Last fall Maggie and I visited the Bear Lake Diggings in search of gem quality apatite. It is undoubtably one of the most spectacular mineral occurrences that you will see in the Bancroft area. Numerous small crystals lie discarded in the dirt around the gullies, especially just after the first snow melt. They lie – washed free of mud by the spring rains. The sides of the trenches are plastered in large books of mica and apatite crystals that generally range to several inches in length. Buried in sand along the bottom of the diggings are doubly terminated apatite “monsters”. In rare cases, there are gem-quality specimens. Some collectors have found small orange crystals of monazite on apatite crystal faces.
Mike Walters in his excellent article “The Minerals of Bear Lake”, speaks of finding floater crystals of light brown calcite inside a cavity in a large poorly formed apatite crystal. He also writes of his experience in trying to chisel a two and a half foot log of apatite from a trench wall. Glossy, black titinite crystals float free in the soil, often they are found as singular discs and sometimes in stunning clusters. Leucoxene is a pseudomorph of titanite. It partly replaces the titinite crystal appearing in the same form, but the milky coating over the crystal’s surface alerts collectors to its true identity. Feldspar crystals (orthoclase) in the region of several pounds and large black amphibole crystals are also found.
In this photo I stand in the forest at the entrance to the public site (surrounded by private claims) You park your car at this spot and head into the trees to begin collection.