Searles Lake
 

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GPS Co-ordinates  35d 42m 39s north 117d 23m 52s west elevation 1578

The fall Searles Lake Gemorama is one of the best family outings that rockhounders can experience. Many of the people you meet there will tell you stories of there dads or uncles taking them to Searles Lake when they were kids and were continuing the tradition with their family.

    Searles Lake is all about Borate minerals. This ancient lake is home to many varied minerals that we use in our day to day life that we are not aware of. The main collectors minerals found at this annual event are Pink Halite (rock salt) that forms in the brine pools, Hanksite which is found in the black brine mud beneath the lake and occasionally a sulfa halite crystal.

    The Gemorama has three events. The Mud Piles on Saturday morning, the blow hole in the afternoon and the brine pools the following day. The most productive, smelly and dirty event has to be the mud piles. These are piles of mud dup from about 30 feet down with back-hoes. You sift through the mud and find tons of large hanksite crystals. Some are singles others twined and some massive conglomorates. They are really amazing. They must be washed of in the natural brine as tap water will dissolve them. I soaked mine in mineral oil and them varnished them to keep them from decomposing. If not they will turn into dust.

 

Hanksite

Searles Lake Blow Hole

After the demolition team sets off a charge deep in the lake sediment water is pumped down the hole and the buried crystals are ejected from the pipe shown in the picture above. 

 

The brine pools are quite an experience. You have to get in waist deep and find overhangs in the Natrolite pool walls where the large halite crystals form. Most are small to medium size white crystals (rock salt), but some are large and pink or salmon colored. The coloration comes from an algae that grows in the brine. 

 

Wearing disposable shoes and pants are recommended as the brine is nearly impossible to completely wash out and gloves are a must. The sharp crystals and corrosive brine will tear your hands up. We used large 17 pound steel digging bars to break the Natrolite pieces off of the shelves. It is fairly hard work but the rewards are well worth it. Like the Hanksite the Halite must be dried and lacquered to keep them from disintegrating.

These pictures were taken in the October 2001 Gemorama. If you have not been to one you may want to make an effort to go in 2002 as the future for this event is not certain.