We spent a great Sunday at the Ray Mine in Yancey County, North Carolina.
September's historic tropical storms dumped record rainfall in western North Carolina and Yancey
County was especially hard hit. Massive flooding caused extensive erosion along the area's creek
and river beds taking out many bridges and roads. The creek that runs through the base the Ray
Mine's immense spoil piles was no exception as in some places the creek cut down as much as 7 feet below
its former grade. Rocks that have not seen the light of day since they were mined decades ago have
now been exposed so that the collecting potential at the mine has been greatly enhanced.
The Ray Mine is probably best known for its beryl
crystals. The beryl is reported to get up to a couple inches wide by 4 to 5 inches long and
can be common, aquamarine and golden. Other collectible minerals include albite, clear oligoclase,
white microcline, muscovite, amazonite, columbite, schorl (black tourmaline), green tourmaline,
apatite and thulite.
We had arranged to meet a few friends at the mine and everybody showed up around
9:30 AM. Everybody had seen the pictures in a message that I had posted earlier that week
on the McRocks message board, so all were very eager to get going. We hiked the Forest Service
trail up to the creek.
Beryl in granite pegmatite
Tourmaline in muscovite with feldspar
While taking pictures, I noticed that there were four main styles of collecting:
1) Breaking likely creek bed rocks; 2) Digging in the banks; 3) Digging in the creek bed itself and;
4) Simply turning over creek bed rocks. All methods required some rock breaking and cobbing
to find complete to partially hidden collectible minerals. The following cast of characters were
kind enough to demonstrate the different collecting methods (except Opal - she collects big
Just about everyone found something to brag about. I saw lots of beryl,
tourmaline, apatite, garnet, muscovite and columbite in everyone's buckets before the day
was over. Proceed to the next page to view some pictures of our spoils.