Mineral Collecting Areas
In addition to taking a guided tour of the Museum, visitors may collect minerals in any of the museum’s three collecting areas. Two of the areas, one featuring local minerals and the other worldwide ones, are on level ground and handicap-accessible. Though small, they are frequently replenished and are conveniently located just behind the Museum, adjacent to our picnic areas.
The Buckwheat Dump, a field of rock 3.5 acres in extent, is the main collecting area for our visitors. Originally used by the New Jersey Zinc Company as a place to dump unwanted rock from the mine, the Buckwheat Dump has gained worldwide fame over the years for the rare minerals found there. Though thousands of tons of rock have been removed by collectors from this dump – it has been a popular collecting spot for decades – new discoveries are still being made, including, in recent years, three mineral species new to the area. The prospect of finding rare fluorescent minerals, such as bright yellow-fluorescing cuspidine, also entices visitors. The Buckwheat Dump is reached by descending an unpaved, earthen ramp to an area 60 feet below the level of the museum building.
Darkroom facilities with ultraviolet lamps are available adjacent to all three collecting sites to allow visitors to examine their fluorescent specimens before deciding which to keep. Our staff will also assist you in identifying minerals that you have found. A display of the most common ones is provided near the exit door to the collecting areas.
Attention Junior Paleontologists! Came and dig your way through mounds of sand to uncover fossils or gemstones. After identifying your finds, choose the special one you wish to keep and take it home.
Gem panning is another new, hands-on activity offered by the Museum for visitors of all ages. Participants purchase a large bag of sand containing hidden “gems,” which they recover by washing away the sand in water.
These activities are a favorite with parents and kids alike.