Our family visited the mines on July 27, 2014 and had a blast! When we arrived we were greeted by the cashier (can't remember her name) who was really friendly and let us know where to park and to come see her when we were ready. Once we had paid (they offer a VERY nice military discount BTW) we were sent out to Charlie, a "seasoned" gentleman who explained the process in detail, offered us some tips on what to look for while we were digging, and set up our place on the flume (we got there right at 8am, so we were near the front). We dug, we came back, then Charlie explained the techniques to us, what we were looking for, and helped us "newbies" go over our sifters with a fine tooth comb. All the while he taught us about the other rocks we found (we like cool looking rocks, not just the valuable ones), and told funny stories about the mines and some of the finds and people who worked them.
As the day wore on, Todd joined Charlie and they both had nearly everyone in stiches with their joking, stories, and playful attitudes. We managed to find a few small stones (11 carets total), but nothing major ourselves (except the softball sized piece of white quartz which is beautiful). However, in the 5 hours we stayed (my back was getting sore by then) others had found a 20 caret, 15 caret, and 11 caret sapphires, as well as numerous garnets (we found one as well) and other smaller sapphires. As we were packing up, people were finding more and more stones by the second, and the fever was in the air. All in all, it was a fun time, and everyone was having a blast.
If you're looking for a fun time where you have to do some work and there's a chance to hit it (sorta) big or (possibly) not at all, then this is your place. If you're looking for someone to hand you some shiny rocks on a silver platter (boring!), then look elsewhere. One thing is for sure: You will get the fever once the first few sapphires are found, and if you do what they guys tell you to do and stay at it, you'll find your gems too.
1) Bring heavy duty rubber dish gloves, as working the dirt and gravel is hard on your hands (and can cut them up a bit). You'll thank me if you do.
2) Bring bug spray. There's a few standing bodies of water nearby as well as a stream, so mosquitoes and other pests are plentiful.
3) Get there early (they open at 8am) to get on the covered flume. It means shade, and that means cooler temperatures for you.
4) Bring shoes you don't mind getting dirty, and clothes you don't mind getting wet in. Water from the flume will splash up on you...PERIOD. A change of clothes/shoes is a good idea.
5) Baby wipes: Because you will get dirty. We used them in Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan to clean off with, and they will work here too. (You'll thank me again.)
6) Have a positive attitude, listen to the guys, and don't give up!
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