California State Gem Mine
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Things to Know for Your Benitoite Treasure Hunting Vacation
First, the mine is in the middle of nowhere, so you will need to bring all of your own supplies. It best to plan on doing some camping because there are no amenities available at the mine except a port-o-potty. Since it takes up to 3 hours to it would make for a very hard day to go in, mine, and then turn around and go back out.
Camping at the mine will cost you $20 per night, or if you would prefer you can go out of the mine a little ways and there is BLM land available for camping.
Please be aware that in the winter it gets cold enough to snow up at the mine, and during the summer you may not be able to use camp fires due to the dry season. When you stop at the Clear Creek BLM office to get your map to the mine they will let you know all the current restrictions that are in place.
To go hunting for benitoite at the mine costs $100 per day per person (kids under 14 are free, and this is a vacation your kids will not forget) and includes hunting and screening. If you need the mine will rent the basic equipment for your benitoite hunting.
If you want to try your hand at black lighting it is an additional $500 per night. The California State Gem Mine allows up to two people per black light. If you want to rent a black light from the mine it is $100 per night, just keep in mind if you break it, you bought it.
Regardless of what method you use to find your benitoite the mine only allows you to fill one 5 gallon bucket with material per day. If you find more then that you will need to talk to the mine employees and see what kind of deal you can make with them.
Useful Equipment for Finding Benitoite Gems
You’re probably wondering what kind of equipment you’ll need to find your benitoite gem stones, so here’s a little list, by no means does this include all possible camping equipment:
-Rock hammer (This is to help with digging, no breaking stones at the mine)
-5 Gallon Bucket
-Miners pick (if you plan on doing some serious digging)
-Screen (an 1/8 inch screen is best, be sure it has a top piece to flip onto for sorting)
-Tub to wash what you’ve screened
-Sorting table (this makes going through your screened and washed material much easier)
-Food and water (Bring plenty of water, because there isn’t any for 50 miles around)
How to get to the California State Gem Mine
To go to the California State Gem Mine for yourself you’ll first need to make an appointment, and be sure to confirm your appoint 2 days prior to be sure the roads are open and passable.
To get to the mine plan on taking at least a day to get there, you can fly into either Monterey or Fresno CA, and be sure to have a rental car waiting. You will want a 4 wheel drive truck if possible, a 2 wheel drive will work if you have to, do not accept a car, you will not make it to the mine if you do.
From either Monterey or Fresno, CA you will need to go to a staging area, this is what your hotel will be for. This is so you have plenty of daylight to get to the mine. There’s nothing worse then getting stuck in unfamiliar 4 wheel drive country in the dark.
From Monterey you’ll want to drive about 31 miles to Hollister, CA and get a hotel, it’s about another 65 miles to the mine from here. From Fresno you’ll drive about 57 miles to Coalinga, CA and get a hotel there, it’s about another 52 miles from here to the mine.
Directions to the California State Gem Mine
Now that you’ve hopefully had a good nights rest it’s time to begin the real journey to your benitoite gems:
- From Coalinga you’ll want to take Los Gatos Road west for 32 miles to Clear Creek Road.
- From Hollister you’ll need to take highway 25 south for 29 miles to Coalinga Road. Then go east for 16 miles to Clear Creek Road.
- Once you get to Clear Creek Road you’ll have about an hour and a half of rough 4×4 road ahead for you to reach the mine.
- It’s recommended that visitors purchase a map of the Clear Creek area from the BLM office in Hollister before beginning the trip. You will find a list of the BLM rules and regulations with the map also.
-The BLM now has a use fee for the area; the cost is $5.00 for 7 days. This gives you access to all of the trails in the Clear Creek Recreational Area. It is recommended that you purchase the permit if your going to do any site seeing while on your vacation. It is not required if you stay on the roads going directly to and from the mine. If there is nobody at the pay station, there is a self pay station available on the right side of the road.
-Once you drive into Clear Creek, there will see signs at each turn giving you mileage to the next turn so just follow the signs.
-From the start of Clear Creek Rd., you’ll follow road R1 for about 6 miles along the creek.
-R1 turns left and after a series of switchbacks, reaches the top of the ridge.
-At that this point you’ll turn right at the detour sign. That will put you on R14.
-R14 will take you down the ridge and past an old mercury mine and the plasma agate collecting site (you’ll need to have your BLM use permit if you want to collect some plasma agates in this area).
-After about 1 mile you’ll turn right on R11, then you’ll follow R11 for about 6 and a half miles until you come to R15.
-Turn right on R15 and follow it for a little over 1 mile and take the first left hand turn.
-This road is marked as T232 on the map the gate to the mine is about a 1000 yards up this road.
A mine employee should meet you at the gate if it is locked. If the gate is open, drive into the mine and check in. You must have reservations. Also once out in the Clear Creek area there will be little to no cell phone service.
Contacting the California State Gem Mine
For more information about the mine or to make your reservations at the mine contact:
559-935-5909 or 559-284-4126
The Folks at the California State Gem Mine have now made it even easier to take your family on a treasure hunt for Benitoite. They now have an area with much easier access to hunt through tails piles located in Coalinga, CA at 48242 Los Gatos Rd. Coalinga, CA 93210. They run this service every weekend and the cost is $70 for adults and $20 for kids under 12.
For this service they are now providing nearly everything you may need, you just need to bring your own lunch, rubber gloves if you need them, and your own safety glasses.
Sign in begins at 9:00 AM, and digging runs from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
For details please see their new web page here
Happy Treasure Hunting…
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