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Rockhounder's Dream: Dugway Geodes, Sherry Colored Topaz, Wonderstone

Program Number: 1996RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/5/2013 - 5/11/2013; 5/1/2016 - 5/7/2016; 9/25/2016 - 10/1/2016;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Delta, Utah
Price starting at: $1,325.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Science & Nature; Natural History
Meals: 17; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Low Salt; Low Fat; Vegetarian    

Join us for an unforgettable week of rockhounding at the minerally rich Great Basin region of Utah. Under the rocks and crags of this desert region lie museum-quality specimens of topaz, Dugway geodes, pyrophyllite (wonderstone) and fossilized trilobites. At loose rock and fossil quarries or large mining operations, join the largest mineral supplier/distributor on a quest for the mineral wealth of Utah’s desert Great Basin country, then polish them up and ship them home to admire.


• Collect remains of mid-Cambrian trilobites at the largest deposit of these creatures that ruled the seas 550 million years ago.
• Private and first access to specimens with the largest rockhounding supplier in the West as their machines and explosives free up the treasures of the earth.
• Experience demonstrations of cutting and polishing, and a chance to turn your rocks into mineral beauty at a local lapidary shop.

Activity Particulars

Walks up to one-half mile over uneven terrain; some steep, rocky hills.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.


Delta is considered the gateway to the Great Basin National Park - a Mecca for "rockhounds" and geologists from around the world who come to study and search for topaz, agate, obsidian, garnets, trilobites and red beryl. Delta is famous for surrounding geological wonders including Topaz Mountain, Sunstone Knoll and the Dugway geode beds.

Comfortable hotel with heated outdoor pool.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Emily Lamas

A faculty member at Utah Valley University, Emily Lamas has taught courses in geology and Earth sciences for more than 10 years. She has done extensive geological research in the Great Basin area, and is the geology lab manager at Utah Valley University. Emily has taught Road Scholar participants about geology for several years, and trained them in the latest techniques of cataloging and inventorying rock and gem collections.
Shayne Crapo

A lifelong fossil and gemstone enthusiast, Shayne Crapo is the owner of U-Dig Fossils, a rock hounding business in Delta, Utah that has been featured on the Travel Channel as one of the “best places to find cash and treasures.” Shayne is also the co-owner and operator of The Bug House, a wholesaler of fossils, gemstones, geodes and rock hounding supplies to rock shops around the world. He enjoys taking Road Scholar groups to some of the best rock hounding locations in the nation.
Robert Harris

Robert Harris has been collecting gemstones and minerals for his entire life. As one of the original owners of the red beryl mine in Delta, Utah, Robert helped to promote this extremely valuable gemstone around the world as geologists and other experts discovered that the Harris Mine was indeed the only place where red beryl can be found. Red beryl is estimated to be worth 1,000 times more than gold, and is so rare that one crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds. Robert is the owner of West Desert Collections, a large rock hound wholesaler for rock shops around the world.
Jane Beckwith

As the founder of the Topaz Museum and Education Center, Jane Beckwith has worked for more than 30 years to preserve the history of the Topaz Japanese American Internment Camp in Delta, Utah. In 1982, Jane began a large community research to interview local townspeople who worked at the camp about their experiences and memories. One of 10 relocation camps build during WWII, the Topaz Internment Camp processed 11,212 internees during its three years of operation. Jane’s project opened dialogue and renewed interest about this time in history, and soon she organized a non-profit organization to gather historic accounts and raise money to buy the camp site and construct a museum. Additionally, she was successful in getting the site designated as a National Historic Landmark. Now retired from her distinguished teaching career, Jane serves as president of the board and curator of the museum.
Meals and Lodgings
   Days Inn
  Delta, UT 6 nights
 Days Inn
Type: Hotel
  Description: AAA-rated, double and single occupancy. A laundromat and swimming pool are located at the Inn (pool opens in May). A post office, movie theater, and other merchants are located nearby.
  Contact info: 527 East Topaz Blvd.
Delta, UT 84624 USA
phone: 800-354-9378
  Room amenities: Private bath, cable television and direct-dial phones in room. Both smoke-free and smoking rooms are available on request. Clock, Coffee maker, Hair dryer, Iron, Ironing Board, Refrigerator in Every Room.
  Facility amenities: Free High Speed Wireless Internet; Business Center with High Speed Wireless Internet, Computer, Copy Service; Fax Service, Printer, Messaging, Audio Visual Equipment; Fed-Ex / UPS / DHL; Heated Outdoor Pool
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights prior: around $70/night, plus tax Contact the Inn directly for room availability at (800)354-9378.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: around $70/night, plus tax Contact the Inn directly for room availability at (800)354-9378.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check in at 3:00 PM at hotel or meet shuttle at 1:00 PM. You will be staying at Days Inn that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends following breakfast at 8:00 AM. You will be staying at Days Inn the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Nielsen Adventures Liability Waiver & Questionnaire and Road Scholar Health & Safety Form.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free at the hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Delta, UT
  Nearest city or town:  Delta, Utah
  Nearest highway: I-15 (Major), exit 174 to US-50
  Nearest airport:  Salt Lake City International
  From End of Program
  Location: Delta, UT
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

To Salt Lake Plaza Hotel


From Airport




Hotel Shuttle
Salt Lake Plaza Hotel Shuttle
phone: 800-366-3684
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


You must arrive at the Salt Lake Airport by 11:00AM, so that the hotel shuttle can get you to the hotel by 12:45PM. The Nielsen Adventures van will then pick you up for transportation to Delta.


From Plaza Hotel to Delta





Commercial Van/Shuttle
Nielsen Adventures Van
phone: 801-368-3326
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


2.5 hours 




134 miles


TO DELTA: Pick up from the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel on Sunday at 1:00PM sharp. *This is the ONLY pick up time and location the Nielsen Adventures will make. The van will arrive in Delta around 3:30PM. FROM DELTA: Nielsen Adventures Van will leave at 9:00AM sharp and will arrive at the Salt Lake Airport around 11:30AM. *Please schedule your flight time after 2:00 PM.

Driving Directions
  DAYS INN-DELTA FROM THE NORTH on I-15 or from the SALT LAKE AIRPORT: Travel south on I-15 approximately 47 miles to Nephi (exit 225, SR-132). Head southwest to Lynndyl and merge onto US-6 (turn left). Continue southwest 16 miles directly to Delta. Days Inn is located at 527 East Topaz Blvd. FROM THE SOUTH on I-15: Travel north on I-15 past Cedar City, Beaver, and Fillmore. Take exit 174 to US-50, which runs directly into Delta. Days Inn is located at 527 East Topaz Blvd.
Elevation Note: Delta's altitude is 4,650 feet, but we will be rock hounding at slightly higher altitudes.

Equipment Requirements: Bring only what you have room for: Leather gloves to protect hands, hammer or flat-edged rock hammer, long screw driver, chisel, putty knife, rock pick, folding shovel, pry bar. Also, durable footwear, sunscreen, day pack or fanny pack are recommended.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Check-In/Welcome & Orientation
(Sunday, May 5)
 Afternoon: Check into your room at Days Inn Hotel. Rooms may not be ready until the 3:00 PM check-in time. At 5:45 PM, come to the hotel front lobby, for our Road Scholar Registration, you will receive your name badge with participant list and detailed itinerary for the week.
 Dinner: Around 6 PM, we travel to a local restaurant for dinner.
 Evening: Following dinner, we will cover all the details for the week, show samples of specimens you will be finding on field trips. We will discuss preparations needed for each day and items to bring.
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Explore Delta's History, understand Gemstones, examine the geologic history, learn how to catalog your collection, learn about Beryllium, probe the complexities of the Japanese Relocation Camp during WWII Learn about the rare and beautiful Red Beryl.
(Monday, May 6)

Note: Most of the day will be spent in a classroom setting learning all about the geologic history of the are so you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of what we will be finding and collecting the remainder of the week.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: Start the morning with a presentation from a local historian on the history of Delta...A Town Steeped in History and Tradition; Learn the fascinating history of Delta and its founding from the early years as a railroad servicing town called Akin prior to 1905 to Burtner named after a railroad employee, to a naming contest when Delta was submitted and officially adopted as the towns name which means a fertile area near a river's mouth. Delta became a city in 1940. During World War II the federal government forcibly relocated 110,000 Japanese-Americans from their West Coast homes to special camps. Topaz, a relocation center near Delta, housed some 8,700 internees, making it the largest "city" in Millard for a few years. From its early years, Delta has been the commercial center of one of the largest alfalfa seed and hay producing regions in the Intermountain West. The early 1920s was a time of expansion beyond the limits of productive farmland, stimulated by exceptionally abundant irrigation water and particularly high alfalfa see crop prices. In 1925 the area produced more than one-fourth of the total seed harvested in the entire nation, bringing impressive profits to many growers. By that time, three national seed-packing companies and several local concerns had warehouses and cleaning plants in the Delta area, some of which continued through the difficult years of the 1930s to prosper again later. In the decade of the 1950s, the region produced nearly six percent of the nation's alfalfa seed output. Learn about the Gemstones of America and then learn the fascinating Geology of the Great Basin area from a Geology Professor.
 Lunch: Local Restaurant.
 Afternoon: Geology of the Great Basin, continued and organizing and labeling your collection. Learn about the modern Day Beryllium Mining from a representative from Brush Resources and learn how Delta provides one of the richest pockets of Beryllium which when processes becomes the lightest weight and strongest metal in the world. Learn how it is used in military applications and other applications needing this high strength and light-weight properties. Learn the fascinating history of the Topaz Relocation Japanese Internment Camp established in Delta during WWII from the Topaz Camp Historian and examine the artifacts from the site.
 Dinner: Local Restaurant.
 Evening: Discussion of Red Beryl Mining in Utah by the Harris family of Delta. Also known as Red Emerald, this gem is found only in Utah and is more valuable than diamonds.
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Dig for Trilobites in the Drum Mountain Range. Collect Wonderstone. Visit the Ghost Town of Joy. Collect Agate and Jasper. Visit the Topaz Relocation Camp.
(Tuesday, May 7)

Note: Van ride for several miles on dirt roads to collect Trilobites, Wonderstone, Agate and Jasper. Wear clothes that can get dirty and dusty. Rock Hounding tools are provided or you can bring your own.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: Digging for Trilobites at Antelope Springs. Privately owned quarry, good quantity and quality. Requires sitting on rock and splitting layers of rock using small picks and wedges. Rock Hounding tools are provided or bring your own. Western Utah is one of the best-known Cambrian fossil localities in the world. The Wheeler Shale and Marjum Formation, strata of Middle Cambrian age, exhibit various exposures throughout the House Range and nearby mountain ranges west of the town of Delta, Utah. The Wheeler Shale is named for a major feature in the House Range, the Wheeler Amphitheater. The most famous Wheeler Shale fossil is the trilobite Elrathia kingi; so common at some sites that specimens are commercially quarried and are made into novelty accessories, as well as sold to collectors and institutions all over the world. However, Elrathia is just one of about fifteen trilobite genera of the Wheeler Shale. Bathyuriscus fimbriatus is also relatively common at certain sites. Even more abundant are several species of agnostid trilobites, such a Peronopsis interstricta. These are typically less than a centimeter in length.
 Lunch: Boxed lunch at the Trilobite Quarry
 Afternoon: Collect Wonderstone (beautiful red, cream, orange swirled-unique to area) at Drum Mountain Range. Wonder Stone a type of Rhyolite: Rhyolite is a light-colored rock with silica (SiO2) content greater than about 68%. The word Rhyolite comes from the Greek word for stream (rhyax) the suffix lite. Rhyolite was named streaming rock because of its beautiful flow bands, which are made of bubble and crystal rich layers that form as the lava flows onto the surface and advances. Rhyolite can look very different, depending on how it erupts. The color of Rhyolite ranges widely, but generally is white or light yellow, brown, or red. Most Rhyolite is flow banded; that is, they show streaky irregular layers that are formed by the flowing of the sticky, almost congealed magma. This particular variety was once a very fine volcanic ash. Through pressure and time this ash became rock hard as the colorful chemicals such as iron in the earth seeped through and swirled into a glorious design producing a smooth texture for a soft, desirable cutting material. Visit the Ghost town of "Joy" Collect Agate and Jasper. Agate is the Mystical birth stone for September. It is also the birth stone for the Zodiac sign of Gemini. Agate is the accepted gemstone for the 12th and 14th wedding anniversaries. Jasper is the mystical birth stone for the month of October. Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony quartz. Agate and Jasper can be found all over the world but in great quantities in California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Washington. This mineral comes in multiple colors due to its impurities. The mystical powers and energy omitted by a jasper vary depending on color. Visit the site location of the WWII Topaz Japanese Relocation Camp on the way back to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at Mi Rancherito at your leisure. Mexican & American cuisine options.
 Evening: Continue sharing Rock Hounding stories around the dinner table with other group members.
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Dig for Topaz Crystals (Utah State's Gemstone) at Topaz Mountain Dig for the world-famous Dugway Geodes
(Wednesday, May 8)

Note: Van ride for several miles on dirt roads to collect Topaz and Dugway Geodes. Wear clothes that can get dirty and dusty. Rock Hounding tools are provided or you can bring your own.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: Search for and excavate Sherry-colored Topaz on privately owned claim. Rock Hounding tools are provided or you can bring your own. (dental-type excavation tool recommended). Topaz, Utah's state gem, is a semiprecious gemstone that occurs as very hard, transparent crystals in a variety of colors. The topaz crystals at Topaz Mountain are naturally amber colored, but become colorless after exposure to sunlight. The crystals formed within cavities of the Topaz Mountain Rhyolite, a volcanic rock which erupted approximately six to seven million years ago (Tertiary Period) from volcanic vents along faults in the area. The Topaz became the State Gem in 1969. It is a semiprecious gem found in Juab County of Utah at the Thomas Mountain. This hard gem is an aluminum fluorisilicate and is next in hardness to carborundum and diamonds (two of the hardest natural minerals around). A favorite location for the mineral collectors and rock hounds is called "The Cove" on the southern end of the Thomas Range. Wear topaz only if you wish to be clear-sighted: legend has it that it dispels all enchantment and helps to improve eyesight as well! The ancient Greeks believed that it had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. Topaz was also said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink. Its mystical curative powers waxed and waned with the phases of the moon: it was said to cure insomnia, asthma, and hemorrhages. Topaz is the birth stone of November.
 Lunch: Enjoy a boxed lunch at Topaz Mountain.
 Afternoon: Brief discovery of the Pony Express Trail, Dig for Dugway Geodes on private claim (geodes range in size from golf-ball to bowling ball size).
 Dinner: Dinner at Mi Rancherito at your leisure. Mexican & American cuisine options.
 Evening: Continue sharing stories of the day's explorations around the dinner table.
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Stone Carving Demonstration and Rock Hounding Business overview Clean, cut and polish Dugway Geodes Trilobite Fossil Cleaning
(Thursday, May 9)

Note: Field Trip to "The Bug House" in Delta. Wear clothes that can get dirty and dusty.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: A hands-on experience at local Rock and Mineral shop called "The Bug House" Learn the Rock Hound Business from a local distributor and wholesaler. See a cutting and polishing demonstration. Begin cleaning, cutting and polishing your Dugway Geodes. Program includes cutting all of your geodes and then pick your favorite Geode for polishing up to a Cantaloupe-size, which is also covered in your program fee. You may choose to have all of your Geodes polished or at least pick out the best ones for polishing. The fees for polishing your geodes ranges from $4 for a golf ball size geode to $125 for a basketball size geode.
 Lunch: Boxed lunch at "The Bug House"
 Afternoon: Continue cleaning, cutting and polishing your geodes. Learn how to clean, polish and catalog your trilobite fossils collected earlier in the week. Includes classification and storage techniques. Spend the afternoon participating in this hands-on Trilobite cleaning and preparation class (involves use of dremel tool and safety glasses which are provided).
 Dinner: Local Restaurant.
 Evening: Trilobite fossil cleaning and preparation continued if needed.
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: "Show and Tell" share your best discovery of the week or share something from home. "Trading Post" Visit West Desert Collectors and learn about the rock hounding business. Visit the Intermountain Power Project Plant Pick up your polished geodes
(Friday, May 10)

Note: Casual Dress for the day. Bring your favorite rock, gem or mineral from your collection at home to show the rest of the group or show your best specimen found during the week. Bring samples or any rock specimen to share with rest of the group during the "Trading Post" time. Visit West Desert Collectors and see a cutting and polishing demonstration. Explore the Intermountain Power Project Plant. Visit "The Bug House" to collect polished geodes and other treasures found during the week.

 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: "Show and Tell" time! Marvel at each others' collections, special finds or specimens from home and/or found in Delta. Bring samples of something from your home state or something you have collected in the past to share with the rest of the group during our "Trading Post" time. Please enclose your specimens in baggies with a label or piece of paper describing what the rock or fossil is, where it was collected and the date. You can also include any geologic history of your specimen on the piece of paper. This is a fun but completely voluntary activity and if you do not have any specimens to share, at least you will go home with other participant's samples to add to your collection. Visit West Desert Collectors Rock Hound Shop and learn about the ups and downs of owning a large rock hound business. Enjoy a rock cutting and polishing demonstration and see how specimens evolve from a rough rock or gemstone to a beautiful finished product ready to sell for top dollar in rock shops and gift stores.
 Lunch: Local Restaurant.
 Afternoon: Explore world's largest coal-fueled power generation plants in this exclusive VIP tour by one of the managers of IPP. Intermountain Power Agency (IPA) is the owner of the Intermountain Power Project (IPP) located in Delta, Utah. IPP generates an average of more than 13 million megawatt hours of energy each year from its two coal-fired units. The energy is delivered over the project's AC and DC transmission systems to 36 participants in the project that principally serve Southern California. Additional generation capacity at the IPP site is now being considered. IPP includes a two-unit, coal-fired, steam electric generating station, with a net capacity of 1800 megawatts. Most of the power generated is sent to Southern California, the L.A. Basin. In fact, Utah?s coal-fired Intermountain Power Project is the single biggest source of power for the L.A. Department of Water and Power in California. Head over to "The Bug House" to collect your final polished beautiful Dugway Geodes and other rocks and gemstones collected during the week. Depending on how much you were able to collect, some items can be shipped to you home for a nominal fee.
 Dinner: Local Restaurant.
 Evening: Program finale including passport stickers given out at dinner
Accommodations: Days Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Independent departures after breakfast
(Saturday, May 11)
 Breakfast: A continental breakfast is provided by Days Inn in the front lobby. You can eat in the lobby or take your breakfast to your room.
 Morning: Program ends after breakfast Saturday morning. As listed in transportation information, the shuttle van will leave at 9:00 AM to the Salt Lake International Airport and then downtown Salt Lake City to the Plaza Hotel for anyone staying an extra night.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A field guide to Topaz and associated minerals of the Thomas Range, Utah (Topaz Mountain)

Author: John Holfert

Description: ASIN: B0006QONBU A field guide to Topaz and associated minerals of the Thomas Range, Utah (Topaz Mountain). 103 pages

Collecting Rocks, Gems and Minerals

Author: Patti Polk

Description: SKU-GB-80000169 Three guide in one: Identification, Values, and Lapidary Uses. Designed with beginners in mind, yet filled with valuable technical information for advanced collectors, Collecting Rocks, Gems and Minerals takes you from being just someone who appreciates rocks to a true "collector." Easy to use, quick reference format arranged by category and color of stone. Covers both lapidary and mineral display materials. Provides values and tips for locating, buying and collecting. Includes organics such as amber, bone, coral, pearl and shell. Lists chemical group, systems, hardness, opacity, fracture, specific gravity and more. Contains more than 650 full-color photos. Foreword by Johann Zenz, world renowned agate expert, author and lecturer.

The Rockhound's Handbook

Author: James R. Mitchell

Description: ISBN-10: 1889786438 | ISBN-13: 978-1889786438 | Edition: second Revised and expanded 2/E of this popular reference guide for rockhounds and field collectors of rocks, minerals and fossils. Includes expanded sections on basic geology and mineral formation; how to find and identify minerals in the field; collecting tools and techniques; finding gold and other heavy minerals; fossil formation and collecting fossils; the legal aspects of collecting; specimen preparation and display plus the basics of lapidary and jewelry making. Illustrated throughout with photos, diagrams and charts; features 16-page color insert of over 90 specimens; extensive glossary; lists of government agencies and museums and much more. An indispensable how-to book for beginners and a comprehensive reference guide for experienced collectors. 320 pages

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