on the area.
Can I keep what I find?
The answer is yes and the following is what the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has to say about rock collecting: