Nantahala Talc & Limestone Quarry
A Dixie Mineral Council Field Trip
Swain County, North Carolina
November 5, 2005
By Mike Streeter
Some photos by Jeff Deere and Jim Flora

November 2005 was the Southern Appalachian Mineral Society's (SAMS) month to play host to the Dixie Mineral Council (DMC). The DMC, a program of the field trip committee of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies (SFMS), is an association of field trip leaders within the SFMS who have agreed to join together and share mineral or fossil field trips. At present, the DMC is comprised of 31 clubs that represent 8 southeastern States. Our good buddy, Jim Flora, past field trip leader and current webmaster of the Georgia Mineral Society (GMS), was responsible for establishing the DMC and the first trip took place in March 1999.

As the North Carolina Director for the SFMS and acting field trip leader for SAMS, I took it upon myself to contact Jack Herbert, president of the Nantahala Talc and Limestone Company, to schedule a field trip to the quarry. Anyone who has ever dealt with Jack knows him to be a very friendly and gracious person. His continued willingness to allow rockhounds to enter the quarry is commendable considering that access to most other mines and quarries is becoming increasingly problematic in this new age of liability litigation. When I called Jack to request permission to collect, he simply asked me what day and time so that he could have his man be there to unlock the gate.

Since it had been some time since I had last been to the constantly-changing active quarry, Chrissy and I performed a site reconnaissance trip there the previous Sunday. We wanted to ensure that we would be best able to direct the DMC group. The quarry is probably best known for its colorful banded and mottled marble. Although pink, white and gray predominate, other marble colors include varying shades of purple, yellow, buff, and tan. Other minerals and rocks that have been found in the quarry include, dolomite, calcite, quartz, aragonite, travertine, talc, and pyrite. We found plenty of areas containing the aforementioned rocks and minerals that could be later exploited by the group.

Chrissy and I arrived at the designated meeting place, a roadside park and rest area near the entrance road to the quarry, at around 9:00 AM on Saturday, November 5, 2005. Although the field trip announcement stated that we would meet at 9:30 AM, there was already a small crowd of rockhounds there who greeted us upon our arrival. As it would turn out, the vast majority of participants that day would be from the Georgia Mineral Society, although a few other clubs and states were also represented. After signing in and reading and signing a hazard training and recognition certificate, each rockhound was directed to the nearby quarry road to line up and wait until 10:00 AM to enter the quarry.

(photo by Jim Flora)

Just like clockwork, the security guard/night watchman, Jimbo Richeson showed up to let us in. Jimbo, who had never rockhounded before, was excited to be able to join us to collect that day. We caravanned about 1/2-mile to the quarry. The last part of the wide quarry road was somewhat loose and dusty due very dry conditions; a few of the vehicles had their tires spin out in the loose material and had to struggle to make it up the last incline. I would later find out that no crushing had taken place for a couple days prior to our visit so that the big rock hauling trucks that usually keep the road beat down had not been running. A couple of the pickup trucks had to make two runs at the hill, but, in the end, everyone was able to make it up to the parking area on the first quarry bench. After I gave a brief safety meeting, I turned everyone loose to have fun.

The group began collecting on the first level where there was an abundance of brightly colored marble. There was also a very large boulder that was covered with travertine, otherwise known as cave onyx. Chrissy and I had located this boulder on the previous Sunday and were glad to see that it hadn't been hauled off to the rock crusher. I had discovered nice pockets lined with beautiful white aragonite inside the travertine by barely scratching the surface last Sunday. This boulder would prove to be ripe for the pickins and would supply everyone who attended with some cave onyx and aragonite.

Linda Foster
Georgia Mineral Society

Wayne Hooper
Georgia Mineral Society

John and Linda Rees
Northeast Georgia Mineral Society

Mary Sinard and Ken Lackey
Rome Georgia Gem and Mineral Society

Julia Hughes
Northeast Georgia Mineral Society

Jim Flora
Georgia Mineral Society & SFMS

Jeff Deere and the travertine boulder
Rome Georgia Gem and Mineral Society

Jeff Deere and Mike Streeter
and the travertine boulder.
(photo by Jim Flora)

Report continued . . . . . . .

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