Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine and Gold Fever Rock Shop (Helena)

Destination #3: Idaho, Wyoming and Montana

Digging at the Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine was so much fun! Many gems can be found in Montana, but sapphires are particularly abundant and can be found in the ancient riverbeds. Shari. the kids and I could not wait to get digging to find some treasure.

We checked in at the rock shop and were given a brief overview of the types of rocks and gems that we might find.  We then followed our guide up the hill to the dig site-us in our big suburban and she on her ATV. Everyone got a shovel and got moving.  After shoveling the gravel, the kids dumped it into the sifter, a weird little contraption that moved back and forth to sift the fine gravel from the larger stuff.

Destination #3: Idaho, Wyoming and Montana

Poor Isaac had his heart set on finding gold, but we had to explain to him that we were looking for sapphires and that like gold they were valuable too.  At first he was very disappointed and then got into it and started shoveling away.  The kids helped Shari and I gather, sort, and sift through the gravel till we filled up two buckets with potential “treasure.” It was dusty and dirty but everyone was having a blast. We took everything back down the hill to the washing/sluicing area (a bunch of old bathtubs filled with dirty water). Our guide taught us how to shake and rinse our loot in a fine mesh strainer and then flip it upside down on a table to see what we could find. There were moonstones, jade, rose quartz and many other types of rocks that were really interesting

The kids did find a few sapphires, but a word of warning—Montana sapphires are not the deep blue you usually see; they are a faint yellow.   I thought for sure I had found some after sluicing my gravel but I was disappointed to find out they were just quartz.  Oh well.  Lots of fun and a very interesting learning experience-but best of all was the team effort.  Everyone had to work together digging, sifting, washing, and sorting to find the treasure- and for the moms, that was more precious than any gem. DO NOT MISS this fun filled activity!

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