Monday, September 24, 2012


 Mt. Guyot is a spectacular mountain located on the continental divide in Park County, Colorado, west of Jefferson at an elevation of 13370 ft.  The mountain may be accessed by traveling west from Jefferson on Pike National Forest Road 35 and then taking the left fork up Michigan Creek on Forest Road 54 to the summit of Georgia Pass (11,585 ft.).  The last several miles FR 54 are a high clearance, 4-wheel drive road.  Mt. Guyot is the major peak immediately west of the Pass and one can access the summit “trail” from the Pass.  However, please note that after the first quarter-mile the “trail” is a pure steep talus slope and quite moveable under human weight!

Two completely different rock units, separated by a major fault, are present in the Georgia Pass/Mt. Guyot area.  The Pass exposes outcrops of Early Proterozoic (“Precambrian”, ~1700 million years) metamorphic gneiss and amphibolite (dark colored heavy rock composed mainly of the mineral hornblende).  The Mt. Guyot massif is composed of an intrusive igneous quartz monzonite (a rock similar to granite but with significantly less quartz) of mid-Tertiary age.   It appears that the Mt. Guyot exposures are part of the much larger Bald Mountain Sill located approximately two miles to the south.  A sill is an igneous feature where the magma is intruded into previously existing rocks parallel to their bedding planes (as opposed to a dike where the magma cuts across bedding planes).    Separating these two rock units is a branch of the Elkhorn Thrust Fault (a low angle fault that has moved the older gneiss/amphibolite over the younger quartz monzonite).

There is evidence of hydrothermal alteration in the quartz monzonite and I was able to collect some really nice crystalline pyrite and chalcopyrite.  Cavities in the rock often contain micro- crystals of double terminated quartz and one specimen has fragile quartz crystals about the diameter of a “horse hair”.  One older mine was noted with a collapsed adit; however, I was unable to locate records of metallic ore production so perhaps the mine was an exploratory shaft.  Scarbrough (2001) noted the occurrence of the Horn Mine, a “uranium deposit’ in the general area of Georgia Pass/ Mt. Guyot; however, I was unable to locate the mine, or additional information.  I presume the uranium is associated with the Proterozoic rocks. 

Geologists, but perhaps few others, will recognize the name Guyot for whom the mountain was named.  In a history of geology class Arnold Guyot will always be remembered as one of the modern “fathers” of the science of glaciology.  Guyot was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 1807 and graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1835 (The Natural History of Lakes).  He became friends with the eminent Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz and begin studying the mountain glaciers of the European Alps, including moraines, glacier flow, and erratics.

In 1838, Guyot started a long-term project to study the geographic distribution of continental glaciers, testing the theory proposed by Agassiz that much of northern Europe had, at one time, been covered by glaciers.  He also became the first scientist to describe the differential rate of flow in an ice sheet demonstrating that such flow occurred on the molecular level.

 In 1848 Guyot immigrated to the United States and with the help of Agassiz, then at Harvard, and Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, begin to establish a network of weather stations in the northeast.  Eventually this network became nationwide and was the forerunner of the U.S. Weather Bureau.

 In 1854 an academic position opened at Princeton and Guyot became the first Blair Professor of Geology, a position he held for over three decades and is considered the founder of the Princeton Department of Geology.  Guyot also had a strong interest in meteorology and geography and specialized in taking barometric measurements of Appalachian peaks in order to determine their elevations.  In 1856 he established the Princeton Museum of Natural History.

Professor Guyot has been honored by the naming of three “Mt. Guyots” (New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Colorado), the Guyot Glacier in Alaska, and the Guyot Crater on the moon.  In addition, the flat-topped seamounts on many parts of the ocean floor are named “guyots”.

Arnold Guyot would have been proud of his namesake in Colorado as the mountain displays a spectacular example of a glacial cirque.  A cirque is one of the most distinguishable pieces of evidence pointing to the existence of a mountain glacier and is a semicircular bedrock feature created as glaciers scour back into the mountain. A cirque is where the snow and ice forming the glacier first accumulates.  The valley below the cirque displays the characteristic “U shape” and has several paternoster lakes (known as the Michigan Lakes).

Mt. Guyot certainly is not as famous as some of the nearby fourteeners but is a great mountain for a partial day hike, and displays some fantastic glacial landforms.  Arnold Guyot would be proud.


Scarbrough, Jr., L. Alex, 2001, Geology and Mineral Resources of Park County, Colorado: Colorado Geological Survey, Resource Series 40.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


 I was able to attend the recent 45th Annual Denver Gem and Mineral Show and found the exhibited specimens quite beautiful.  The Show theme this year was “Copper and Copper Minerals” and varieties of copper-bearing minerals, as well as large hunks of native copper, were spectacularly displayed.  I spent a large amount of time sort of staring into the cases wondering why I could never find such specimens!  I also made the rounds of several dealers and was able to visit with one of my heroes, Bob Jones, the Senior Editor of Rock and Gem Magazine. But, my highlight of the entire Show was getting to see the Holy Grail of Kansas Minerals!

Surficial rocks in Kansas are almost entirely sedimentary—lots of limestones, shales, and sandstones.  Many are quite fossiliferous and excellent collecting opportunities exist for invertebrates of Pennsylvanian, Permian and Cretaceous ages.  However, collectors of specimen minerals often bypass the state.  Mississippian rocks in extreme southeastern Kansas, part of the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District, have produced very nice specimens of galena, dolomite, chalcopyrite, and sphalerite.  Late Paleozoic rocks give up a few geodes with calcite and occasionally celestine.  Cretaceous rocks yield some marcasite and pyrite while the Tertiary and Pleistocene sediments offer numerous types of microcrystalline quartz.  Some outcrops of the Tertiary Ogallala Group have yielded non-gemmy moss opal.  But, generally speaking, Kansas minerals are not “rare” and crystal collectors often head to the east to the Ozarks and Ouachitas, west to Colorado, or north to the Black Hills.

But, there is one Kansas mineral that is quite rare with essentially all of the very few collected specimens coming from a single small locality that is no longer accessible and is now located under several tens of feet of water in a Corps of Engineers reservoir.  That is why I have termed jelinite the Holy Grail of Kansas Minerals!

Jelinite, first described as kansasnite, is actually a type of amber and is a local name honoring the initial collector, George Jelinek, who found the first specimens in 1937-38 along the Smoky Hill River in Ellsworth County, Kansas (Buddhue, 1939a; 1939b).  The amber came from a “layer of soft sulfur-colored clay bounded by two thin lignite layers” (Langenheim and others, 1965).  There was some debate about the exact geological formation that produced the amber and originally specimens were ascribed to the Cretaceous Dakota Formation since this unit contains many more lignite beds than the underlying Kiowa Formation. 

The confusion about the stratigraphic units seems reasonable (at least to me) since at many outcrops in Ellsworth County (and other localities) the rocks appear similar and are difficult to distinguish between.  Bayne and others (1971) noted that: both formations are heterogeneous units of shale, sandstone, and siltstone with pyrite, marcasite, gypsum crystals, ironstone concretions, and lignitized wood fragments. The mostly non-marine Dakota Formation was deposited during the retreat of the Kiowa Sea in a bordering low-lying coastal or deltaic plain.  The underlying Kiowa Formation was deposited in nearshore to coastal environments as the early Cretaceous sea spread northeastward across gentle terrain developed mainly on Permian rocks.  So, the Dakota has sparse nonmarine fossils (such as leaves) in Ellsworth County outcrops while the Kiowa has a few marine gastropods and mollusks.  But, both units have tightly cemented “quartzite” (CaCO3) lenses (an interesting issue).  It is easy for roadside travelers to confuse the two units without the presence of fossils or a good geologic map. 
Both formations have beds of lignite although such beds are thicker and more numerous in the Dakota.  However, detailed mapping of the stratigraphy near Kanopolis Reservoir led Bayne and others (1971) to state “the fossil amber (jelinite) found in the NW SW sec. 18, T. 17 S., R. 6 W. …probably came from such a sequence [carbonaceous clay] in the lower parts of the Kiowa Formation.”  This was a confirmation of previous statements by Langenheim and others (1965).

So, the amber did originate in the Kiowa Formation.  However, with the construction and filling of Kanopolis Reservoir in 1948-1951 covering the collecting locality, any refinement of stratigraphy is destined for the far future.

Although macrofossils seem absent from the jelinite, Waggoner (1996) reported the presence of sheathed bacteria, amoebae and other microfossils.  The presence of succinic acid (C4H6O4) in jelinite led Buddhue (1938) to suggest a conifer origin for the amber.  Langenheim (1969) noted that almost all Cretaceous ambers from North America came from members of the Araucariaceae (a conifer).

I want to thank Glenn Rockers of Paleosearch Inc., Hays, Kansas, for showing me his specimen, letting me hold the Holy Grail, and for allowing photographs.  Glenn informed me the specimen in his possession was purchased by an unnamed person at an estate auction and was part of the original Jelinek collection.  He also stated there is a much larger specimen floating around in a private collection.  Now, if I could only find an estate auction like that! 
Bayne, C. K., P. C. Franks, and W. Ives, Jr., 1971, Geology and Ground Water Resources of Ellsworth County, Central Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 201.

Buddhue, J. D., 1938a, Some New Carbon Minerals—Kansasite Described: The Mineralogist, v. 6, no. 1. 

Buddhue, J. D., 1938b, Jelinite and Associated Minerals: The Mineralogist, v. 6, no. 9. 

Langenheim, J. H. 1969, Amber-a Botanical Inquiry: Science v. 16, no 3.

Langenheim, Jr., R. L., J. D. Buddhue, and G. Jelinek, 1965, Age and Occurrence of the Fossil Resins Bacalite, Kansasite, and Jelinite: Journal of Paleontology v. 39, no. 2.

Schoewe, W. H. 1942. Kansas Amber: Kansas State Academy of Science, Transactions no. 45.

Waggoner, B. M. 1996, Bacteria and Protists from Middle Cretaceous Amber of Ellsworth County, Kansas: PaleoBios v. 17, no.1.


Sunday, September 2, 2012


 One of the more interesting groups of minerals are the pseudomorphs, or false form minerals--essentially a new mineral recrystallizes and replaces the original mineral.  During this chemical change the replacing mineral takes on the crystal form of the original mineral and that crystal form commonly is atypical for that particular replacing mineral!  That is, the shape of the original mineral is maintained by the replacing mineral. 
For example, both azurite and malachite are quite recognizable copper minerals with azurite being blue in color while malachite is a bright green.  Both minerals are copper carbonates with azurite (Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2)) crystallizing usually as prismatic crystals while malachite (Cu2CO3(OH)2) crystals are often slender prisms.  Azurite is unstable and with weathering some of the carbon dioxide (CO2) chemically changes into water and the +++copper cation becomes ++copper cation.  This seems a fairly complex chemical change for such beautiful minerals!
Near Lake George in the pegmatites of the Pikes Peak Batholith, hematite is a pseudomorph after siderite.  Hematite is an iron oxide (Fe2O3) and often a weathering product, in this case of siderite, an iron carbonate (FeCO3) with a rhombohedral form.
At many rock and mineral shows vendors will display glauberite pseudomorphs that were collected from near Camp Verde, Arizona, north of Phoenix.  At this locality exposures of the Verde Formation are well-exposed in an abandoned salt mine.  The Verde was deposited in a large lake that occupied a tectonic basin in central Arizona during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs, approximately two to eight million years ago (Ayres, 2009).  Near the end of the lake cycle the water became quite saline and evaporitic minerals such as halite (sodium chloride-- NaCl) and glauberite (sodium calcium sulfate-- Na2Ca(SO4)2 were deposited.
 I am uncertain about the chemistry but sometime in the last two million years carbonates, calcite (CaCO3) and/or aragonite (CaCO3), or a sulfate, gypsum (CaSO4-2(H2O)), replaced the unstable glauberite as a pseudomorph.  I presume that groundwater percolating through the sediments and rocks provided the appropriate replacing elements.
  I also recognize there is a name similarity between glauberite and Glauber’s salt, the latter being a sodium sulfate decahydrate (Na2SO4-10H2O), for which the mineral was named.  In past years some glauberite was mined to produce Glauber’s salt, a substance used in the chemical industry.  Glauberite itself is mostly colorless to cream to gray in color, rather soft at 2.5 on the Moh’s Scale, and has a white streak.  Glauberite is impressive due to the unmistakable, large, well-formed, tabular- to wedge-shaped crystals that define the mineral.  This characteristic shape seems enough to distinguish the mineral from others.  However, as noted above, there is a problem--glauberite is unstable and often is replaced by other minerals producing pseudomorphs and these “false form minerals” seem more common in the record than true glauberite crystals! 
In my collecting at the salt mine I was able to secure: 1) a beautiful large specimen of several crystals of gypsum that were pseudomorphs of glauberite, and a “typical” crystal of calcite pseudomorph after glauberite.  I also collected a transparent and non-crystal specimen that an Arizona geologist identified as thenardite (a mineral that was unfamiliar to me).  Thenardite is a sodium sulfate, Na2SO4, that also precipitates in evaporitic lakes and playas.  Interesting, but perhaps confusing to non-geochemists, are the facts that thenardite: 1) is the salt of sulfuric acid; and 2) and becomes Glauber’s salt with the addition of water!

A couple of other interesting comments about glauberite might be in order.  In New South Wales, Australia, opal (SiO2-nH2O) is found as a pseudomorph after glauberite.  At Watchung, New Jersey, both prehnite (a calcium, aluminum phyllosilicate, Ca2Al(AlSi3O10)(OH)2)) and quartz (SiO2) occur as pseudomorphs after glauberite in basalt cavities.
I am somewhat out of my realm of comfort here since I am not a mineralogist or geochemist and do not fully understand some of the processes taking place during the formation of pseudomorphs.  However, the glauberite pseudomorphs are quite interesting and make excellent display specimens.  For additional information on the Camp Verde specimens please see Ayres (2009) or Thompson (1983).

Ayres, S., 2009, The Verde Formation: A Story That Holds Water: Verde Independent (newspaper), November 18, 2009. 

Thompson J. R., 1983, Camp Verde Evaporates:  Mineralogical Record, Vol. 14 No. 2, p. 85-90.