Rock collectors captivated by crystal formations near Monte Lake | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Rock collectors captivated by crystal formations near Monte Lake

Rock collectors love Highway 97 near Monte Lake.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Tony Heisterkamp
March 27, 2021 - 7:30 AM

You can spot sometimes along Highway 97 near Monte Lake, people with hammers and other tools breaking apart rocks.

For decades, rock collectors have been searching for rare minerals and colourful rocks in the area.

Along Highway 97, people can often be seen looking for agates below the slope, said Vernon Lapidary and Mineral Club vice president Tony Heisterkamp.

“We’re all wannabe rock hounds,” he said. Members of the club, along with other rock collectors will spend their days searching for agates, crystals, thunder eggs and minerals associated with gems next to the highway.

Monte Lake, near Falkland is a popular location. Often rock hounds will get their start along the highway because it's so visible, including Heisterkamp.

READ MORE: These rock formations in Kamloops are a must-see

“I used to drive by there once or twice a week before I stopped and said ‘what’re you guys looking for, why are you staring at the ground?' They said ‘we’re looking for agates.’ I said ‘great, what’s an agate?' And the rest is history,” he said.

An agate is an ornamental stone made of chalcedony and typically have bands.

The Monte Lake location has been producing minerals for decades, Heisterkamp said. With highway improvements, people have also become more aware of the location and have stopped to inquire.

The area is under a mineral claim, so people are limited to the space beside the highway, he said.

Jewellery created by rock collector and Vernon resident Tony Heisterkamp.
Jewellery created by rock collector and Vernon resident Tony Heisterkamp.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Tony Heisterkamp

But he noted the area can be dangerous, as people don’t park properly along the highway and rocks are prone to falling.

“We nearly got killed dead by a boulder, it must have been five or 10 tons. It was huge… we were standing there talking and all of a sudden — crack — this boulder came down and spread rubble across the highway,” Heisterkamp said. The incident happened a few year ago but in the last few weeks a person nearly got hit by a rock that was baseball-sized, he said.

Len Seebach, from Vernon, started looking for minerals at Monte Lake two years ago when he noticed people along the highway and always wears a hard hat when he’s chiseling.

“I love it… and I got some equipment now and I’m starting to turn what I’ve found into jewellery,” he said.

His rarest find was an amethyst geode that he gave away and datolite, he said.

“It’s just luck of the draw,” he said, adding that he picks a spot along the highway, chisels his "butt off" and gets a handful of rocks that add up over time.

People have stopped by the Monte Lake site from as far as Ontario and even Germany, Heisterkam said.

“We’ve seen an increase in participation because of COVID. We see a lot of people come up from Vancouver or Quesnel or Fort St. John,” he said.

Another popular spot is in Westwold along Douglas Lake Road but a lot of spots where people stop at are on private property, he said.

A rock found by Tammy-Lynn Post near Monte Lake.
A rock found by Tammy-Lynn Post near Monte Lake.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Tammy-Lynn Post

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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